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NASA Space Science

Frictionless Superfluid Found In Neutron Star Core 145

Posted by Soulskill
from the always-in-the-last-place-you-look dept.
intellitech writes "NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory has discovered the first direct evidence for a superfluid, a bizarre, friction-free state of matter, at the core of a neutron star (abstract). Superfluids created in laboratories on Earth exhibit remarkable properties, such as the ability to climb upward and escape airtight containers. The finding has important implications for understanding nuclear interactions in matter at the highest known densities."
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Frictionless Superfluid Found In Neutron Star Core

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  • So the universe creates a perpetual motion machine?

    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by Ancantus (1926920)
      For all intensive purposes the universe is a perpetual motion machine. Yah enthalpy and all that will eventually slow down everything, but we wont be around to see it.
      • by Anonymous Coward

        Are you trying to troll, or what?

        It's for all "intents and purposes", and it's entropy that is the ongoing process (enthalpy is removed from the system).

        I'm sorry for being pedantic, but we all have our roles to fill.

        • by mosb1000 (710161)

          Ah, but entropy is an intensive property, so in a way, the poster was right.

      • For all intents and purposes, you don't know what "perpetual" means, either.
      • "Intensive" means "highly concentrated" or "highly focussed", and when I'm reading Slashdot that's exactly what my purposes aren't.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Last time I got close enough to a neutron star to confirm this theory, the tidal forces nearly killed me, despite being in a General Products #2 hull.

    B. Shaeffer

    • by merky1 (83978)

      Now I need to go and re-read N-Space... Thanks.

    • by osu-neko (2604)
      Funny that you know that, given Puppeteer selective memory erasure technology. ;)
      • He blackmailed the Puppeteers regarding their home world's lack of a moon- I assume part of the contract released him from the memory-wipe clause, as he was able to tell the story to Greg Pelton while playing Gin on the way back to Earth from Jinx. I believe he also had Ander Smittarasheed ghost-write the story for him.

        .

        ...You know what's sorry about this? I've read and re-read Known Space / Kzinti stories so many times that this stuff is lodged in my head and emerges whenever someone makes the slightest

        • by RockDoctor (15477)

          You know what's sorry about this? I've read and re-read Known Space / Kzinti stories so many times that this stuff is lodged in my head and emerges whenever someone makes the slightest reference to it.

          Why is that a cause for sorrow?

      • by RockDoctor (15477)

        Puppeteer selective memory erasure technology.

        I don't recall this technology. Citation please.

    • by fractoid (1076465)
      Woah, you must be the only survivor besides that one star mangled spanner [wikipedia.org].

      (OK, OK, but I always assumed that story was a silent nod to General Products. Call it product placement if you will. ;)
    • by kalirion (728907)

      Be glad your universe doesn't have black holes...

  • Ok, so you have a container that you think is air tight. But something escapes it, so obviously your container needs to be tighter than air tight.

    Now, if you can put this stuff in a seamless glass sphere, and it still leaks out, I'll be impressed.

    • I believe, what their saying is that, a superfluid can escape a container that air can not. Not that the superfluid can escape an inescapable container.
    • by khallow (566160) on Friday February 25, 2011 @01:15PM (#35313520)

      Now, if you can put this stuff in a seamless glass sphere, and it still leaks out, I'll be impressed.

      Normal helium can leak out of a seamless glass sphere, so I imagine you'd see supercooled helium leaking out as well from the same mechanism. Not that exciting, but gives you an idea of how hard some things are.

      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by gstoddart (321705)

        Normal helium can leak out of a seamless glass sphere

        Really? What, it just seeps out through the actual glass? Are the helium atoms small enough to squeeze through the gaps between molecules, or just really sneaky?

        I continue to be awed by all of the wacky shit that is apparently everyday physics.

        • by PotatoFarmer (1250696) on Friday February 25, 2011 @02:43PM (#35314930)

          Are the helium atoms small enough to squeeze through the gaps between molecules, or just really sneaky?

          Yep, pretty much. Practically speaking, it's one of the things that keeps a helium-based Stirling engine from being one of the most efficient methods of solar power production - the stuff leaks out at every opportunity.

        • by fractoid (1076465) on Friday February 25, 2011 @03:02PM (#35315250) Homepage
          Yep, that's how it goes.

          Although I was disappointed to find that the "climbs the walls of the container" thing was actually just in a one-atom-thick layer. (At such scales, surface tension beats gravity, and with no viscosity to hold it in check, the fluid flows up the sides molecule-by-molecule. It looks like it's just dripping through a hole in the container. :( )
          • by jace_d (1955838)
            when the fluid reaches the rim and starts to fall, won't it start being siphoned(siphoned?) out because of gravity and the attraction between the molecules? ... if it is, it will definitely be a sight to behold, a cup refuses to stay full.
    • by Fus (809178)
      Prepare to be impressed: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2Z6UJbwxBZI [youtube.com] (see the 1min mark) & http://hyperphysics.phy-astr.gsu.edu/hbase/lhel.html#c3 [gsu.edu] ~Fus
      • Except what you posted a video to was a cylindrical container with an open top in which you are looking at capillary action/forces draw the liquid up the side walls of the container and then back down the sides to drip off the bottom.
        • by geekoid (135745)

          No it wasn't. It was flowing through the glass. The even SAY it in the video. Yes they top was open, but what was being shown was the liquids moving through the glass.

        • by xMrFishx (1956084)
          No, it doesn't. It's at ~0K and once it hits that point the atoms become essentially still, aligning and allowing it to pass through the solid container. As Pratchett says: "Because of Quantum". Whilst that video is a short clip, if you watch the recent BBC Horizon episode - "What is one degree?" (I believe it was that episode). Unfortunately I don't know the quantum theory of superfluids to explain this any further but that is my understanding of it. Atomic alignment allowing one thing to pass another
    • >> . But something escapes it, so obviously your container needs to be tighter than air tight.

      Try a congressional sub-committee, nothing valuable ever gets out of that.

      • by ep32g79 (538056)

        Try a congressional sub-committee, nothing valuable ever gets out of that.

        Thats different because nothing of value is ever put in...

        • Correction, sub-committees are more like a black hole, because no matter how much money and time you throw at them nothing ever comes out, and sub-committees can take an infinite amount of both without trying.

      • Again, that video is of a cylindrical container with an open top. The liquid "escapes" using capillary action/force in which the liquid is drawn up the sides of the container, out/over the top, and then back down the sides to then drip off the container.
        • by AC-x (735297)

          Em, did you listen to the video? "The moment the helium turns superfluid it leaks through". It's mostly leaking through the pours bottom, not climbing the sides. The very next segment of the video shows superfluid helium doing that, and it's dripping at a considerably slower rate than the previous demonstration.

  • Useless (Score:3, Insightful)

    by TideX (1908876) on Friday February 25, 2011 @01:19PM (#35313560)
    Yea except a gram of it will weigh a few million pounds.
    • by angelbar (1823238)
      ooooh my!... try cm3, mililliters, gals, spoons...
    • by egamma (572162)

      Yea except a gram of it will weigh a few million pounds.

      I'm almost positive that a gram will always weigh a gram. Did you mean a cubic centimeter?

      • by geekoid (135745)

        Not if it's Jumbonium!

      • As the AC pointed out, a gram never weighs a gram, because a gram is not a unit of weight, it's a unit of mass. A gram will weigh about 0.0098 Newtons on earth, though it will vary slightly from place to place.

        I like to point this out to illustrate that humans have fucked up the SI as well, and the it's hardly an advantage over the US Customary system when your answer is off by a factor of ten, you are less likely to know where you screwed up your units in the calculations. :-)

        • by idontgno (624372)

          I like to point this out to illustrate that humans have fucked up the SI as well

          SI was much better before humans got involved. I guess.

          I am trying to think who may have invented SI, before the advent of humanity. Alien astronauts? God? Cthulhu? FSM? Morgoth? the Hainish?

          /shrug

          It's a mystery.

        • by Chris Burke (6130)

          It is not a problem with the SI or the humans who made it that most people still don't understand the difference between mass and weight.

          It is a problem with the Imperial-derived systems that when forced to deal with the reality that there is a difference between mass and weight, they decided to overload their unit of weight to also be a unit of mass, allowing one to correctly though very confusingly say "A pound doesn't always weigh a pound."

          • by Rich0 (548339)

            In the Imperial-derived system the pound is not a unit of mass - it is purely a unit of weight.

            For some odd reason we don't buy flour by the slug at the store, however....

        • by Rich0 (548339)

          A gram will weigh about 0.0098 Newtons on earth, though it will vary slightly from place to place.

          And I'll guarantee that a gram will weigh a HECK of a lot more than that on the surface of a neutron star...

      • by BitZtream (692029)

        A gram is a mass measurement, not weight.

        The weight of a gram of matter is relative to the gravitational forces exerted on it. A gram of mass that weighs a pound on Earth does not weigh a pound on the moon.

        Cubic centimeter is a unit of volume. It may contain one gram of matter, or it may not, as the density of the matter determines how much mass will fit into the cubic centimeter, and likewise it may weigh one pound or it may weigh an intentesimally large/small value, depending on what forces are acting o

    • Yea except a gram of it will weigh a few million pounds.

      At first I thought this was a "yo mama" joke, as in "Yo mama so fat, one of her grams weighs a few million pounds."

      Sadly, I'm mistaken.

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      There's no problem here, since pounds are units of force :)

      Little-g is quite large near a neutron star.

  • "The finding has important implications for understanding nuclear interactions in matter at the highest known densities." So the core of a neutron star is now more dense than a black hole?
    • by mangu (126918)

      So the core of a neutron star is now more dense than a black hole?

      Note that they mentioned "the highest known densities". The part of the black hole that's under the event horizon is unknown and will remain so forever. We have theories and extrapolations about those parts, but no experimental evidence that any of it is true, so we don't "know" anything about the density of a black hole.

    • So the core of a neutron star is now more dense than a black hole?

      No, it isn't (as far as we know). And they never claimed it was. Unless you are trying to claim that understanding nuclear interactions in neutron stars WILL NOT help with the understanding of other, more dense nuclear interactions (such as black holes).

      You could also argue that a black hole might no longer have nuclear interactions and instead only have sub-atomic particle interactions.

  • I'm trying really hard to not make a KY joke out of this.
  • Sloppy remnants of the Big Bang!
  • by blair1q (305137) on Friday February 25, 2011 @01:56PM (#35314186) Journal

    Leave a bottle of vegetable oil somewhere (back of an upper cabinet is excellent) for a long time (year or 2) without disturbing it.

    When you finally do disturb it, you are likely to find that its exterior is sticky, and that it may be puddling around the base of the container.

    Oil can climb, and it can get through seals you thought were tight. All it takes is thermo- and electro-dynamics.

    Quantum-fluid frictionlessness not required.

    • by geekoid (135745)

      " thought were tight."

      See, superfluids get through materials that ARE tight. meaning air tight.

      • by BitZtream (692029)

        No, they get through materials that were THOUGHT to be inescapable. You're trying to define air tight as inescapable, which is clearly wrong. 'Air tight' simply means that given a specific set of conditions, the container will not transfer 'air'.

        It very well might transfer oil however. For instance, set a bottle of vegetable oil somewhere for long enough and the oil will escape slowly, even though air will not. At least thats the perception. Reality is generally entirely different than perception.

        • Explain to me how a seal will pass long carbon chains but not O2 molecules.
          • by blair1q (305137)

            Long carbon chains can be pushed from behind while wriggling thermally.

            O2 will just bounce off.

        • by geekoid (135745)

          You're the one bringing inescapable into this, the original post said "air Tight' At NO point to I compare air tight to inescapable.

          Did you even read the post I was responding to before making yourself look like a fool?

          I even quoted the specific part of the sentence I was responding to.

          "For instance, set a bottle of vegetable oil somewhere for long enough and the oil will escape slowly, even though air will not."

          Yes, the oil will escape slowly...unless he seal is actually air tight, in which case it will n

      • by blair1q (305137)

        Not if it's a superfluid that's made of AIR.

        "Air tight" doesn't promise to hold H2 anyway.

  • The actual physics (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Required Snark (1702878) on Friday February 25, 2011 @03:29PM (#35315636)
    The Chandra x-ray satellite can measure the spectrum of x-rays emitted by the neutron star, which is relatively close, only 330 light years away. From this they can infer the temperature. Over the last ten years they have seen the roughly 4% temperature drop.

    According to the two teams of scientists who analyzed the Chandra x-ray data to determine the cooling rate, these observations provide strong evidence for superfluidity in neutron-star cores. Indeed, the onset of neutron superfluidity opens a new channel for neutrino emission from the continuous breaking and formation of neutron pairs.

    The energy is leaving the star via neutrino emission, which in turn is a result of the neutron superfluid inside the neutron star. That's the important discovery.

    This is very interesting physics, because there is no way to produce these conditions in the lab, or anywhere outside a neutron star.

    Of course you could just read the abstract and get all this information yourself, but this is Slashdot so knoledge takes a back seat to bad jokes and uninformed opinion.

    • by Rich0 (548339)

      Well, wouldn't the only real observation be that the temperature dropped?

      The hypothesized mechanism for this temperature drop requires that the material be a superfluid. However, is there any data supporting that this is actually the case?

      Or, could the energy be radiated by some unknown mechanism that has nothing to do with superfluids?

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Organic Superlube? Oh, it's great stuff, great stuff. You really have to keep an eye on it, though - it'll try and slide away from you the first chance it gets.
    T. M. Morgan-Reilly, Morgan Metagenics

  • Superfluid? I thought we were blaming "Dark Matter" for crap we don't understand yet this week? Did I not get the memo?

    • by Chris Burke (6130)

      You can blame the things you don't understand on anything you want. I guess it's "scientists blame everything on dark matter" this week?

      I'm okay not getting any update memos.

  • Bada boom!

  • Based on observations of Cassiopeia A, Dany Page and his collaborators pinpoint the critical temperature of the neutron superfluid to half a billion degrees and argue that the protons in neutron-star cores are superconducting.

    Hey folks, help me out here. My understanding of "superconduction" deals solely with electron pairs traveling through a special medium. How would protons in a neutron star be "superconducting"? Is that to say that protons move through the neutron star material with zero resistance?

  • Here is the paper: http://arxiv.org/abs/1011.6142 [arxiv.org]

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