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Space Science

Helium White Dwarf Stars Bear New Quasiparticle 28

eldavojohn writes "Helium white dwarf stars are now theorized to produce a new kind of quasiparticle that would explain a known temperature anomaly between helium white dwarfs and vanilla white dwarfs (lumps of charcoal). Since helium can form a Bose-Einstein condensate and there are extra constraints inside such a dense object, a new quasiparticle emerges. Researchers' models claim it 'reduces the specific heat of the white dwarf core by two orders of magnitude compared to a crystalline core.' But even with that figured in, measurements of some nearby ancient helium white dwarfs show that they don't fit the specific temperature curve exactly. So, some questions remain, with the possible explanation that these stars undergo internal transition late in their age. The heavy reading is available on the prepublication site arXiv."
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Helium White Dwarf Stars Bear New Quasiparticle

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  • Look how cool it is B-)

  • by Anonymous Coward

    that when Physicist can't explain anything these days, they just invent a particle for it?

    • by qeveren ( 318805 ) on Friday November 11, 2011 @02:55PM (#38028264)

      Not really. The group is basically extrapolating the known behaviour of Bose-Einstein condensates (known to form from helium) in the conditions that may be present inside a helium white dwarf. The fact that you think they're just throwing their hands in the air and making things up out of whole cloth I find rather disturbing.

      • by lgw ( 121541 )

        The fact that you think they're just throwing their hands in the air and making things up out of whole cloth I find rather disturbing.

        Well, I do find that there's a lot of "we don't know, so lets just invent a particle" happening too. It often works, is the thing. Neutrinos were invented to make the books balance long before they were explained, for example. And don't get me started on "inflatons", sheesh.

        • by imric ( 6240 )

          Yes - and that reminds ME of epicycles. Mathematical constructs that could be used to make predictions - they 'worked' but were the result of astronomers looking at the universe from the wrong perspective... *grin* I'm not QUITE arrogant enough to claim I have the right perspective though. Well, not in public, and not before at LEAST 6 beers, anyway...

          • by lgw ( 121541 )

            I think there are damn few particle physisists who actually like the Standard Model. It's epiccyles on top of epicycles, and completely inelegant. But still, no better theory has emerged, no doubt in part all those years wasted on string theory at the expense of competing ideas.

        • by qeveren ( 318805 )

          That does rather point to the predictive ability of the models they're using, now doesn't it. :)

          Often, when someone 'invents' a new particle, they're not really inventing anything, but rather taking existing models and examining them for solutions that match or can explain their observations. Trying to shoehorn in something completely new, while it might explain the new observation, could very easily make a mess of everything else, which wouldn't make a terribly good extension to a theory. :)

          And bear in mi

    • by AliasMarlowe ( 1042386 ) on Friday November 11, 2011 @03:04PM (#38028364) Journal

      that when Physicist can't explain anything these days, they just invent a particle for it?

      I rather suspect that when an AC can't understand something in physics or some other scientific field, and the arguments and evidence on the matter are incomprehensible to him, he tries to project his ignorance onto those who do understand the issue. Yet another manifestation of the Kruger-Dunning [] effect.

      • by imric ( 6240 )

        Hmmm. Sounds like you are pretty certain that that's common for ACs... *chuckle*

      • @AliasMarlowe: Thank you for the link to the explanation of the Kruger-Dunning effect. Now I finally have an a explanation for the political attitudes that I've been encountering of late.
    • by boristhespider ( 1678416 ) on Friday November 11, 2011 @03:29PM (#38028656)

      There's a reason they're calling it a "quasiparticle". A quasiparticle is an effective particle that arises when you perturb a quantum system - they're effectively the quantum analogues of sound waves. Depending on the type of system, you can get various types of quasiparticle. The most basic would be phonons, which are literally quantised sound waves, and which I imagine would crop up in any system (but I'm not a condensed matter physicist and haven't touched it in ten years so there may be systems possible where phonons don't arise and I wouldn't know). In some quantum fluids you can get things called rotons forming, which you could view as kind of quantised vortices. In more complicated systems again you get quasiparticles emerging with all manner of weird and wonderful behaviours, and about ten years back Volovik showed something beautiful, which is that if you take a particular state of superfluid Helium the quasiparticles that emerge have all the symmetries of the standard model of particle physics *and a graviton*. Which is really extremely beautiful when you think about it.

      Anyway, those are quasiparticles: well-defined quantum fluctuations of a system.

      The particles you're referring to are from speculative high-energy physics, and are on much shakier ground, as the physicists who propose them would readily admit. Those particles are generally "real" in a sense that quasiparticles aren't (although I wouldn't stretch the term "real" too far even for something like virtual photons or gluons or other gauge bosons; even so, the fundamental nature of the particle is very different to the quasiparticle).

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward

      that when Physicist can't explain anything these days, they just invent a particle for it?

      You're confusing physicists with Star Trek writers.

    • You are damn right. What are these particulates? Who invented them? My opinion is Scientists : what are they up to? [] .
  • Perhaps if we were to create an inverse warp field and start a 5 second burst of anti protons set to 5mega joules, when bombarded the white dwarf with our deflector array then we may just get accurate sensor readings captian.
  • Headline (Score:5, Funny)

    by rossdee ( 243626 ) on Friday November 11, 2011 @03:17PM (#38028536)

    White Dwarf Stars Bear
    is that like
    Red Dwarf Stars Cat

    Is Chris Barrie (Rimmer) in it too?

  • Cooling rates (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward

    White dwarf cooling rates impose interesting constraints on physics beyond the standard model. A change in the phase diagram for stellar cores may have interesting effects on what we know about dark matter and dark energy.

  • The Bose-Einstein condensates we produce on Earth require super-cold temperatures to acheive. How does this happen in a (relatively) hot white dwarf? Does this theorized BEC exist only at the core of the star?
  • The proper term is Little Stars.

"It's what you learn after you know it all that counts." -- John Wooden