Saturday November 11, 2017
Find out why scientists no longer fear a discovery that dwarfs the power of an H-bomb
more stories from this episode
- Meet the human guinea pig who hacked his own DNA
- If you're going to get hurt, you're better off doing it during the day
- Sting's brain on music offers scientists clues to what fuels creativity
- What's the one thing scientists want the world to know about their field?
- Find out why scientists no longer fear a discovery that dwarfs the power of an H-bomb
- Full Episode
Two scientists, including Dr. Marek Karliner, a professor of theoretical physics at the University of Tel Aviv in Israel, have discovered that tiny subatomic particles known as bottom quarks can be fused together to create a reaction eight times more powerful than what takes place in the cores of hydrogen bombs.
A bottom quark is one of six 'flavours' of quarks that are the building blocks of neutrons and protons. The fusion of the heavier bottom quarks was previously thought to be impossible.
When the two scientists realized the power of what they had discovered, they were initially very scared. However, they quickly realized that the fusion event they created has no practical application, and therefore no potential for making a powerful bomb. The reason is that such bombs require a stockpile of these particles in order to facilitate a chain reaction. However, bottom quarks decay almost as soon as they are created. They disappear in 1 picosecond (or 1 trillionth of a second), so there is no military application for their fusion discovery.
What it means
Even though the discovery does not have a practical application, it can help scientists understand how matter operates. Like many other great scientific discoveries, the fusion of bottom quarks may simply be ahead of its time, and may serve a meaningful purpose at some time in the future.