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Bizarre Star Could Host a Neutron Star In Its Core

samzenpus posted about 7 months ago | from the look-at-that dept.

Space 73

ananyo writes "Astronomers say that they have discovered the first example of a long-sought cosmic oddity: a bloated, dying star with a surprise in its core — an ultradense neutron star. Such entities, known as Thorne-Zytkow objects, are theoretically possible but would alter scientists' understanding of how stars can be powered. Since Thorne-Zytkow objects were first proposed in 1975, researchers have occasionally offered up candidates, but none have been confirmed."

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73 comments

Boo :-( (4, Funny)

Baby Duck (176251) | about 7 months ago | (#45903025)

A star IN a star? Now I can't make fun of Sunshine anymore.

Re:Boo :-( (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#45903187)

" Levesque, who led a survey of 22 red supergiants using the Magellan telescopes in Chile, declined to name the star with the special elemental signature, because the results have not yet been published in a peer-reviewed journal."

Yo dawg (4, Funny)

trmj (579410) | about 7 months ago | (#45903277)

I heard... you know what? It's too easy.

Re:Yo dawg (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#45906353)

I heard... you know what? It's too easy.

I heard your mom was too easy.

Re:Boo :-( (0, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#45903757)

But I hear you're still pretty good at sucking a dick.
 
BTW. Your homepage sucks.

Re:Boo :-( (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#45904087)

"scientists' understanding of how stars can be powered". I thought it was cocaine.

Re:Boo :-( (1)

Erik WP (3406995) | about 7 months ago | (#45904943)

Kind of Brangelina

Re:Boo :-( (1)

JavaLord (680960) | about 7 months ago | (#45906819)

Kind of Brangelina

Yes, the only question, like with Brangelina is which star is inside which.

Thank god it's not plucking phil (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#45903109)

phuck phil plait. he looks like a constipated troll.

Re:Thank god it's not plucking phil (1)

gargleblast (683147) | about 7 months ago | (#45903569)

Who could this be? Let's see, something about defecation - Oh yes! Hello again, Shithouse Astronomer! [shithouseastronomy.com]

A Thorny Zit Cow? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#45903173)

How romantic!

Yo dawg, I herd yo like stars (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#45903189)

So I put a star in yo star so you can collapse into a black hole if your combined solar mass exceeds the Oppenheimer-Volkoff limit.

Re:Yo dawg, I herd yo like stars (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#45903555)

TOV FTW, faggot.

Re:Yo dawg, I herd yo like stars (1)

fisted (2295862) | about 7 months ago | (#45905179)

combined solar mass

Ehhhhhhhm.

Re:Yo dawg, I herd yo like stars (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#45906129)

So I put a star in yo star so you can collapse into a black hole if your combined solar mass exceeds the Oppenheimer-Volkoff limit while you're collapsing into a black hole if your combined solar mass exceeds the Oppenheimer-Volkoff limit.

FTFY

That's inexplicable, but not inexplicable enough! (4, Funny)

ackthpt (218170) | about 7 months ago | (#45903281)

Such entities, known as Thorne-Zytkow objects, are theoretically possible but would alter scientists' understanding of how stars can be powered.

How apt this phrase is now: There is a theory which states that if ever anyone discovers exactly what the Universe is for and why it is here, it will instantly disappear and be replaced by something even more bizarre and inexplicable.

Re:That's inexplicable, but not inexplicable enoug (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#45903365)

No, what's inexplicable is this blasted Slashdot Beta. :-(

How many times are Dice going to trial it before they realise it's been a complete and utter failure of a redesign ?

PS: There's a link at the bottom of the new Beta page to get you back to Slashdot Classic, but it doesn't seem to always work as sometimes you get moved back to the (*&(&^*^% Beta version after looking at a few stories. :-(

Re:That's inexplicable, but not inexplicable enoug (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#45906309)

Register an account and you can have it any way you want. Oh, wait, you won't see this comment since you're AC...

TZOs? Where have I heard this before...? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#45904791)

The article says it's a TZO. So maybe that's where those damned TZO crystals come from.

If we can get a few, we can take over the galaxy with a legion of Spathi ships!

YOU FAIL IT! (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#45903355)

scan of the original article (5, Informative)

Trepidity (597) | about 7 months ago | (#45903373)

"Stars with degenerate neutron cores" [harvard.edu] , Astrophysical Journal, 1977.

Courtesy of the SAO/NASA Astrophysics Data System [harvard.edu] , an open-access digital library that other fields could do well to emulate...

Re:scan of the original article (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#45904695)

Unfortunately page 3 of the original F.A. lays out exactly why this probably never happens: The formation of neutron stars blows shit up - there's no other way analogous to how a white dwarf forms from the settling of nuclear ash. So now you have to get a new envelope onto the neutron star.

The only scenario they propose that I might buy is if the neutron star outright collides with a companion and wears the companion's corpse like a skin suit. There's no other way you're gonna (i) get matter in place fast enough to heat it up and get pressure support against that massive gravity field and (ii) keep that heat from being radiated away immediately.

I have a hard time believing that any accretion disk scenario would work. Ignoring the matter of where the angular momentum goes, assume that supercritical accretion gets to the point that mass piles on until the radiation-driven outflow is stifled long enough to get pressure support against the neutron star's gravity. Okay, you've now balanced cold and probably dense matter (remember, you just trapped a very hot but very tenuous outflow) on top of hot light matter... The Rayleigh-Taylor overturning will probably be spectacular.

But, eh, it'd be freakin awesome if they found one.

Re:scan of the original article (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#45905357)

From what I read about a decade ago a common envelope event [wikipedia.org] could be a plausible scenario leading (sometimes) to the merger of a (super)giant and a neutron star and a formation of a Thorne-Zytkow object.

In that case, the angular momentum goes into the common envelope as heat.

Re:scan of the original article (1)

Sockatume (732728) | about 7 months ago | (#45906583)

It's not quite an "open-access digital library": they scan and host old material from some journals with their permission, but a good deal of the material they index is still paywalled.

Re:scan of the original article (1)

Sockatume (732728) | about 7 months ago | (#45906595)

Analogy: Google Books for astrophys papers.

Where is this claim? (3, Interesting)

hubie (108345) | about 7 months ago | (#45903385)

I read TFA and I don't see where this comes from: but would alter scientists' understanding of how stars can be powered

It sounds like Thorne and Zytkow proposed the scenario and predicted what one would observe, followed up by people like the guy quoted in the brief article (Podsiadlowski), and these astronomers are putting forth a candidate based upon their observations being similar to what the theory suggests. I'm missing the part that alters the understanding. Podsiadlowski, by the way, has been thinking about these objects for a very long time [discovermagazine.com] .

Re:Where is this claim? (1)

czert (3156611) | about 7 months ago | (#45905509)

I thought this was a peculiar statement. Either the theory predicts such objects or it doesn't. If it does, then there's no need to change them once their prediction is found to be right...

Re:Where is this claim? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#45906393)

I think the wording is a bit off. Rather than 'powered' they probably meant 'the mechanism for how stars can form/activate/fuse in a sustained fashion'

Basically they know they can get from Point A to Point B, and they know that Point C can exist, but they don't know how to get to Point C from Point A or B.

Some more explaination (5, Informative)

Michael Woodhams (112247) | about 7 months ago | (#45903387)

While I've not heard of a Thorne-Zytkow object before, I can apply my general astronomical knowledge to explain a bit further.

The idea of an internally inert condensed object at the centre of a star is very standard: red giants have a white dwarf at their core, indeed this is how white dwarfs are formed. The weirdness is in having a neutron star instead of a white dwarf core.

The condensed object is supported by degeneracy pressure (electron degeneracy pressure for a white dwarf, neutron degeneracy pressure for a neutron star.) (Degeneracy pressure is a quantum mechanical effect. It is only appreciable at very high densities, and is not dependent on temperature.) The surface of the condensed object will be very hot, because nuclear burning is going on nearby and it is insulated from the coldness of space by the envelope of the star (i.e. the bits of star which are not the condensed object.) The density of gas just above the surface of the core will also be large, due to the high surface gravity plus the pressure of the weight of the envelope.

High temperature and high density leads to nuclear burning (combining light nuclei into heavier ones, releasing energy.) The nuclear reactions are generally very strongly dependent on temperature (e.g. one important reaction has a rate approximately proportional to temperature to the 17th power) so the burning happens in a thin layer. The 'burnt' material settles on the core, slowly enlarging it.

The gravitational attraction of the core pulling the envelope inward is largely balanced by gas pressure and radiation pressure. While stars like our sun are dominated by gas pressure, in this case radiation pressure will dominate. As the radiation escapes outward, mass is able to migrate inwards, to the thin burning layer. An equilibrium is reached between the burning/energy production rate and the mass inflow rate.

Because they are dominated by radiation pressure, it doesn't take much extra push for something at the surface of a red giant star to escape, so these stars have strong stellar winds and high mass loss rate to winds. So the envelope gets eaten from the bottom by burning and deposition onto the growing white dwarf, and from the top by mass loss. Eventually there is no envelope left and a bare white dwarf is exposed. (The final transition is quite spectacular and is called a planetary nebula.)

Heat transport in red giants is dominated by convection rather than radiation. (I think this is a general property of being dominated by radiation pressure, but I may be mistaken.) This allows material which has been close to the burning zone to mix through the star. Various secondary nuclear reactions occur there (e.g. s-process nucleosynthesis), so the products of this are mixed to the surface, where they can be observed in the spectrum. (I'm not sure whether partly-burnt material from the main burning shell can get mixed out or not.)

Evidently (according to the article) in Thorne-Zytkow objects these reactions are different from in a normal red giant and so mix different products to the surface. The star of the article has a spectrum rich in predicted reaction products of a Thorne-Zytkow object.

While white dwarf naturally grow inside stars, the process that generates neutron stars (supernovae) removes the stellar envelope, so finding a neutron star inside an envelope requires some rare post-supernova event to supply the neutron star with stellar-mass quantities of fresh gas.

Re: Some more explaination (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#45903855)

And this is why I like reading Slashdot.

Re:Some more explaination (0, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#45903875)

Stop posting this shit. The next episode of Amercia's Wife Pussy Swap is on and I need to focus instead of think.

Re:Some more explaination (2)

DirePickle (796986) | about 7 months ago | (#45903971)

THIS is why I still come to Slashdot. Thank you!

Re:Some more explaination (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#45904251)

While white dwarf naturally grow inside stars, the process that generates neutron stars (supernovae) removes the stellar envelope, so finding a neutron star inside an envelope requires some rare post-supernova event to supply the neutron star with stellar-mass quantities of fresh gas.

Sorry about that, I went to Chipotle the other day. -- God

Re:Some more explaination (2)

able1234au (995975) | about 7 months ago | (#45904429)

requires some rare post-supernova event to supply the neutron star with stellar-mass quantities of fresh gas.

Such as a binary star where one goes supernova and somehow the binary is not destroyed? Perhaps a binary with a long period? Though imagine that the binary pair would be destroyed or ejected. What is another example that might do this?

Re:Some more explaination (3, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#45905699)

Whether a binary system survives a supernova event is a bit complex topic, actually.

First, the explosion is not likely to destroy the companion star, even on a fairly close orbit. Stars are really massive objects, and can readily absorb the fraction of supernova energy that happens to hit them. Second, if too much mass is ejected from the system in the explosion, the neutron star and its companion will become gravitationally unbound and drift off separately into space. Assuming a circular orbit and a perfectly symmetrical collapse of the exploding supergiant's core, this will happen if more than half of the total mass is ejected from the system. Now, there are good reasons to believe that the collapse is often slightly asymmetrical, and given the amount of energy released in the explosion, a 'slight' asymmetry might give the remaining neutron star enough 'kick' to propel it out of the host galaxy, let alone of a binary system.

That all said, there are objects such as Cygnus X-1 that are composed of a regular star and a degenerate object that is believed to be a supernova remnant (in case of Cygnus X-1, a black hole rather than a neutron star, but the principles are the same), so it appears that at least some supernova events do not disrupt binary systems. In that case, when the companion becomes a (super)giant itself later, if it is close enough to the neutron star to fill its Roche lobe (as in Cygnus X-1) and at some point the mass transfer onto the neutron star becomes fast enough, a common envelope will form around the binary system. Common envelope causes much drag and shrinkage of the orbit; in some cases it is believed to cause both objects inside it to merge.

Of course, much of that is rather speculative, mainly because the common envelope stage is short-lived and thus difficult to observe.

Re:Some more explaination (2)

NoImNotNineVolt (832851) | about 7 months ago | (#45907143)

I'm no astrophysicist, but the respectable Randall Munroe suggests that "However big you think supernovae are, they're bigger than that."

According to this What If [xkcd.com] , you'd get more photons hitting your eye from a supernova seen from as far away as the Sun is from the Earth than the detonation of a hydrogen bomb pressed against your eyeball... by nine orders of magnitude. So while stars are really massive objects, supernovae are apparently unimaginably energetic phenomena.

Re:Some more explaination (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#45908705)

Consider a core collapse supernova releasing about 1e46 J of energy. If all of that energy was absorbed by the Sun, it could give it the kinetic energy to travel at 100,000 km/s. But if the supernova was symmetric, and say was from a supergiant that was ~100 solar radii in radius, so that the Sun would need to be somewhere about ~100 solar radii away to still be a distinct star, then the sun would only absorb about 25 ppm of the energy. This still gives a kinetic energy equivalent of about 500 km/s, almost enough to eject it from the galaxy. But a large fraction (~99%) of that energy is in neutrinos, so most of it would go through the Sun, and leave it now with a change in velocity of about 50 km/s. This isn't enough to eject something from the solar system if starting from within Venus's orbit. And that is assuming a Sun sized star absorbed the energy evenly, whereas if instead the outer layers absorbed a lot more and got blown away, there would still be a lot of star left still stuck close to the source of the supernova.

Re:Some more explaination (1)

ridgecritter (934252) | about 7 months ago | (#45904489)

Thanks for this. No mod points to give you, but I see they're not needed.

Re:Some more explaination (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#45905471)

Very good explanation. Thank you,

Re:Some more explaination (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#45905637)

No! All wrong and uninteresting!! We don't want people like you in slashdot! Wish I had mod points to karmabomb you..

"a surprise in its core" (4, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#45903403)

Who else was thinking "nougat"?

Re:"a surprise in its core" (2)

PPH (736903) | about 7 months ago | (#45903667)

I'd mod you up, but my keyboard is covered with powdered sugar.

Re:"a surprise in its core" (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#45903901)

This astronomical discovery was brought to you by Kinder Surprise.

Re:"a surprise in its core" (1)

camperdave (969942) | about 7 months ago | (#45904011)

Who else was thinking "nougat"?

/me, but I prefer cherry blossoms, or brandy beans.

Re:"a surprise in its core" (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#45907017)

My living room is painted that color...Nougat.

Take THAT, science! (4, Funny)

Swampash (1131503) | about 7 months ago | (#45904043)

Another nail in the coffin of so-called "knowledge". How can you trust a belief system that CHANGES all the time?

Re:Take THAT, science! (1)

Absolutely.Geek (2913529) | about 7 months ago | (#45904535)

Wanted to mod this funny....but unsure if post is serrious? I was thinking of https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Poe's_law [wikipedia.org] but this is more of the reverse situation where I am unsure if the original post is serrious....

On a related note what is the name of the law for this situation? I'm sure slashdot can help me out with this.

Re:Take THAT, science! (1)

Swampash (1131503) | about 6 months ago | (#45914087)

it was a joke :)

Re:Take THAT, science! (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#45905031)

Another run on the ladder of knowledge, taking us further and further away from the "believer underclass".

Neutron Star Decay (2)

TrollstonButterbeans (2914995) | about 7 months ago | (#45904221)

So let's say you have a neutron star.

How does it decay? Blackholes have hawking radiation, neutron stars don't need to decay that way of course but they must eventually decay

If a neutron star emits enough energy to pass below the limit that keeps the pressure as neutrons --- and neutrons have a half-life of 14 minutes outside an atom --- do the neutrons decay into a proton (hydrogen) and an electron and become hydrogen and then start fusing again into helium?

Re:Neutron Star Decay (2)

IndustrialComplex (975015) | about 7 months ago | (#45904423)

Why "must" it decay?

Neutron stars basically just cool off/slow down over time due to rather normal mechanisms of radiation. There's some other stuff going on, but very old neutron stars are basically just lumps of cold very old neutrons.

Re:Neutron Star Decay (0)

Neil Boekend (1854906) | about 7 months ago | (#45904993)

That is until they get ripped apart by the dark energy forces of our ever faster expanding universe. After that the free neutron decay will allow the neutrons to decay into electrons, protons and antineutrinos. All of these have known decay paths which all end in radiation if I am correct. That radiation will redshift into nothingness by the expansion of the universe in infinite time (because that is what it takes to redshift into nothingness).
That is, if my current understanding of these things is correct.

Re:Neutron Star Decay (1)

Maritz (1829006) | about 7 months ago | (#45907623)

very old neutron stars are basically just lumps of cold very old neutrons.

Probably more accurate to say 'will be' rather than 'are'. I don't think the Universe is anywhere near old enough to have cold neutron stars.

A few interesting points about neutron stars here. [umd.edu]

Re:Neutron Star Decay (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#45905483)

They leak energy through radiation. If they rotate, they will be pulsars and leak radiation through electromagnetic radiation. If they have a companion (star, black hole, neutron star or something), they can leak energy by radiating gravitational waves.

There probably are other ways too.

Re:Neutron Star Decay (1)

Sockatume (732728) | about 7 months ago | (#45906651)

There's no reason to suppose they "must eventually decay". I expect that all that happens is that you have a vanishingly low concentration of protons and electrons near the surface (due to buoyancy) that turn over back into neutrons by the inverse process.

Neutron & Proton decay (1)

emil (695) | about 7 months ago | (#45907397)

Protons are stable to a period greater than 2.1 * 10^29 [wikipedia.org] years (also listed as 10^36 years in the article). Free protons will/might fall apart after that time.

Free neutrons have a very short period of stability (about 15 minutes). Within dense confinement, one would wager them to be on the order of proton decay.

Oh, I'm so embarrassed. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#45904269)

I read the headline and assumed a Lady Gaga story. I mean, this is the new slashdot.

and at school I was forced to believe scientists (0, Troll)

PC_THE_GREAT (893738) | about 7 months ago | (#45904597)

Pretty frequently on slashdot i hear " would alter scientists' understanding of how", this makes me wonder, why the heck did they make people fail or pass in science exams if nothing seems to be a constant in such fields :p, shouldn't they instead program a full fledged theoritical environment where they define certain stuffs and ask you to figure things out and come to conclusion based on that? Nope, they would just ask to "to calculate" based on "whoever's theory" when it seems those morons always gets there understanding "alterred", i wonder if they can be sued for not knowing enough and convincing people that "this time we are sure it is THE thing".

:p

Re:and at school I was forced to believe scientist (0, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#45904723)

You really want to compare theoretical physics with your inability to figure out what happens when the spring carts bounce off each other on the air track?

Though now if we may stop being facetious, people do need to be prepared for when this idiotic argument is presented in all seriousness. And the answer is simply that uncovering explanations for a new region does not invalidate explanations that were valid in the old region. Not only that, any new theory claiming to be valid over a larger region must reduce to the (presumably simpler) expressions that describe smaller regions: General Relativity reduces to Newtonian gravity in the weak-field limit, quantum mechanics reduces to classical mechanics in the large scale/high temperature limit, particle dynamics reduces to fluid mechanics in the large-scale limit, quantum field theory reduces to Schrodinger's Equation, etc.

Re:and at school I was forced to believe scientist (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#45906007)

If a high school physics textbook had about 25 chapters, the typical material covered in such classes by the first 22 or 23 chapters would not have changed in over a hundred years. A large part of the material at the end of the book on atomic, nuclear, quantum, and particle physics hasn't changed in over 50 years. The stuff most subject to still change or be improved, assuming your book and teacher don't suck, usually has a bunch of stuff letting you know work is on going since such text books are eager to point out a tiny bit of what actual research is looking at.

if nothing seems to be a constant in such fields :p, shouldn't they instead program a full fledged theoritical environment where they define certain stuffs and ask you to figure things out and come to conclusion based on that?

Welcome to university level physics once you get past the basic intro course, and expect a lot of your homework to be a long the lines of, "Given this situation, derive an expression related to what foo and bar do." At that point you should be quite aware of what is a modern, accurate as possible theory, and what is an older theory that is still pedagogically or even real world useful. But for most of the students taking intro to physics, getting them to do any algebra or math is like pulling teeth, even if they have the math background, so plug and chug math is what they default to whenever possible.

Forget it (1)

justthinkit (954982) | about 6 months ago | (#45911091)

What you are proposing would be healthy for the physics community, so it will never happen. It is imperative that physics appear to be all knowing, especially when you talk about worm holes and the Big Bang and what will happen in 10^^100 years. We know exactly what is going on, right up until everything changes as one flawed theory is replaced by another with new flaws.

I think the other two replies are reacting to the notion that physics doesn't need to be taught, but rather just let everyone "have a go". Personally I don't think that is what you meant.

I find physics at once childish and elitist, and wish it was more humble. For example, with regard to the ether. We thought it was there, then we "proved" it was not...but today it is generally held that there is "vacuum energy" (and/or dark energy). Clearly there is an ether, and it is "made of" energy, not matter. And it is at an energy level vastly higher than 2.7K, so we need to create theories that are comfortable with this. I've done my part [just-think-it.com] .

Re:Forget it (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#45913939)

It is imperative that physics appear to be all knowing, especially when you talk about worm holes and the Big Bang and what will happen in 10^^100 years.

It might seem that way watching things on TV, but from talking to physicists in person, or even sitting in any actual in person physics talks, they spend quite a bit of time talking about the shortcomings of current theories. And oddly, the three examples you picked have a huge list of issues that are constantly talked about, to the point very little of any certainty is said about at least worm holes and the distant future, and similar for at least some aspects of the Big Bang.

. For example, with regard to the ether. We thought it was there, then we "proved" it was not...but today it is generally held that there is "vacuum energy" (and/or dark energy). Clearly there is an ether, and it is "made of" energy

The lluminiferous aether and vacuum energy have virtually nothing in common other than both permeate space, in the same way that electromagnetic fields and gravitational fields due yet also don't have much in common. If that is all it takes to label something an aether, then it was never disproven, as Maxwell's equations will in full force before any of the more famous experiments noted for disproving the luminiferous aether. Trying to connect such unrelated theories would be analogous to arguing caloric theory is still around because plasma physics sometimes deals with self-repelling fluids.

Re:Forget it (1)

justthinkit (954982) | about 6 months ago | (#45915637)

I appreciate your thoughts. Fair comment that TV does not equal real life. Too bad that 99.9% are getting the TV message though.

I'm curious why you differentiate ether & vacuum energy. Why can't one be the other? A medium for transmitting (ether), is also the force that pushes the Universe apart?

Re:Forget it (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#45921197)

A medium for transmitting (ether), is also the force that pushes the Universe apart?

Because neither one does both. The mechanical attributes given to the luminiferous aether are vastly different than vacuum energy, even though they varied a lot and changed as more and more experiments failed to see predicted properties. And vacuum energy is not a medium for transmitting waves, even if it overlaps with some of the effects related to light propagation in QFT.

Re:Forget it (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#45924097)

Because neither one does both.

Who says? What theory says this? How come you make blanket statements backed up by nothing?

The mechanical attributes given to the luminiferous aether...

Who gives these properties? I see no links backing up what you are saying. I imagine everyone who has come up with a theory about the ether has had different qualities in mind. Links?

...are vastly different than vacuum energy,...

Got a more scientific word than "vast"?

...even though they varied a lot and changed

What made them "vary a lot and change"? Different people with different theories is all I can imagine here, since we have never technically measured the ether. So what people/theories are you referring to?

as more and more experiments failed to see predicted properties.

I know of two that failed. I would be curious to learn of any others there might be.

And vacuum energy is not a medium for transmitting waves,

What is your basis for making this blanket statement?

even if it overlaps with some of the effects related to light propagation in QFT.

I take it you are referring to Quantum Field Theory. Is that where all of your pronouncements are coming from?

Re:Forget it (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#45927367)

Usually I assume if someone is interested enough in the topic, especially something history related, they might have at least checked the Wikipedia article [wikipedia.org] on it first. If for someone reason you don't trust/like Wikipedia for an executive summary, that article links to plenty of primary and secondary sources, so there is not much need for me to try to track down online versions of stuff on my bookshelf.

But as previously stated, the properties attributed the aether changed as experiments and new findings invalidated older properties. Sometimes it was different people, but in a few cases it was the same person updating their previous theory. The aether went from a fluid to a solid to a really stiff fluid, it went from negative compressibility to incompressible. Early experiments discounted the idea of the aether drag, but then precision interferometer experiments necessitated reintroduction of aether drag. The properties were not because we measured the aether, but because experiments kept eliminating properties that made it work, and the theories had to be updated.

And yes, the statement about vacuum energy was coming from quantum field theory (the rest was from history of the luminiferous aether). Vacuum energy is not necessary for propagation of light. I would say look up things like propagators [wikipedia.org] , but Wikipedia doesn't have good articles on this and my own references come from QFT textbooks, like Peskin & Schroeder. Other than fringe and pet theories, the only context to really discuss vacuum energy and dark energy in more general is QFT, string theory, or general relativity, with most string theories being phrenologically similar to QFT in that regard, and general relativity not saying much other than it has a different equation of state than things like normal fluids, solids, and photons. I'm sure you can find random theories online that say other things, but the original post earlier in the thread was discussing "but today it is generally held that there is 'vacuum energy'" not that specific person A and B are trying to reintroduce the luminiferous aether.

If you want to label anything permeating space is an aether, than sure, there are plenty of things in modern science that can be called an aether, but they are not mechanical methods of propagating electromagnetic waves, providing some sort of frame of reference to define the speed of light within. So you end up with it being ideologically separated from the luminiferous aether, and it makes no sense to say what was disprove is no here again. You even find contemporary scientists saying similar things, like Einstein in some of the primary sources linked in the one article, that the 19th and early 20th century was about disproving a specific kind of aether, but doesn't preclude something more general but so vague as to be meaningless to discuss in general.

Apologies for the length, but... (1)

justthinkit (954982) | about 6 months ago | (#45932411)

Usually I assume if someone is interested enough in the topic, especially something history related, they might have at least checked the Wikipedia article on it first. If for someone reason you don't trust/like Wikipedia for an executive summary, that article links to plenty of primary and secondary sources, so there is not much need for me to try to track down online versions of stuff on my bookshelf.

My questions about the sources of your blanket statements was to point out that YOU were not backing up YOUR statements.

But as previously stated, the properties attributed the aether changed as experiments and new findings invalidated older properties. Sometimes it was different people, but in a few cases it was the same person updating their previous theory.

Einstein never made any mistakes with his theories?

String Theory doesn't change its tune every month?

There is nothing wrong with changing a theory that doesn't work. In fact, that is my position -- physics today is in the doldrums because the major theories have major problems. Those trying to provide something better/different need to be heard if we are ever going to make further progress in physics.

The aether went from a fluid to a solid to a really stiff fluid,

Talk of solids and fluids reflects the lack of scientific knowledge that was present a hundred years ago. There is no child today that would propose that. But there are plenty of scientists that have maintained that there must be an ether. In other words, there seems to be something about an ether that could explain stuff, at least in the minds of Newton, Poincare, De Pretto and Samuel Tolver Preston. Personally, I think they were on to something.

My theory says the ether is ultra high energy (which is what physicists calculate space should be composed off anyway...they just haven't managed to detect it yet), and "mechanically" as you keep saying, my "particles" are 20 orders of magnitude smaller than those of the atomic scale. Solids and fluids are at one end of a very very long scale, and my "springs" are precisely at the opposite end.

Off the top of your head, what test would you use to detect something 20 orders of magnitude smaller than a proton, and having an energy sixty to one hundred orders of magnitude higher than the background energy of space that we presently measure?

it went from negative compressibility to incompressible. Early experiments discounted the idea of the aether drag, but then precision interferometer experiments necessitated reintroduction of aether drag. The properties were not because we measured the aether, but because experiments kept eliminating properties that made it work, and the theories had to be updated.

I am all for eliminating what can not be. That is how science makes progress. I just think that the last thing we have eliminated is the ether itself. We need to do more eliminating, if we can, but we also need to compose theories and models where an ether is part of the model...and see if such models can produce the results we see in the world.

Sometimes we need to carry models along for quite some time, in tandem with conflicting models. For example, the static versus expanding universe. Einstein thought it was static. We didn't kick him to the curb for this. Looking back, it didn't really matter whether we thought it was expanding or not. What mattered was that we found a way to prove it was expanding, and we have gone with that. In the future it may yet prove to not be expanding, or be expanding faster than we thought, or, or, or.

It doesn't pay to be too smug about a physics theory.

The position of the majority of the physics community on the ether has determined our direction since the time it was ruled out. And right now we have ended up with String Theory, possibly the most embarrassing theory since the pre-Kepler Earth-centric spheres.

We have also ended up with your Propagators [wikipedia.org] . The massive problem with that web page? Complexity. We need a SIMPLE theory of how things propagate. It can't be complexity all the way down.

Look at chemistry. Millions of compounds, some will kill us, others are essential. Some are powders, others liquids, more are gases. Yet, when we drilled down far enough we found three things: protons, neutrons and electrons. And chemistry has been built on that simple basis ever since.

And yes, the statement about vacuum energy was coming from quantum field theory (the rest was from history of the luminiferous aether).

Vacuum energy is not necessary for propagation of light. I would say look up things like propagators, but Wikipedia doesn't have good articles on this and my own references come from QFT textbooks, like Peskin & Schroeder.

I found no beauty, no ring of truth, on the Propagators [wikipedia.org] page.

At the lowest level, something simpler is going on. We need to theorize and model what that is; then build up our theories from that. Theories of physics built on a simple base model have a chance at surviving adolescence. All others will be ground up and recycled, eventually.

Other than fringe and pet theories, the only context to really discuss vacuum energy and dark energy in more general is QFT, string theory, or general relativity,

Do you not see your tone in the above statement?

It is obvious that outside of the mainstream theories are the "fringe" theories. That is true by definition. So there is no need to state the obvious. Unless your point is to try to trash something by saying anything not mainstream is trash.

with most string theories being phrenologically similar to QFT in that regard, and general relativity not saying much other than it has a different equation of state than things like normal fluids, solids, and photons.

You are repeating that the 3 big theories have nothing much to say regarding an ether. Got it already.

I'm sure you can find random theories online that say other things, but the original post earlier in the thread was discussing "but today it is generally held that there is 'vacuum energy'" not that specific person A and B are trying to reintroduce the luminiferous aether.

My original post [slashdot.org] did indeed say that others are accepting that there is a vacuum energy.

As to "specific person A and B are trying to reintroduce the luminiferous aether", I was the one trying to point out that vacuum energy = an ether. Others are either afraid to acknowledge that "A system filled with energy has an ether." or they do not see the value in it. I say that is their loss.

If you want to label anything permeating space is an aether, than sure, there are plenty of things in modern science that can be called an aether, but they are not mechanical methods of propagating electromagnetic waves,

I think here is where you and I will have to simply agree to disagree. You think there is no "mechanical" ways for any kind of ether to propagate. I am, on the other hand, not bound to using the word "mechanical" to describe the highest energy system there is, and can imagine a system of spring-like energy that propagates in exactly the way that rocks propagate sound and a Newton's cradle propagates kinetic energy.

Rocks are both "mechanical" and spring-like (their atoms, that is). And atoms are both "mechanical" and nothing-but-energy (thanks to Einstein, but more accurately to pre-Einstein individuals like Olinto De Pretto [wikipedia.org] ).

[...any sort of aether...does not...] providing some sort of frame of reference to define the speed of light within.

Well, I think there is a frame of reference that defines what the speed of light is. And that it is exactly equivalent to the one we use to define what the speed of sound is.

The SoS is the "ping" time of a solid.
The SoL is the "ping" time of the ether.

The ether being springlike, ultra-high energy and ubiquitous.

We can all imagine that when we hit something "solid", that it vibrates and propagates our strike. Is it that much of a stretch to imagine a system composed entirely of energy -- quanta, bundles, packets or springs of it (you pick the name/concept/analogy you are most comfortable with) -- that does exactly the same thing?

So you end up with it being ideologically separated from the luminiferous aether, and it makes no sense to say what was disprove is no here again. You even find contemporary scientists saying similar things, like Einstein in some of the primary sources linked in the one article, that the 19th and early 20th century was about disproving a specific kind of aether, but doesn't preclude something more general

After all that, you then admit that there very well could be a different kind of ether.

but so vague as to be meaningless to discuss in general.

I will agree that it is not enough, by itself, to discuss the possibility of a high energy ether made up of springlike energy. A more complete theory [just-think-it.com] is needed. One that can be predictive [just-think-it.com] would help.

Re:Apologies for the length, but... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 months ago | (#45932845)

I don't know on which end communication is breaking down, but I don't have the saintly patience to try until that is figured out, but a couple big picture points:

There is nothing wrong with changing a theory that doesn't work. In fact, that is my position -- physics today is in the doldrums because the major theories have major problems. Those trying to provide something better/different need to be heard if we are ever going to make further progress in physics.

You asked where the statement about the aether having many different properties came from, and I tried to clarify that it was because the theory changed a lot over the years to incorporate new experiments. That was not some moral judgment, nor was it some statement that the theory was flawed because it needed changes, as plenty of other solid theories went through such phases. It was simply expanding on answering "Who gives these properties?" As far as scientists needing to find new theories, that is what a large portion of physicists are doing, whether trying to find new theories to explain particle physics or gravity, to more "mundane" stuff like trying to find new applications of basic theories to complex real world situations like condensed matter physics.

We need a SIMPLE theory of how things propagate. It can't be complexity all the way down.

This is potentially a more fundamental issue than any details of physics theory. Every physicist dreams of a theory simple enough to write out on a t-shirt, but reality couldn't care less. Unless a simple theory is found though, there is no way of knowing if reality is simple or not. Beyond making assumptions based on wishes and/or some faith in how things work, there is no way to know if the universe works in a way favorable to what humans find simple. The result is two paths of research like physics. You end up with two ways to go, to either work toward completeness, that a theory must be as accurate and complete as possible, at potentially but not necessarily the cost of complexity, or you work toward finding approximations that are simpler and more practical, at the cost of only working within specific bounds and situations. Some fields, like plasma physics, for example, spend a lot of time in the latter case because the basic laws are established, only the situations they are applied to are very complex, but over time more and more stuff gets pulled back in to the simple theory, making them more complex when more accuracy or more broadness is needed to actually get engineering done.

And chemistry has been built on that simple basis ever since.

You should look into modern physical chemistry... if you think learning about propagators is complicated, then you won't find modern chemistry simple, at least the parts trying to be predictive and starting to allow designer chemicals and materials to be made in silica.

Intermixed in the rest seems a potentially infinite argument over the semantics of what is meant by ether. Physicists today mostly use the term specifically to refer to group of closely related theories from the before relativity, providing a pseudo-mechanical mechanism for propagation of light and a reference frame. As you said, "There is no child today that would propose that." in reference to some of the basic tenets of such theories, which is why physicists get annoyed at seemingly superficial connections drawn between modern theories and those old theories. It is not taken as a statement of general ideology, it is a name for a specific set of theories that have become historical. If you want to use ether to potentially refer to any idea involving a permeating field of energy, then as partially pointed out before, that is already all over modern, mainstream physics, to the point that such a definition would be so vague an meaningless it wouldn't be particularly useful. If coming up with a new theory, you would be better off just coming up with a new term, or something more generic without the baggage, unless you are going to try to take a risk on promoting yourself through theatrics, with a big change of being stuck in semantics arguments instead of physics.

As far as some of the stuff on your pages that I've only had a moment to glance at, you seem to spend some effort concentrating on things that could potentially just be a distraction. Instead of worrying about changes in the definition of units, which are ultimate arbitrary anyway, make predictions about unitless numbers that bypass that whole mess. And I wasn't sure if the idea of speed of light changing 0.25 mph in the last century or so was meant as something based on reported measurements (the speed of light wasn't measured that accurately until the 70s). Between atomic spectroscopic measurements in astronomy and lab experiments with atomic clocks, upper bounds on possible rate of change of such constants continues to shrink, to the point of some thing like the fine structure constant (which could potentially be connected with changes in c and/or h in a sense) having to change less than one part per quintillion per century. CODATA reports have some nice summaries of measurements of various constants and improvements over the years (although sometimes you have to read through a couple reports to see that a change was when one experiment retracts its measurements).

But these days, new ideas for theories are unfortunately a dime a dozen, even in mainstream physics, and there doesn't exist a large enough army of grad students out there to check all of them against even currently known experimental results which are quite vast and amazingly accurate in some cases. Results from stuff like quantum field theory make some predictions that are accurate to within parts per trillion or less, which sets a high bar. Not that there isn't a laundry list of issues that need to be addressed that are usually right in textbooks on the subject, not even needing to go to research papers.

Re:Apologies for the length, but... (1)

justthinkit (954982) | about 6 months ago | (#45933199)

Thanks for the reply. I am about out of time on this discussion as well -- insulating the crawl space takes precedence for the rest of the morning at least.

You end up with two ways to go, to either work toward completeness, that a theory must be as accurate and complete as possible, at potentially but not necessarily the cost of complexity, or you work toward finding approximations that are simpler and more practical, at the cost of only working within specific bounds and situations.

Totally agree with this. Physics is pushing the "more accuracy" frontier pretty hard these days but at least one drawback of this is...ahem LHC ahem...cost. I think the Higgs particle/field is on the wrong path, so to me the LHC has yet to, and might never, prove itself worth the billions spent.

And chemistry has been built on that simple basis ever since.

You should look into modern physical chemistry... if you think learning about propagators is complicated, then you won't find modern chemistry simple, at least the parts trying to be predictive and starting to allow designer chemicals and materials to be made in silica.

I think you are confusing engineering and science. Engineering is always tough, science only sometimes (i.e. until a good theory is conceived. After a good theory has been developed, the science flows like water).

And I wasn't sure if the idea of speed of light changing 0.25 mph in the last century or so was meant as something based on reported measurements (the speed of light wasn't measured that accurately until the 70s).

That result was part of my calculations section, based on my theory. So it is a predictive calculation I have made.

And speaking to the first line of your latest reply:

I don't know on which end communication is breaking down,

I think we just have a fundamental difference of opinion when it comes to (1) the potential value of factoring an ether into present & future physics theories, and (2) whether that very ether can also be a lot of other things (like dark energy/vacuum energy).

I wouldn't sweat it if I were you. Personally, I am quite comfortable with us disagreeing.

but I don't have the saintly patience to try until that is figured out, but a couple big picture points:

I hope you don't take this the wrong way, but I read "saintly patience" as condescending. Instead I look at this or any other exchange as a chance for someone, or both, to learn something. If we can't imagine we have something to learn from an exchange, then we will come across as know-it-all (while we miss out).

By the way, I wouldn't mind knowing who I am talking with. Drop me an email to at least let me know that. I promise I won't spam you (besides email filters handle that sort of thing pretty well).

It's like an easter egg! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#45905025)

With a surprise in it's core!

Still guesswork (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 months ago | (#45905107)

Not conclusive evidence for a Thorn-Zytkow object. FTFA:

"The star is enriched in lithium, rubidium and molybdenum. Elevated amounts of these elements are thought to arise as by-products of Thorne-Zytkow objects, which have to burn through unusual nuclear fusion pathways."

"The object is an excellent candidate, although it is perhaps not an open-and-shut case,” says Podsiadlowski. There is not quite as much of the three enriched elements as expected, he says."

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