The strangelet is a recently hypothesized form of matter, given a great deal of attention with the recent activation of the Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider
. It is a form of quark matter
: a substance formed when present energy is sufficient to allow quark
s and gluon
s to overcome the strong nuclear force
and become uniform matter. This, under normal circumstances, would only be possible in a neutron star
. However, with the creation of the RHIC
and 2008 initiation of the Large Hadron Collider
, situations are present in which the absurd temperatures (10^13 kelvin
s) necessary can occur.
The strangelet itself is a possibility of quark matter which occurs when an up quark and down quark combine to form a strange quark, one that does not exist under normal conditions. If a large number of these transformations occured at the same time, a strangelet could be formed: quark matter consisting entirely of strange quarks.
Now, strangelets are more interesting than the usual anomalous matter for a number of reasons. First, it is quite likely that they will be stable particles. Second, there is the theoretical possibility that they will be able to "assimilate" normal atomic matter into strange matter, increasing the size of the strangelet. And this possibility is where the famous Doomsday scenario of the RHIC was obtained from. In this scenario, a routine creation of quark-gluon plasma(QGP) has a chance homogenous transmutation of up/down quarks into strange quarks, resulting in a stable strangelet. This strangelet cheerfully begins assimilating matter, until it swallows the entire earth, and we are nothing but a single undulating mass of quarks.
However, you need not worry, for there are many unlikely criteria that must be met before the earth becomes uniform strange matter:
- Strange matter must be completely stable. (theoretically probable)
- Strangelets must be stable in very small quantities, as only these could be formed at the RHIC. (improbable - anticipated surface effects will cause instability)
- The homogenous transition from up/down to strange quarks must be possible in a particle accelerator.
- To absorb other atomic matter, strangelets must be negatively charged at all sizes. If not, they would not attract atoms, and therefore not assimilate them. ("medium" size strangelets are recently theorized & agreed to be positive)
- If #4 is true, only large strangelets would pose a threat; and these are impossible to form outside of a neutron star, as two atoms colliding will not contain enough quarks.