Welcome to the Neutron Universe!


Messier 1 or Crab Nebula
The Crab Nebula, aka Messier 1  (Photo from European Southern Observatory)


Yesterday, we were watching Geraint Lewis and Luke Barnes play with the cosmic dial to create different hypothetical universes.  Let’s do it a bit more:


“The Neutron Universe:  If you think the hydrogen universe is rather featureless, let’s instead increase the mass of the up quark by a factor of 6.  The result is that the proton falls apart.  In a reversal of what we see in our Universe, the proton, including protons buried in the apparent safety of the atomic nucleus, decay into neutrons, positrons and neutrinos.  This is by far the worst universe we’ve so far encountered: no atoms, no chemical reactions.  Just endless, featureless space filled with inert, boring neutrons.

“There is more than one way to create a neutron universe.  Decrease the mass of the down quark by just 8 per cent and protons in atoms will capture the electrons in orbit around them, forming neutrons.  Atoms would dissolve into clouds of featureless, chemical free neutrons.

“What about the other particle of everyday stuff, the electron?  Since the electron (and its antiparticle, the positron) is involved in the decay of neutron and proton, it too can sterilize a universe.  For example, increase its mass by a factor of 2.5, and we’re in the neutron universe again.”

Geraint F. Lewis and Luke A. Barnes, A Fortunate Universe: Life in a Finely Tuned Cosmos (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2016), 51.


Bottom line:  No life.




I’ve encountered a few religious skeptics who have argued that the Universe could not have had life in mind because it took so long for life to arise.  But it seems that a certain (considerable) length of time was required to create the elements necessary for the emergence of life:


“Oxygen-Deficient Dwarf Galaxy Hints at Makings of Early Universe”




Like everything else human, Nobel Prize committees are fallible.


Think Le Duc Tho, Yasser Arafat, and Barack Obama.


But it’s not only the Peace Prize that has been political, erratic, and weird.


Among the writers who’ve been passed over for the Nobel are Joseph Conrad, Chinua Achebe, Franz Kafka, Federico García Lorca, Vladimir Nabokov, W. H. Auden, James Joyce, Jorge Luis Borges, Marcel Proust, Henry James, Leo Tolstoy, and John Updike.  Not to worry, though!  Titans like Grazia Deledda, Henrik Pontoppidan, Wladyslaw Raymond, Roger Martin Du Gard, Gao Xingjian, and Ivo Andric have been awarded Nobel Prizes in literature.


Anyway, similar problems exist with regard to the Nobel Prizes given in the sciences:


“These 10 Huge Discoveries Should’ve Been Nobel Prize Winners”



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