A New Form of Matter?
From Harvard University, as reported in Science magazine, comes a report that metallic hydrogen has been synthesized in a laboratory. If so, it could be revolutionary; if not, just another cold fusion caper. We shall see.
Hydrogen, in its most abundant and simplest form, is a gas, where each atom consists of a proton at its center, with an electron swirling around it. Apparently, for the last 80 years or so, there has been intense speculation that under a great enough pressure, and at a low enough temperature, hydrogen can be squeezed into a nuclear solid of protons, with all the electron attached loosely to the solid, much like the electrons in common metals like silver or tin.
Two researchers at Harvard, Drs. Isaac Silvera and Rago Dias, now claim to have done that, by squeezing liquid hydrogen between two “anvils” made of specially coated diamonds.
Metallic hydrogen has never been formulated on Earth, but is thought to exist at the cores of our gas giant planets Jupiter and Saturn.
The pressure needed, the researchers reported, is truly immense, on the order of 500 billion Pascal, or about 5 million times Earth’s atmospheric pressure, or about 72 million psi. That’s a lot of quarters in the air machine at the local gas station.
This new form of matter, if additional experiments can be performed to confirm its existence, could very well be a “holy grail” of matter, based on the informed speculation that this metallic hydrogen, if metastable, could act as a superconductor at room temperatures.
Metastable means that once the hydrogen is formed, it stays that way, when the high pressure and low temperature are removed.
Superconductors are materials that exhibit essentially zero resistance, at least as long as they are below a certain transition temperature. The current highest superconductor transition temperature is negative 140 degree Celsius or negative 220 degrees Fahreinheit, making the use of superconductors in electrical power transmission a practical impossibility.
If a superconductor could be made that was durable and had a transition temperature at or above room temperature, then all the energy lost (about 15%) in getting electrical power from ComEd to your house would be saved.
And as Drs. Silverman and Dias point out, if there is a way to release the potential energy stored in the crushed solid hydrogen, it could be used as a new combustible rocket fuel about 4 times more powerful than that of our current fuel of choice, liquid hydrogen-oxygen.
You can learn more about this potentially revolutionary discovery here.
Giants Falling, One By One
On January 16th of this year, one of the great ones, Eugene Cernan, left this mortal plane, presumably for more enticing celestial destinations.
Cernan was 82. As commander of Apollo 17, the last manned mission to the Moon, he was the last man to walk on the Moon.
There were seven planned moon landing Apollo missions, Apollo 11 through Apollo 17, ranging in mission dates from July 1969 to December 1972.
During that time, twelve men walked on the Moon, two from each of the six successful Apollo landings. In a hat tip to triskaidekaphobia, the crewmembers of Apollo 13 had to abort their mission to land on the lunar surface due to an oxygen tank explosion on their way there.
Only six astronauts who walked on the Moon survive to this day, and they are all in their eighties. The oldest, and the second man to walk on the Moon, Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin, recently turned 87.
You don’t have to be religious or maudlin to be deeply moved by the heroic achievements of these truly great Americans. As we enter darker days for our nation, let us remember their accomplishments with fondness and pride.
Before Cernan died, he helped make a movie about his life and career, based on his book “The Last Man On The Moon.” You can watch the trailer below, or rent the movie on Amazon Prime for the incredible price of 99 cents.
Curious Droid reports on the dangers that the moon walkers experienced because of lunar dust.