The Earth and Other Minor Things

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Finally, the strong force brings that helium-3 particle together with another helium 3, forming a helium-4 nucleus and two free protons.

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Without the weak force, that chain of events couldn't happen, and the sun would quickly burn itself out. Similarly, the weak force is responsible for the abundance of water in the universe, Grohs said, a feature generally thought necessary for life.

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During and shortly after the Big Bang, the weak force caused free neutrons to decay into single protons — loose hydrogen nuclei floating free in the universe. Just about all the hydrogen around today is a result of those weak-force interactions during the Big Bang era, Grohs said. And their abundance is necessary for the formation of water, with its two hydrogen atoms to each oxygen atom.

If a universe formed that was otherwise entirely like ours, but missing the weak force, just about all the free neutrons and protons would fuse together into helium in the few moments after the universe emerged, according to Grohs.

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But Grohs and his colleagues, in their paper, imagined a "weakless" universe with some other key parameters changed. Their universe, they showed, would still seem to meet all the known requirements for life. First, their universe would begin with way more photons that is, light than matter particles screaming into space — reducing the ratio of starting matter to energy by a factor of at least compared to our universe, the researchers said.

Out of that high-energy, low-matter particle cloud, they calculated, would emerge a mix of protons, free neutrons, deuterium another hydrogen isotope and helium similar to the one in our universe. And then, for a long time, whatever alien god created this weakless place could just sit back and wait. The weak force acts on tiny scales, affecting the behaviors of elementary particles. So, in this other universe, with the large-scale forces of gravity and electromagnetism intact, clouds of matter would still form galactic discs and condense into stars, the researchers showed.

The earth and other minor things

There would be some differences, the scientists found — most importantly, an unusual abundance of deuterium resulting from all those free protons and neutrons floating around. However, nothing would upset the basic structure of space. Finally, when it came time to light up the stars, the alien god should look closely. Without a weak force in this oddball universe, hydrogen wouldn't fuse into helium. But there would be a lot of deuterium there, and deuterium lights up the darkness in its own way.

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Smash a free proton into deuterium, and the strong force will bind the two particles together in a flash of energy, leaving behind the heavy helium isotope helium This deuterium fusion burns less brightly than the weak-force process that occurs in our sun. Most of the stars in the alternate universe would form into something like our red giants: big and dim and gone in just a short span of time.


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There's no reason, Grohs said, to assume it would take any more or less time in his weakless other place. That means you would likely need these long-lasting stars for life to take root, he said. In the weakless universe, as in ours, stars would be chemical factories. As the stars aged, they would fuse more and more protons onto their heaviest particles, building heavier elements.


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In our universe, this process goes pretty far, building plenty of oxygen and carbon, but also heavy iron and even a significant amount of superheavy radioactive elements like uranium. But in the weakless universe, without neutron decay, strong-force fusion would mostly run out of steam at around the level of nickel, a relatively light element, with just 28 protons. Heavier atoms — like iron, gold, iodine and xenon — might still emerge, but in much smaller quantities, Grohs said.

Lighter chemicals, like oxygen and carbon , Grohs said, would be much more abundant. Still, he added, "I think if you were on a planet in a weakless universe, it would be fairly similar. The stars might be a little larger if you looked into the sky, because in order to have a star that burns deuterium for billions of years, it needs to actually physically have a larger radius than an equivalent star in our universe, and in addition, it doesn't shine as brightly.

So, a life-supporting planet in a weakless universe would likely be much closer to its much-larger star, a big, unusually dim disc taking up a large fraction of the sky.

And the questions he and his colleagues answer — whether an alien universe could have water or structure or long-lasting stars — might not be an exhaustive list of factors necessary to produce life, he said. And a weakless universe might not even be the best candidate for an alternative universe that might produce life.

Still, Grohs said, this paper throws a wrench in the argument that there's something special or necessary about the life-giving physical constants of our universe. This is the amount of time it takes for the Earth to completely rotate around its axis; astronomers call this a sidereal day. Now wait a second, that means a day is 4 minutes shorter than we think it is. But did you know there are 2 additional asteroids locked into a co-orbital orbits with Earth?

In about years, it will appear to circle Earth in a quasi-satellite orbit. Scientists have suggested that it might make a good target for a space exploration mission. This simply means that the rounded shape has a slight bulge towards the equator.

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So what causes this geoid shape? This happens solely because the rotation of the Earth which causes the bulge around the equator. Skip to content.