Xenology: An Introduction to the Scientific Study of Extraterrestrial Life, Intelligence, and Civilization

First Edition

© 1975-1979, 2008 Robert A. Freitas Jr. All Rights Reserved.

Robert A. Freitas Jr., Xenology: An Introduction to the Scientific Study of Extraterrestrial Life, Intelligence, and Civilization, First Edition, Xenology Research Institute, Sacramento, CA, 1979; http://www.xenology.info/Xeno.htm


19.1.1  New Forms of Matter

Terran scientists concede the possible existence of ultradense matter, tiny clumps of material into which vast amounts of mass are compressed. Neutron stars formed by the partial gravitational collapse of massive suns are believed to consist of at least 80% pure "neutronium." Such an astronomical object is essentially a gigantic atomic nucleus, reaching a density of 1017 kg/m3 inside a typical 20-kilometer-wide star. To but this into proper perspective, a single teaspoon of neutronium would weigh about one hundred million tons -- roughly the equivalent of 30,000 Saturn V moon rockets.

While there are many technical difficulties to be surmounted, it is conceivable that matter of this density could be used as a building material. Ultra-thin sheets of superdense matter would be more than a trillion times stiffer than the hardest steel known to man. Projectiles could not pierce of dent it until they too were made of the same material. Neutronium shields would be impervious to almost all forms of radiation even at extreme intensities. A sheet only 1 mm (10-6 meter) thick would have the strength of a 1000-kilometer-thick block of steel.

Neutronium plates could also be used to design a local antigravity field.2740 While the gravity around a spherical mass (e.g. planets) is radial, the field across a disk is uniform except for edge effects. Newton's law for disks is g = 4Grt, where r is density, t is thickness, and G is the universal gravitation constant.

We can imagine placing a 0.4 mm-thick neutronium disk above ground, care fully supported by a structure with four stilts. The gravity beneath the sheet would be zero, the upward 1-gee pull of the neutronium exactly canceling the 1-gee downward pull of the Earth. A similar trick could be employed to enable astronauts to withstand higher accelerations in their starships. A vessel accelerating at a steady one gee could be designed with a 0.4 mm-thick neutronium disk embedded in the forward bulkhead. The crew would feel weightless when under weigh at one gee.

Another useful advanced alien technology is the production of elementary particle gases. In order to make a gas, the particles must be long-lived and electrically neutral.2821 Only two particles satisfy both of these criteria: neutrons and neutrinos. There is much recent evidence that it may be possible to design a magnetic bottle to hold condensed cold neutrons,2822 although preliminary calculations indicate that the maximum attainable gas density would be no more than about 10-6 gm/cm3.2740 A neutronium box lined with beta emitter perhaps could be used to contain and store a neutrino gas.2014

If ETs manage to assemble and store dense neutron and neutrino gases, they will have practical alchemy at their disposal. They will be able to transmute virtually any chemical element into any other simply by immersing the object to be transmuted into the gas. Depending on the object and the gas, any one of the following four nuclear reactions may occur:

zMa + no —> zMa+1 zMa + anti-no —> zMa-1
zMa + n —> z+1Ma zMa + anti-n —> z-1Ma

where M is any atom, z is atomic number (protons in nucleus), a is atomic weight (neutrons and protons in nucleus), no is neutron, n is neutrino, and anti-no and anti-n the respective antiparticles. The reactions above also produce a variety of additional particles and so are incomplete as shown, but the basic idea remains.

To turn lead into gold, the ancient alchemists' dream, we treat 82Pb208 in a condensed cold antineutron gas until it transmutes to 82Pb197, after which it is immersed in a trapped antineutrino gas to convert it into 79Au197 -- the naturally-occurring isotope of gold.

More interesting and useful, however, is the creation of new superheavy elements that do not occur in nature. Transuranic elements from neptunium-237 up to element-106 have already been manufactured from lighter nuclei in giant cyclotrons and particle accelerators at great expense of time and effort. And only microscopic quantities are available. Neutron and neutrino gases would make things a lot easier.

For instance, a piece of plutonium placed in a magnetic bottle containing condensed cold neutrons would sponge them up quickly and transmute into an extremely high atomic weight isotope -- perhaps a denser and more stable form of matter. Subsequent immersion in neutrino gas could convert this superheavy plutonium into a different element altogether. Elements 118 and 168 -- which have not yet been produced in human laboratories -- should be heavy inert gases like argon and xenon. Element 126 is predicted to have properties similar to normal plutonium, and might permit much smaller nuclear reactors because of the greater atomic density.2850 There are also military applications. Only small amounts of these superheavy radionuclides would represent an explosive "critical mass," so it should be possible in principle to design a hand pistol whose “bullets“ are really miniature atomic bombs.

Trapped neutrinos would have many other fascinating uses. These particles interact little with ordinary matter, so neutronium-collimated beams could be used for point-to-point straight-line communication directly through solid masses such as planets. Objects made of ultradense matter could be “x-rayed“ by neutrino beams focused by neutronium lenses.

Material objects as we know them are held together by electromagnetic forces. But the nuclei of atoms are held together by the “strong force,“ which is about 100 times more powerful than the electromagnetic. It may be possible to produce neutronium wire utilizing the strong force, spools of which would be many orders of magnitude stronger than any material known to present human science. Another possibility is subnuclear rope or quark thread. Nuclear physicists today believe that all elementary particles are themselves built up from combinations of “quarks“ stuck together by “gluons.“ A macroscopic chain of these subnuclear building blocks, fastened by gluons, should be in credibly strong and thin.

Many years ago the famous Italian physicists P.A.M. Dirac hypothesized the existence of magnetic charges analogous to the electron, which he called magnetic monopoles.2823 According to theory, monopoles should weigh more than 200 times the mass of a proton. Physicist Paul B. Price at the University of California at Berkeley has predicted that two monopoles together would generate a force 18,000 times greater than the normal electromagnetic interaction between two protons.2824 The science of quantum magnetodynamics, if it ever comes into existence, will deal with the strongest nuclear interaction imaginable.

Given the high binding energies available in monopole-monopole interactions, there may exist a whole new class of elements we‘ve never seen before.1224 Monopolium, or monopole metamatter, may have a wide range of weird and exotic properties. It will almost certainly be denser and stronger than neutronium. Monopolic hydrogen might consist of a “north“ magnetic monopole orbiting a “south“ monopole, forming heavy, stable aggregates of macroscopic matter. Meta matter filaments may be hundreds of times stronger than nucleon chain.*


* Experimental searches for magnetic monopoles haven't found any yet. See Carrigan,1506 Ross,1499 and the summary of early work compiled by Karlssen.1513


Last updated on 6 December 2008