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Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Fancy a nugget?

The Telegraph reports:
Forget dangers from giant meteors: Earth is facing another threat from outer space. Scientists have come to the conclusion that two mysterious explosions in the 1990s were caused by bizarre cosmic missiles.

The two objects were picked up by earthquake detectors as they tore through Earth at up to 900,000 mph. According to scientists, the most plausible explanation is that they were "strangelets", clumps of matter that have so far defied detection but whose existence was posited 20 years ago.

Formed in the Big Bang and inside extremely dense stars, strangelets are thought to be made from quarks - the subatomic particles found inside protons and neutrons. Unlike ordinary matter, however, they also contain "strange quarks", particles normally only seen in high-energy accelerators.

Strangelets - sometimes also called strange-quark nuggets - are predicted to have many unusual properties, including a density about ten million million times greater than lead. Just a single pollen-size fragment is believed to weigh several tons.
I'm struck by the bit about "a density about ten million million times greater than lead." Imagine if one of those things hit you at 900,000 mph. Imagine if those things rained down on us, leaving pollen-sized holes on the earth and us. What fun.

(Link via Instapundit.)
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