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#188 - The Space X Adventure

SpaceX is smashing it, and Neutron Stars may have Quark Soup cores and to top it off We are joined live from Boca Chica by Jon Benac our roaming reporter.


“The word planet should be reserved for the small number of truly important things in the solar system.”

Mike Brown; (June 5, 1965) the American astronomer, discovered of the dwarf planet Eris, and known as the man who "killed Pluto" but like John Couch Adams is proposing through maths, that there is a Planet Nine.


John Couch Adams 5 June 1819 the Cornish mathematician and astronomer whose most famous achievement was predicting the existence and position of Neptune, using only mathematics. They explained discrepancies with Uranus's orbit and the laws of Kepler and Newton. Urbain Le Verrier was making the exact same calculation at the same time but would send his coordinates to Berlin Observatory astronomer Johann Gottfried Galle,

Michael E. Brown leading to the discovery of Neptune.


John's Trip To Boca Chica



June 4th 2010 - The first Falcon 9 Flight!!!


10 Years of Falcon 9

What an incredible week for Musk.

This week we saw that picture-perfect launch of two veteran space shuttle astronauts from American soil, something not done for 9 years, where most of the world had been relying on the Russians and the Soyuz, which is basically a derivation of the R7 ICBM as used to launch Gagarin 60 years ago. Only China with it’s Long March 2F has the ability to not rely on Russia.


But this came to a glorious end this week. The interior of Musk’s Dragon, looked like it was from the future, or at least from 2001 rather than the 50s. The Worm with the return Burn landing perfectly on the barge, the newly charred logo making its way on to thousands of geeks mobile wallpaper.

This human launch will be cheap, reliable, more sustainable, 100% US-made, and commercially sustained. It really is a total success story.

So how did we get here?



NASA announced the Commercial Orbital Transportation Services (COTS) program in 2006, and Musk with a great deal of hustle and legal wrangling managed to secure one of the contracts for 3 demo flights of his proposed Falcon 9. US taxpayer was to give $278 million for Musk to develop his rocket, Then along came Commercial Resupply Services (CRS) contract, NASA were willing to give Musk $1.6 Billion to take supplies to the Space Station 12 times, once he’d demoed his rocket.


Quite controversial later, especially when constellation was cancelled, even Neil Armstong expressed concern. But he was wrong about it taking longer, look at SLS, and also just how wrong he was about cost. Buzz was always a fan, however.



10 years June 4th Elon Musk launched a rocket that has gone on to steal Europe's dominance in commercial space and Russia's dominance in human spaceflight. This flight and the development had cost an amazing $300 million, Nasa later admitted that their normal way of doing business (cost-plus) was costing them $3.6billion for doing this sort of thing. A similar situation for the development of the original Dragon.

Falcon 9 went into production and at the same time we saw the hopper tests for reusability (2012-2013)

Notable flights.

  • June 2010 - Maiden Flight

  • Dec -2010 - Dragon Demo flight C1

  • Oct - 2012 - CRS-1

  • Apr - 2014 - Controlled descent into ocean

  • June 2015 - CRS-7 - Failure

  • Dec 2015 - First successful landing at a launch pad & maiden flight of Full thrust

  • Apr 2016 - The first successful first-stage landing on Of course I still Love You CRS-8

  • Sep 2016 - Amos 6 Disaster

  • March 2017 - First re-use (CRS8 - SES-10) landed and retired.

  • August 2017 - Block 4 CRS-12

  • September 2017 - X37B

  • Jan 2018 - Zuma

  • Feb 2018 - Falcon Heavy - putting a tesla out to Mars.

  • march 2019 - Crew Dragon Demo 1

  • 19 Jan 2020 - Crew Dragon inflight abort

  • 30 May 2020 - Crew Dragon Demo 2



Evidence for quark-matter cores in massive neutron stars



In the classical view of the atom you have a nucleus normally made up of protons and neutrons with electrons whizzing around the outside the model that we often say on science textbooks and things like that in the quantum world it's a little bit more complex with the electron taking on a ridiculous(but true) cloud of probability, rather than electron orbits ...or shells, in the Rutherford kind of model.

Now a common way of understanding the scale; If you were to imagine that the nucleus was the size of a football, then the atom itself would be the size of a very large football stadium. This tiny football is in the centre with the electrons whizzing around the edge of the stadium and everywhere in between. Unlike a football stadium however, most of the mass is concentrated in the football and a tiny amount of it is whizzing around the stadium.

In this sense, it can be seen that virtually all matter around us is virtually nothing, so Nothingness is stadium-sized and the solid bit is actually the football


A Neutron Star forms when a huge star, one at least 8 times bigger than the sun, uses up all its fuel, it was the energy of this nuclear fuel burning that was keeping the gravity of the mass collapsing, it was pushing back against the sheer mass of the star wanting to fall back to the core. Once this happens the star starts collapsing down until just the electron degeneracy pressure is reached, this is sort of where all the football stadiums are all bunched up together, this is the barrier that is responsible for white dwarfs, however this star is bigger than those that cause White Dwarfs and the mass overcomes this barrier and the stadiums get crushed together, this, of course, raises the temperature something rotten, well a million times hotter than the surface of the sun infact!! At these silly hot temperatures the electrons and the protons combine to make neutron and release great floods Neutrinos. But the next big barrier comes along now we just have footballs (which are now all just neutrons) all squeezed together. Neutron degeneracy pressure and the strong force halt the further collapse (I suppose you could see this like the air in the ballon and the leather of the ball) This actually stops the fall of the outer layers in their tracks and the flood of neutrinos pushes these outer cores away as a supernova explosion, leaving behind this naked spinning ball of neutrons, 1.1 to 2.3 solar masses, almost like a giant nucleus of an atom, but instead of a few protons and neutrons (about 56 in Irons case for example) this is like a 10^57 Neutrons that is a million septillion septillion neutrons, that is big and stupidly heavy, a teaspoon weighs 10 million tons. A Falcon nine would struggle to carry a sand grain of Neutron star into LEO.


According to theory within quantum chromodynamics by a Distinguished Professor called Edward Shuryak in 1980, As soon as matter gets dense enough it will transition to new matter made of quarks and gluons. This has shown to be the case in other circumstances but until now there has been no evidence that this happens inside a neutron star. ...until now!




This paper describes a fantastic bit of detective work. And uses some of the things we’ve been getting excited about over the last few months.



On podcast 151 we talked about a huge Neutron star that if got any bigger would bend space-time so significantly that it would become a black hole. The researchers at the Helsinki Institute of Physics, have used data from this discovery and other Neutron star mergers and using theoretical ground up calculations and computer models have strong evidence that indeed the large neutron stars have very strange cores!!! So I guess the leather of the neutron football can give way and that gets squashed down to become this Quark Soup core


Eemeli Annala and the team used gravitational wave information, from that remarkable Neutron star merger GW170817 in 2017, the first-ever recorded. As the stars orbit and collapse towards each other the bend and shape the other one, This bending of the Neutrons stars causes them to ring like bells, and these “sound” frequencies can be seen in the gravitational wave signal.

The researchers used the maths to work out the speed of sound in the different types of material, the normal neutron star stuff and the Quark soup. And that the data from the gravitational wave signals look more like Quark soup sound waves than Neutron Star sound waves.

This is not a slam dunk, but it does but some limits to the theory and suggest that if the Neutron Stars were neutrons all the way down then the speed of sound in the star would be approaching the speed of light!!


J. Margueron

So it looks like very good evidence that massive Neutron stars may contain huge cores made of Quarks and Gluons! A bit like the quark epoch at the start of the universe.

More Neutron stars mergers are being discovered by Ligo so these results could start to become more accurate.


In the meantime, another team led by Adelle Goodwin have watched a Neutron star feeding on an accretion disc taking 12 days to take the material taken from a nearby star and then convert that into a pulse of Xrays with more energy than the sun puts out in 10 years!!!




We are living in the golden age of astronomy.












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