atomic_fungus (atomic_fungus) wrote,

#4526: WTF, WINTER!

That weather web site is wrong--there's no way in hell that's an 8 mile an hour wind. Crap.

Drive to work today was smooth and quick. Drive home--

The snow hit and it hit hard. It looked like February 2011 out there, except that it only lasted about 90 minutes. The wind picked up, and it was just plum nasty out there.

The result was a day spent doing almost nothing. I had perhaps two clients per hour all day. I read up on quantum chromodynamics, various kinds of vacuum tubes, and cyclotrons.

In the process I figured out why beta decay can't turn a neutron into an antiproton, something that I had already figured was the case, but now I know why. (Basically, the baryonic number is conserved, and since a neutron has B of 1 and an antiproton has B of -1, "you can't get there from here". It's theoretically possible for an antineutron to beta decay into an antiproton, though no one has seen that happen. I wasn't sure antineutrons could exist, but now I am.)

At this rate, give me another few decades and I might actually understand quantum physics in its entirety.

Beta decay is interesting stuff; prior to my investigation of fusion I hadn't known that a proton can decay into a neutron by emitting a positron and an antineutrino. It does not happen very often, which is why fusing two hydrogen atoms is so damnably difficult; it's more likely that you'll form a diproton (Helium 2) which spontaneously decays into free protons almost immediately. But when it does happen, it forms a deuteron and spare energy.

All of this arose in the context of converting matter to energy. I keep thinking in terms of "ramps"--setting up fields or conditions which make atoms undergo nuclear fission into bare nucleons--and I wanted to get an idea of how this magical technology could go beyond the nucleon stage.

See: assume you have this magic thing that lets atoms come apart without much coaxing, and of course as they do they shed binding energy, mostly in gamma rays (probably). You end up with lots of gamma rays and a bunch of free neutrons and protons. The free neutrons will spontaneously decay into protons, leaving you with a bunch of hydrogen. How do you convert that into energy?

It's plain hydrogen, so you can't run a fusor on it (because H-H fusion is hard). Best way is to hit protons with antiprotons and make them annihilate, yielding more gammas, but where do you get the antiprotons from?

Alternative: set up your "fission ramp" so that you end up with deuterons, then fuse the deuterons. Any matter can go into a mass converter, because the first part of the process reduces it all to deuterium and some spare neutrons. You don't end up with complete matter to energy conversion, but you do end up with a lot of energy, anyway.

Well, it's not like I'm going to make any money off this.

* * *

Gilbert Gottfried got fired, but I discovered that Geraldo Rivera is the most annoying person on that show. I feel like someone needs to hit him across the face with a chair again.

* * *

It's a cold, crappy night. At least I'm home safely.

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