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AstroChuck's avatar

What if the two subatomic forces swapped with one another?

Asked by AstroChuck (37341points) July 8th, 2008 from iPhone

What would happen to matter if the strong nuclear force switched places with the weak nuclear force? I would think it would be more difficult to create nuclear fusion but fission should be easier. But would there be more unstable elements? Would this result in more radioactivity as once stable atoms would decay at a faster rate? Would matter even be feasible or would we live in a universe of plasma?

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12 Answers

Lightlyseared's avatar

my physics is a bit rusty but wouldnt that be really really bad. Everything would be going critical all the time.

gooch's avatar

If anti matter and matter came into contact the world would be destroyed from the energy released.

Lightlyseared's avatar

some medical imaging techniques use matter- antimatter anihalations everyday without the world ending (PET scan)

AstroChuck's avatar

I’m talking about the strong nuclear force (the force that binds subatomic particles together) and the weak nuclear force (the force that keeps atoms from fusing too easily so that the universe isn’t just one massive atom), not matter and antimatter.

soundedfury's avatar

@AstroChuck – I’m pretty sure that all matter would decay very rapidly. The strong force is something like 10 to the 12th power more powerful than the weak force. I can’t imagine there would be any stable leptons or quarks, which in turn would make stable atoms impossible.

I’m not sure that fission would be any easier, either, since I’d wager the nucleus would simply disintegrate rather than split into smaller nuclei. This is all a guess, though.

@gooch – matter/anti-matter reactions are produced daily on Earth and don’t result in the destruction of the world. While they do release ALL of their energy in the interaction, on a small scale it’s not enough to annihilate much more than the atoms themselves.

AstroChuck's avatar

soundedfury – So are we likely talking about all matter eroding into an immensely radioactive plasma universe? Your opinion means something to me since you once lived in Sacramento, which obviously produces such an amazing amount of intellectuals.

soundedfury's avatar

If we were talking about large-scale structures breaking down because of a sudden flip, yeah, I’m assuming we’d see an intermediary phase of plasma that would eventually give way to a kind of cold soup of leptons and quarks.

AstroChuck's avatar

Okay. Then I’m thinking of just dismantling the device, then.

steelmarket's avatar

Cold soup. Now, would it affect the omega – who knows? Would it be cold soup forever?

chris's avatar

It’s not clear to me that there’s a meaningful way to interpret the statement that the forces “swap”. Presumably this means that the particles which are charged under the strong force would have that same charge under the weak force and vice versa, or something similar? One would have to restructure a much larger piece of particle physics to make sense of that, but it might be a fun exercise.

The problem is that the weak force is mediated by massive particles (The W and Z bosons) and the strong force is mediated by the massless gluons, but is in a confined phase (the force is so strong that you never see something that is charged under the force, only combinations of things that cancel out one another’s charges).

Maybe you could ask what would happen if the weak force was confined and the strong force was mediated by massive particles. I think things would look drastically different in that case, although I’m not sure about details. We would only be able to see a certain kind of electrons and neutrinos (the “right-handed” ones, but I won’t go into that). All of hadronic physics (the physics of protons, neutrons, pions, etc.) would probably be significantly different. This would be a fun exercise for a physics graduate student (who is not myself). Maybe I’ll think about it more later and write a bit more.

Jreemy's avatar

Divide by Zero and you’ll have a fair idea.

RealEyesRealizeRealLies's avatar

Sounds good, I’m in. Or would that put me out?

If it kept my ice cream from melting then I’m all for it… Engage!

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