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Bit Rot and supernovas

Today I learned of a Stross story, Bit Rot, set between his robot novels Saturn's Children and Neptune's Brood. I read it, it's cool, if dark.

It also led me to learn about soft gamma repeaters and magnetars, which can have magnetic fields so strong atoms are deformed into a 200:1 aspect ratio. I may have heard of this before, but still, wow.

Further link following brought me to pair-instability supernovas. Stars of mass 130-250 Sols can have gamma rays so energetic they form electron-positron pairs, removing the pressure imparted by the gamma ray and causing a collapse leading to total fusion of the star's contents, and total disassembly. No black hole remains, the star literally blew itself up, like a Type Ia supernova.

In turn I learned you can get nucleosynthesis by gamma ray. Also that there are proton-rich nuclei whose origin is not well-explained. We know the reactions that can produce them, we just don't know where those reactions would take place.

Also, there's a unit called the foe, a unit for 1e44 Joules, or 1e51 ergs. 'The word is an acronym derived from the phrase [ten to the power of] fifty-one ergs.[2] It was coined by Gerald Brown of Stony Brook University in his work with Hans Bethe, because "it came up often enough in our work".' as it does if you study supernovas.

And that reminds me of the later Heechee novels, which had energy-based aliens from the early universe known only as the Foe, as they genocided any species that might interfere with their project of returning the universe into a dense hot plasma, which one might say would involve many foes...

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Damien Sullivan

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October 2018


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