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Boxy Particles

Remember the most massive neutron star ever found? Remember how it was more massive than people thought neutron stars could be?
Now people (Felipe Llanes-Estrada and Gaspar Moreno Navarro) think that perhaps densities such as those found in the most crowded pulsar might deform neutrons into cubes.

As you know from the way people pack their belongings in cardboard boxes, and not in exercise balls, when they move, cubes can be more efficiently packed together than spheres can. A neutron star made of cubic neutrons could hold 24% more of them than it could if it were composed only of spherical neutrons.

What kind of density could cause a subatomic particle to squish into a different shape?

10,000,000,000,000,000 grams per cubic centimeter.  For comparison, that is
10,000,000,000,000,000 times more dense that the human body.

The most massive neutron star has about twice that density. But there's a problem with the "extra compressibility," as it is called, provided by cubic neutrons: the neutron star will become more dense (more mass in the same volume). More massive neutrons stars are thus more dense than less massive ones, because their neutrons are compressed more. The issue, as Paul Demorest, one of the discoverers of the supermassive neutron star, says, is that this "tends to lower the maximum allowed neutron star mass."
Why? Because objects at these densities are not neutron stars--they're black holes.
There's enough force pushing outward to prevent the neutron star from collapsing.
Very small and strong elves?

Check out this summary and the original paper (below) and decide for yourself.


Felipe J. Llanes-Estrada, & Gaspar Moreno Navarro (2011). Cubic neutrons arXiv arXiv: 1108.1859v1

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