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Feb 18

FUCK YEAH SCIENCE! – Fucking Monopole Magnets, How Do They Work? And More (or Not)

So, let’s say you have a magnet. North pole; south pole, you know the drill from elementary school, right? And instead of just using that magnet to hold that crappy crayon drawing or those expired pizza coupons to the fridge, you decide to Science with it! So what do you do? Why, cut the fucker in half of course! Maybe you think to yourself it would be fun to have a north pole half and a south pole half! But the bitch of it is this – instead of having a half with one pole and another half with the other, you instead have two magnets that are both still bipolar! Two emotionally unstable magnets!

 

Bipolar Bear

I couldn’t find any funny images of my bad bipolar magnet joke, so have a BiPolar Bear instead! (from behance.net)

How can that be? Maybe you vaguely recall something about electrons having negative charge and protons having positive? Doesn’t that have something to do with it? Maybe you can somehow isolate that north and south pole if you slice just right! So you cut them again. And again. And continue cutting, like some frantic magnet butcher. Before long, you realize 1.) You can’t seem to find that dividing line of magnetic polarity and 2.) You ruined a perfectly good knife by getting bits of chewed-up refrigerator magnet all over it. Is it possible to cut the magnet down to the smallest possible constituent atoms and to isolate that pole, once and for all?

 

 

Alpha Centauri Tech Tree!
I might be able to move along the tech tree in some archaic Sid Meyer game!

In 1931 (possibly after eating some bad shepherd’s pie and watching an early, crappy Mickey Mouse cartoon),  British Physicist Paul Dirac speculated on a concept called “magnetic monopoles.” These discrete magnets would consist of either a north or a south pole, much how electronic components such as capacitors can exhibit positive or negative charge.

Monopole Magnet

Seriously, how do they work? (image lifted from jnaudin.free.fr)

While theoretically possible (and speculated to have formed during the Big Bang), none have been found in nature. UNTIL NOW FUCKERS!

URL’D!: http://www.nature.com/news/quantum-cloud-simulates-magnetic-monopole-1.14612

But like so many things in basic research, with caveats and asterisks attached. Rather than isolating actual magnetic monopoles, the above referenced article from Nature tells us a research team lead by David Hall at Amherst College in Massachusetts was able to simulate a magnetic monopole in a cloud of supercooled atoms. According to the article, “Hall’s team followed an idea … to simulate how an electron would behave in the vicinity of a magnetic monopole using a gas of around one million rubidium atoms, cooled to less than 100-billionths of a degree above absolute zero.” So rather than actually isolating a monopole, the scientists were able to build a Sim-monopole by flash-freezing a cloud of atoms to so near absolute zero, they behave in a bizarre state known as a Bose-Einstein Condensate, Heisenberg be damned!

 

This cloud of iced atoms serves as an analogue to an electron, as the density of the cloud serves as an analogue to an electron’s probability of existing in that region of space, like a Pachinko pile representing the likelihood any one ball would actually fall there. To recreate the monopole effect, the team agitates the spin of the electrons around the individual atoms, creating in effect a vortex. Much like a vortex of the normal stirred coffee cup variety, the vortices of the spinning electrons converge onto a “thin dark line, an absence of material like the hole produced as water goes down the drain.”

 

BEC cloud image

Here’s a visualization of the object in question. I’m still not quite getting how they work… (image from the original Nature.com article)

So what? A simulated magnetic monopole? I can take a tootsie roll and that coffee cup and simulate a turd going down the toilet; it don’t mean I actually took a shit! But fear not my loose-boweled friend, for while actual isolated magnetic monopoles have been created, the simulation may teach us more than the real deal can right now. According to the article, “In 2009, physicists observed magnetic monopoles in a crystalline material called spin ice, which, when cooled to near-absolute zero, seems to fill with atom-sized, classical monopoles. These are magnetic in a true sense, but cannot be studied individually.” While the map is not the territory here, scientists will take what they can get. And in the end, would you rather play around with the Tootsie-roll turd in your coffee cup simulation or the real ones in your toilet bowl? Have fun with that hands-on experience, if that’s what you’re really into.

 

Spin Ice Monopole
This is the crystal lattice structure of the aforementioned ‘spin ice,’ image from iop.org. Still no clear indication on the comprehension of function! (The article on spin ice magnets can be found at http://www.nature.com/news/2009/090903/full/news.2009.881.html)

So by having the simulated monopoles, scientists can study the quantum effects and behavior on a larger scale, Heisenberg damn us! While it isn’t the same as having actual, life-sized monopole magnets, studying the simulated monopoles could give us clues into how they are formed and even potentially how to fabricate them! And then, zero-energy rail guns for ALL!

Rail gun, bad pun

Hmm. Rail gun. Wow, visual pun. What fun. (I don’t know where this image came from originally to give proper attribution, but I sporked it from a Facebook wall! Harhar!)

So for the time being, keep your pants on, keep that x-acto sharp and don’t swallow any rare-earth magnets, lest ye want your innards to get pinched!

buckyballs

Seriously, that’s why they stopped selling Buckyballs. Because stupid kids were eating them and dying of being stupid. Fucking stupid people, how do they work? (Picture from tealco.net)

 


 

As an epilogue to this bullshit, I feel I must remind all you science lovers, intellectual hipster dilettantes (like me) as well as all other Tims out there again that Cosmos is coming back! If you watched the Super Bowel (or anything on FOX since then), you may already be aware of this. However as I stated in a previous article, I am not sure FOX is truly reaching out to their intended target demographic with this kind of a show. And yes, I just insinuated that the average FOX viewer is a dumbass. But fuck you, I myself am one of those dumbasses, and I will surely be awaiting the revival of Cosmos when it comes to FOX on March 9 with the rest of the mongoloids!

I’m hoping they do Dr. Carl Sagan proud with this!