Physicist Mark Alford comments on latest quark-star research

New calculations by an international group of theorists paint a better picture of the nature of quark stars and suggest a way for astronomers to find the quark stars among the neutron stars. But WUSTL physicist Mark Alford, commenting on the journal publication in a news article posted Jan. 15 at, suggests that the new work may not be the last word. Alford, who uses mathematical modeling to explore the properties of quark stars, contends that the mathematical theory it uses is only truly accurate when the quarks are millions of times denser than they are in real neutron stars.

Physicist: Stars can be strange

Photo courtesy NASAStrange Brew: Astronomers are debating whether the matter in these stars is composed of free quarks or crystals of sub-nuclear particles, rather than neutrons.According to the “Strange Matter Hypothesis”, which gained popularity in the paranormal 1980’s, nuclear matter, too, can be strange. The hypothesis suggests that small conglomerations of quarks, the infinitesimally tiny particles that attract by a strong nuclear force to form neutrons and protons in atoms, are the true ground state of matter. The theory has captivated particle physicists worldwide, including one of Washington University’s own. Mark Alford, Ph.D., Washington University in St. Louis assistant professor of physics in Arts & Sciences, and collaborators from MIT and the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and Los Alamos National Laboratory, have used mathematical modeling to discover some properties of theoretical “strange stars,” composed entirely of quark matter. More…