Physicists at the University of Wisconsin-Madison built a swirling orb of plasma they’re calling a “miniature Sun” — so they can study how stars work up close.
The mini-sun, complete with its own powerful electromagnetic field, will help the scientists understand solar wind as well as how the real Sun occasionally blasts out plasma, according toSpace.com. The mini-sun has been in the works since 2012, and could help scientists gain a better understanding of some of the Sun’s more mysterious behavior.
Our sun is a constantly-swirling ball of superhot plasma. Sometimes, some of that plasma gets ejected out into the cosmos. But the mechanics of how and why it happens aren’t fully understood, according to the team’s research, published this week in the journal Nature Physics.
The mini-Sun recreates those ejections through what Space.comcalls “plasma burps”. The first time the Big Red Ball burped up, it came as a surprise to the physicists. But since then, the ejections have given the physicists a hands-on way to understand how the Sun behaves and why.
1. Gravity as Thermodynamics
Entropic gravity is a theory in modern physics that describes gravity as an entropic force – not a fundamental interaction mediated by a quantum field theory and a gauge particle, but a consequence of physical systems’ tendency to increase their entropy.
2. Loop Quantum Gravity
According to Einstein, gravity is not a force – it is a property of space-time itself. Loop quantum gravity is an attempt to develop a quantum theory of gravity based directly on Einstein’s geometrical formulation. The main output of the theory is a physical picture of space where space is granular. More precisely, space can be viewed as an extremely fine fabric or network “woven” of finite loops. These networks of loops are called spin networks. The evolution of a spin network over time is called a spin foam. The predicted size of this structure is the Planck length, which is approximately 10−35 meters. According to the theory, there is no meaning to distance at scales smaller than the Planck scale. Therefore, LQG predicts that not just matter, but space itself, has an atomic structure.
3. Causal Sets
Its founding principles are that spacetime is fundamentally discrete and that spacetime events are related by a partial order. The theory postulates that the building blocks of space-time are simple mathematical points that are connected by links, with each link pointing from past to future. Such a link is a bare-bones representation of causality, meaning that an earlier point can affect a later one, but not vice versa. The resulting network is like a growing tree that gradually builds up into space-time.
4. Causal Dynamical Triangulations
The idea is to approximate the unknown fundamental constituents with tiny chunks of ordinary space-time caught up in a roiling sea of quantum fluctuations, and to follow how these chunks spontaneously glue themselves together into larger structures. The space-time building blocks were simple hyper-pyramids (four-dimensional counterparts to three-dimensional tetrahedrons) and the simulation’s gluing rules allowed them to combine freely. The result was a series of bizarre ‘universes’ that had far too many dimensions (or too few), and that folded back on themselves or broke into pieces.
In this model, the three-dimensional interior of the universe contains strings and black holes governed only by gravity, whereas its two-dimensional boundary contains elementary particles and fields that obey ordinary quantum laws without gravity. Hypothetical residents of the three-dimensional space would never see this boundary, because it would be infinitely far away. But that does not affect the mathematics: anything happening in the three-dimensional universe can be described equally well by equations in the two-dimensional boundary, and vice versa.