Magmatter

Daleth Orbital
Image from Steve Bowers
Magmatter reinforcement makes the construction of very large scale megastructures possible, such as this diurnal orbital

Magmatter is a form of exotic matter which is made up of extremely small atom-like particles, which themselves are made up of a number of different types of topological vacuum defects known as monopoles. Magmatter "atoms" are much smaller than atoms of ordinary matter; for this reason magmatter is much denser. Because of the strong magnetic charges holding the atoms together, magmatter is also much stronger than ordinary matter and has other useful properties However the difficulties associated with its manufacture and use, and because of safety issues concerning its proximity to normal matter, almost all magmatter creation and manipulation technology can only be used by third singularity transapients and above

Magtrons and Magnuclei

Each type of monopole has a specific range of conserved topological qualities, the most important of which is magcharge. This fundamental unit of magnetic charge has a value of 137/2 times the fundamental unit of the electric charge, the charge on the electron. Monopoles of the type known as `magtrons' can have a magcharge of -1, and this is the lightest magcharged particle. The magtron has a +1 or -1 magcharge and a mass of 0.5 TeV/c2. The types known as "magnuclei" can have multiple units of magnetic charge, typically from +1 magcharge up to +12, although it is possible to create magnucleons with higher magcharges. Magnuclei have a mass of around 10 TeV/c)2 per magcharge. These two types of monopole, magtrons and magnuclei do not annihilate each other. On the other hand, just as electrons and protons have an antiparticle the two kinds of monopole have their antiparticles (the bar-magtron and the bar-magnucleon family) and if a monopole encountered its own antiparticle that results in annihilation for both particles. Monopoles are entropically disfavored in high energy physics reactions - they are only very rarely, if ever created in accelerators and need fine control over vacuum topology for their creation. Once created, however, both magtrons and magnuclei are stable.

If a magtron meets a magnucleus, the opposite magcharges attract each other, and the magtron begins orbiting the magnucleus just as an electron orbits an atomic nucleus. Other than the strength of the attraction and the masses of the particles involved, the physics works is nearly exactly the same as that of normal matter (one important difference is that the ratio of the magtron to magnucleus mass is much larger than the ratio of the electron to the atomic nucleus mass, with the result that "zero point" quantum mechanical motion of the magnuclei is more important to magchemistry than normal matter chemistry). This means that magmatter will have the same material properties as normal matter except for certain scaling constants. What makes magmatter useful is that these scaling constants are extreme, giving magmatter exceptional strength, melting temperatures, and, in some cases, superconducting transition temperatures.

These scaling constants can be found by comparing hydrogen and maghydrogen,, the simplest forms of each kind of matter. Analysis shows that the energy of all magtronic interactions is increased by a factor of (137/2)4 times the ratio of the magtron mass to the electron mass, or 22 trillion. This includes all binding energies of magtrons to magnuclei, ionization energies, and magchemical bond energies. In addition, the characteristic length of magtronic binding compared to electronic binding is a factor of (2/137)2 divided by the ratio of the magtron to electron mass, or 1/4.7 billion. This affects all bond lengths, magatom "sizes" and so forth.

Magmatter Strength

Since force is energy per unit distance, the force needed to break a magchemical bond is larger than the force to break an electronic chemical bond by a factor of the energy scaling divided by the length scaling, or 100 billion trillion (1E23). Each magatom is 10,000 times heavier than a normal atom. When bound together into a solid, they are also 4.7 billion times closer together. This means the density of a magsolid is larger than that of a normal solid by a factor of 10,000 * (4.7 billion))3 or 1E33. The strength of a material is usually defined as the force per unit area required to make the material fail. Since each magchemical bond can withstand 1E23 times greater force, and there are (4.7 billion)2 times more bonds per unit area, the strength of magmatter is greater than that of equivalent normal matter by about 4.7E41.

For applications where high strength materials are required, the relevant parameter is usually the strength per unit mass (if you have a weak but very light material, you can compensate for low strength by using a lot of the stuff, and maybe still end up with a lighter weight structure than if you used a strong but dense material). Dividing the strength by the density gives a strength to mass ratio of 4.7E8.

This means that magmatter has the tensile strength required to hold a Banks orbital or even a Ringworld together. The tension in a rotating hoop or ring is equal to the total mass of the structure times the centripetal acceleration divided by 4 π T = M g/(4 pi).

Because M = ρ (rho) L, where ρ is the mass per unit length (linear density) and L is the length, then
T/ρ = L g/(4 π)

Thus magcarbon nanotubes can support a maximum T/ρ of 2E18 N m/kg. A 1 A.U. radius ringworld with 1 standard gravity (about 10 m/s^2) centripetal acceleration would produce a T/ρ of 7.5E11 N m/kg. Therefore a magmatter ringworld is self-supporting by over 6 orders of magnitude.

Magmatter Chemistry

Magmatter forms bonds analogous to covalent, metallic, ionic, van der Waals, and hydrogen bonding. Other than some scaling parameters, the physics (and physical chemistry) of these bonds are comparable, so magcarbon (with a +6 magcharge on the magnucleus) will form networks of covalent bonds in either the diamond or graphite structure (and will form nanotubes, buckyballs, and so on), magsodium and magchlorine will be ionically bound to form magsalt, magaluminum will form a magmetal, magwater will will form hydrogen bond networks, and so on. Of course, if the magchemicals form singletons (comparable to the noble gases), or cling together in twos or threes, then the overall material is extremely dense but not very strong. For building purposes, the best magchemicals are those which form something metallic bonds or a network of covalent bonds: the magchemical equivalents of iron or carbon rather than the magchemical equivalents of argon or hydrogen. In practice magdiamond, maggraphene, and magnanotubes are the most useful as structural materials. For non-structural applications, mag-magnesium diboride, magniobium-tin, or magYCBO have many useful properties.

Interactions Between Magmatter and Normal Matter

Experience of the everyday world suggests that one chunk of matter should not be able to interpenetrate another chunk. This comes from our experience with matter that is held together by electrons. Electrons have the property that no two may occupy the same space at the same time (unless they have different spin states). If you push your hand against a table, the electrons in your hand can't occupy the same space as the electrons in the table, so they bunch up, the electric field strength increases, this requires energy, and so the table pushes back on your hand.

Electrons can occupy the same space and time as a monopole. So can protons and neutrons and all the other particles that make up normal matter. There is nothing to prevent normal matter from just moving through a chunk of magmatter. If the monopoles had an electric field, there could be interactions that might repel or attract normal matter, but they do not. The primary interactions between normal matter and magmatter are all absent.

Monopoles do have a magnetic field. This can interact with matter to some extent. In fact, due to the strength of the magnetic field, this interaction of normal matter with a lone monopole can be approximately the strength of a chemical bond. The interaction of matter with magnetic fields can be divided up into several categories.

Diamagnetic matter repels and is repelled from magnetic fields. Most matter is diamagnetic. Free monopoles will avoid diamagnetic matter, being repelled from its volume. This is not a strong interaction, but is significant enough to prevent free monopoles from getting lodged in most forms of matter.

Paramagnetic matter attracts and is attracted to magnetic fields. Liquid oxygen, for example, is one of the strongest common paramagnets. Free monopoles are attracted to paramagnetic stuff, and can get stuck inside it. However (and this is important) all core electrons are diamagnetic, so that free monopoles will tend to stay away from the atomic cores and the nucleus.

Ferromagnetic matter strongly attracts and is attracted to magnets. Iron, nickel, and cobalt are all ferromagnets, and are used to make household magnets. Free monopoles are attracted to ferromagnets, and will bond to them with something on the order of chemical bond strength.

Antiferromagnets have no strong macroscopic magnetic interaction, but they have a microscopic magnetic ordering. Free monopoles are strongly repelled from antiferromagnets.

Superconductors are strongly repelled from, and repel, any magnetic field. Free monopoles are strongly repelled from a superconductor.

All the above assumes free monopoles. When monopoles bind together into a magatom, the opposite magcharges screen each other to make a composite structure that, on the scale of a normal atom, is magnetically neutral. A single neutral magatom or magmolecule would pass through normal matter as if it were not there. The exception would be a magatom or magmolecule with a net electric dipole moment. Just as some normal atoms act like tiny bar magnets, so some magatoms act like tiny bar electrets. The electric field polarizes the surrounding matter, binding weakly to it.

This lack of interaction, or worse, polarization, has an unfortunate side effect. When a monopole encounters a proton or neutron, it can catalyze the decay of that proton or neutron into energetic radiation. This decay is the basis of the conversion drive, and of conversion weapons and conversion power plants. Since the diamagnetic cores will not repel magnetically neutral magatoms, the magatoms can drift into a nucleus, causing its disintegration and the release of high energy gamma rays and pions plus the nuclear-hot fragments of the remainder of the nucleus. A magatom with a net electric moment will be attracted to a nucleus, increasing the rate of encounters and thus the rate of disintegration of the matter. The energy of proton or neutron decay will be somewhere close to the binding energy of a magatom or magmolecule. Thus, some magatoms or magmolecules will be ionized by these disintegrations, and the reactions will thus quickly cease. The more strongly bound magatoms, however, will remain intact and go about happily catalyzing nuclear disintegrations.

Increasing the dimension by one produces the magnetic equivalent of nanotubes. Nanotubes have been made out of a wide variety of atoms and molecules of normal matter, the magnetic analogues also exist. Mag-polymers behave in a similar fashion to the nanotubes, being long stringy magmolecules. On the scale of normal atoms, these are magnetically neutral and have no electric dipole moment. They pass through matter as if it were not there. The string will occasionally encounter a nucleus, causing it to disintegrate.


Magmatter and Normal Matter Buckytube
Image from Steve Bowers
Individual carbon nanotubes, the strongest form of normal matter, can support roughly a micronewton, and mass about 1E-15 kg/m. Magcarbon nanotubes can support about 1E17 N and will mass about 50 grams per meter, but would be nearly five billion times thinner. On the scale of the diagram above, a single strand of magcarbon buckytube would be too small to see. In use, a magmatter tube would be bound magnetically into a crystal of normal matter, such as steel, producing a form of reinforced hybrid matter.

For many purposes, it is desirable for the stringy magmolecules to interact with normal matter. This can be accomplished by magchemically bonding magatoms or magmolecules with differing magnetonegativities to the nanotube or polymer. These must be spaced about a normal atom's width apart. The more magnetonegative species will collect magtrons and thus a negative magnetic charge from the magmolecular string, while the less magnetonegative species will lose magtrons and acquire a positive magcharge. This allows the magnetically charged bits to bind to normal matter. By laying the string along one of the crystal axes, the diamagnetic atomic cores will keep the string away from any nuclei, allowing the string to stick to paramagnets and ferromagnets. The strong ferromagnets (usually some form of steel, for its ferromagnetic properties and material strength, toughness, and hardness) are preferred for anchoring monopolium strings. Note that strings will rip out from the ferromagnetic anchor long before they themselves break. A chain is only as strong as its weakest link, and the weak link in this case is the matter-monopole interaction.

Increasing the dimensionality to two, one creates monolayers, such as mag-graphene sheets. Again, the magnetic charge is screened and there is no electric dipole moment. Normal matter will pass through these sheets as if they are not there, with a notable exception. About one in 1000 nuclei will encounter a monopole for each sheet that the normal atom passes through, causing that nucleus to disintegrate. A sheet of monopoles makes a very effective matter disintegrator, turning any material that passes through it into an x-ray hot plasma while emitting copious quantities of gamma rays and pions. Adding side groups with different electronegativities allows a sheet of mag-graphene to be placed between two atomic layers of a crystal, but any substantial stress or impacts causes the magmatter sheet to interact with some of the normal matter nuclei, creating an explosion. Practical applications of extended sheets of magmatter are limited, additionally, by their extreme mass. Mag-graphene, for example, masses about 3.4E15 kg/m)2.

Increasing the dimensionality further results in bulk magmatter, such as liquids, crystals, and amorphous solids. For most purposes, these may be treated as a whole multiple layers of monopolium sheets, except that doping the material with different magnetonegative species will not help it bind to matter. The monopoles are so densely packed there is no way to keep them away from atomic nuclei, and thermal vibrations plus the quantum motion of the magtrons about their magnuclei will give the nuclei many chances to contact a monopole. Bulk magmatter forms an incredibly dense, nearly unstoppable disintegrator of normal matter.

Bulk magmatter is so dense that even a relatively small solid mass will collapse into a black hole.

The Schwarzschild radius R = 2MG /c^2;
Volume of a sphere V =4/3.pi.R^3;
Definition of density ρ (rho) = M/V;

Magmatter is 1 x 10^33 denser than normal matter, so (for example) magwater (composed of two magatoms of maghydrogen and one magatom of magoxygen) has a density of 1 x 10^30 kilograms per cubic meter. This produces a Schwarzschild radius of about 13 millimeters, which is just a bit larger than that of the Earth (9 mm).

Thorne's Hoop Conjecture specifies that an object of a given mass will not collapse into a black hole unless it is compressed to a circumference less than 2π times it's Schwarzschild radius in any given rotational axis (i.e. all three spatial dimensions).

In other words, as long as the mass of magmatter is smaller than one Earth mass, no collapse is possible. Larger masses must be longer than 1.3 cm in any direction; thus to avoid collapse magmatter is always configured as strings and thin coatings.

Magmatter materials with different densities have different Schwarzschild radii; magcarbon nanotube (magbuckminsterfullerene) has a radius of 9.8mm, while the Schwarzschild radius of mag-diamond is 6.7mm.

Since the magnetic fields between magatoms and the veneer of conventional matter utterly dominate gravity, magmatter and magmatter + conventional matter won't collapse gravitationally by itself unless directly manipulated into a ball of its Schwarzschild radius. For reference, gravity is about 10E36 times weaker than the electromagnetic force, whereas the "magtronic" force is 137/2 times stronger due to the increased value of the fundamental magnetic charge compared to the fundamental electric charge.


Interactions with Electromagnetic Radiation

...in Normal Matter

When electromagnetic radiation is incident on normal matter, the electric fields in the radiation push and pull on the charged particles that constitute the matter. If the frequency of the radiation resonates with a particular vibrational mode of a molecule or condensed substance, the radiation can pull and push on the atoms to get the molecule or condensed substance vibrating; absorbing some of the radiation in the process. For most molecules, these vibrational frequencies correspond to mid to far infrared light, at a few hundredths of an eV in energy. In condensed matter, elastic waves through the bulk can vibrate at arbitrarily low frequencies, allowing absorption of all frequencies of radiation below the mid infrared (although for many frequencies, this absorption may be very weak).

If the frequency of the radiation is resonant with an electronic transition, the radiation can be absorbed while moving electrons to more energetic states. Typical electronic transition frequencies correspond to visible and near infrared light, or from about 1 to 10eV energy. In conductors, the charge carriers are free to move and individually collect energy from the radiation, allowing possible absorption mechanisms at arbitrarily small energies and thus allowing electronic absorption at arbitrarily low frequencies.

In addition to absorption, there is an effect known as screening which as a significant influence on radiation. Consider a metal, where the charge carriers (electrons) are free to move around. If a static electric field is applied to the metal, the electrons will move in response to the field, piling up in the direction of the positive field and becoming depleted in the direction of the negative field. This separation of charge creates an "induced" field that opposes the applied field. So long as any field exists, the electrons continue to move. Thus, things only settle down when the external field is exactly cancelled out everywhere inside the metal by the induced field created by the charges that have collected on the surface.

Similarly, if an insulator is exposed to a static electric field, the electrons will be pulled in one direction and the nuclei in the other direction, creating polarization in the material. This charge separation acts to partially cancel the applied field, but since the charge carriers are not free to move wherever they want, this cancellation cannot go to completion.

If the field applied is not static, but rather a propagating electromagnetic wave, the electric part of the wave can be screened if the charge carriers in the material can react in the time it takes for the wave to complete one full cycle. In a metal, the wave will be fully screened from the interior, blocking it. The currents and charges created at the surface will create another wave that propagates away from the surface - this is the reflected wave, and explains why metals are such good reflectors. Since the reflection takes place at the surface, radiation does not penetrate far into the material and thus has little opportunity to be absorbed, although there always will be some absorption. If the surface of the metal is smooth on the scale of the wavelength of the radiation, the reflection is specular. Otherwise, the metal surface scatters the radiation diffusely. The electrons of a metal can respond to changing fields at frequencies up to about the visible part of the spectrum, meaning that metals are good reflectors to visible light, all infrared, terahertz radiation, microwaves, radio waves, and ELF waves.

In an insulator, the wave will be only partially screened and will be able to penetrate into the interior. It will, however, be slowed and deflected by the polarization. This leads to refraction, which allows the material to be used as a lens.. If the insulator is not homogeneous on length scales larger than the wavelength of the radiation, the radiation is diffusely scattered from the interior of the material. If the insulator is homogeneous and does not have any strong absorption at that frequency, it will be transparent.

...in Magmatter

In magmatter it is the magnetic field of electromagnetic radiation that pushes and pulls on the magnetically charged monopoles. Just as with normal matter, this can excite vibrations in magmolecules or magsolids. The frequency of vibration scales as the square root of the restoring force constant divided by the mass (the "ideal spring" familiar to beginning physics students). Since the restoring forces of magchemical bonds are 1E23 times greater than those of chemical bonds, and since the mass of magatoms is 10,000 times greater than that of normal atoms, this gives us vibrational frequencies that are about 3E9 times greater than those of normal matter. This is several tens of MeV up to a few hundred MeV, gamma rays well above the decay energies of normal matter nuclei. Because magtronic transitions are about 2E13 times more energetic than electronic transitions, we find that these occur with gamma rays in the tens to hundreds of TeV energy range, well above the energies that can be produced by typical particle accelerators.

Magmatter screens the magnetic fields of electromagnetic radiation in the same way that normal matter screens the electric field. If the magmatter has magnetic charges that are free to move (that is, if it is a magnetic conductor), it will be highly reflective well above the typical energies for magtronic transitions. As a result, it will reflect essentially all frequencies of light that might be encountered, even the most energetic. Magconductors may therefore be used in reaction drives as a perfect reflector for all wavelengths of emitted light, though there is a severe weight penalty, and magmatter in extended sheets can interact with normal matter and explode, as described above. This presents some severe engineering challenges.

Insulator magmatter is mostly transparent but refractive for any wavelength of light from nuclear gamma ray energies down through x-rays, ultraviolet, visible, infrared, terahertz, microwave, radio, and ELF frequencies.

Picoscale Devices and Maglife

Normal atoms are about 100 to 200 picometers across. The simplest mechanical devices which can be constructed using normal matter are nanoscale objects (where one nanometer is 1000 picometers). Magatoms are about 5 billion times smaller than this; smaller than an atomic nucleus. It is possible to build quite complicated equipment from magmatter at the picometer scale. All operations at this scale are constrained by the Uncertainty Principle, which makes the design, construction and use of picoscale technology a highly complex field of study. In effect, this dictates that this technology can only be utilised by beings of high transapient level.

Maglife

Using organic magchemistry it is possible to develop ultrasmall living creatures, known as maglife; these organisms emit dangerous radiation due to the thermal gamma ray emission. Maglife metabolism occurs at a very fast rate and maglife organisms are extremely small and dense. One example of an advanced maglife civilisation is the Magvivisystem Hyperpolity in the TRHN.

Neutron Stars and Magmatter

Even though magmatter is extraordinarily strong compared to normal matter, it is still not suitable for use on neutron stars. The surface gravity of a neutron star is about 1E12 gees. Magmatter has a strength to mass ratio of about 1E9 greater than that of normal matter. Magmatter structures on a neutron star would requite the equivalent of magdiamond or magsteel, and would not be able to be very complicated. They would also explode the neutronium wherever they touched it, from baryon number violating neutron decay. In normal use magmatter can be separated from normal matter by a safe distance, but the density of neutron stars makes it practically impossible to maintain this separation.

The exotic xenosophonts known as Hildemar's Knots are life-like phenomena sustained within the material of certain neutron stars, but have no concept of technology and little interest in the rest of the universe. Attempts to adapt magmatter technology for interaction and trade with the Knots have not so far been successful.

Use of Magmatter

Controlled manufacture and mass production of magmatter is a delicate and complicated process requiring the advanced control and logistics abilities of Third Singularity level minds. The mixture of conventional matter with magnetic monopoles can result in the release of considerable amounts of energy, and care must be taken to prevent a runaway reaction resulting in an explosion that drives the constituent particles apart (as well as potentially causing considerable damage to the surrounding environment). Despite these difficulties, early S3 transapients quickly mastered the techniques of bulk magmatter manufacture and employed it in numerous applications such as tidal and acceleration compensator masses, ultra-fine, hyper-strength cables and braces for use in megastructural engineering, and near-indestructible coatings for conversion drive rocket nozzles and massive military transports and weapons platforms. Perhaps most famously, bulk magmatter forms the basis for the 'magical' technology of the space-time catapult, the first "reactionless" propulsion system devised by Terragens.

Although most commonly associated conversion and ultra-strong materials, magmatter has actually had its greatest impact when employed within the more complex devices of Third Singularity minds, resulting in a technological revolution that many see as comparable in scope to the mastery of fire, agriculture, and nanotechnology in earlier eras.

S3 level 'picotechnology' is largely based on the use of complex (and in sufficiently energy and mass rich environments, self-replicating) devices made partly or wholly of magmatter. Magmatter circuitry is not limited by the chemical bonding strengths that more conventional materials are subject to and can operate a million times faster than computronium made from 'normal' matter. The ability of magmatter to reflect and refract gamma rays permits the creation of submicroscopic gamma ray microscopes, telescopes, and lasers.

Magmatter technology forms the basis for a host of complex robotic devices able to operate deep below planetary surfaces or within stellar interiors. If operating within a sufficiently energetic environment, many of these devices can even self-replicate, using the high energy and mass resources available to generate monopoles and magmatter and assembling them into additional complex, self-replicating devices. However there are constraints on the use of magmatter in extremely dense environments, where contact between magmatter and normal matter will cause explosive disruption of normal matter nucleons.

Finally, it is commonly believed that at least some of the vastly powerful "space-time engineering" of the highest S-levels makes at least some use of monopole and magmatter technologies, although in general the archai neither confirm nor deny such allegations, and often their answers are contradictory.

Modosophont exposure to magmatter or magmatter-based technology may seem rare but is often ubiquitous (especially in the Inner Sphere), usually in the form of travel on a particularly advanced conversion drive vessel, a visit to a Banks Orbital or other structure employing magmatter bracing, or the use of the 'magic' ultra-speed routers and processors that underlie the more advanced information system and planetary data nets. The material forms an important, perhaps vital, but often overlooked component of modern civilization. It is not entirely hyperbole (the diligent efforts of the NoCoZo marketing combines notwithstanding) to call the modern era the Magmatter Age.

 
Related Articles
 
Appears in Topics
 
Development Notes
Text by Luke Campbell with some additions by Adam Getchell, Todd Drashner, Stephen Inniss, Steve Bowers

Initially published on 21 May 2008.

Updated with additional calculations by Adam Getchell on 27 Aug 2013