Split someone into Subatomic Particles?

  • #1

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So if I somehow constructed a Freeze Ray that could lower someone's or something's temperature to absolute zero, would they split into subatomic particles ?
 

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  • #2
phinds
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So if I somehow constructed a Freeze Ray that could lower someone's or something's temperature to absolute zero, would they split into subatomic particles ?
Since you can't lower a temperature to absolute zero, this question amounts to asking "if the laws of physics don't apply, what would the laws of physics say about ... ?"

If you change the question to say "very close to absolute zero" then I don't know for sure but I doubt it. Stuff that has been taken to as low a temperature as is technologically possible using today's technology does not turn to quark/electron dust.
 
  • #3
It was in Science Fiction so I figured the laws of physics being defied was a given. So now my question is, if somehow it was possible to freeze and object to absolute zero would it split into atoms or subatomic particles in theory ? I'm asking because I figure the electrons in the atom would stop moving. In fact wouldn't the whole atom just stop moving ? Wouldn't this result in a split all the way to the atomic level ?
 
  • #4
phinds
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How is it that you think your "revised" question is any different than your original question? I see nothing in your post #3 to change what I said in post #2
 
  • #5
DaveC426913
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It was in Science Fiction so I figured the laws of physics being defied was a given.
That would make it fantasy.

So now my question is, if somehow it was possible to freeze and object to absolute zero would it split into atoms or subatomic particles in theory
The atoms would smear out into a Bose-Einstein Condensate.
 
  • #6
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It was in Science Fiction so I figured the laws of physics being defied was a given. So now my question is, if somehow it was possible to freeze and object to absolute zero would it split into atoms or subatomic particles in theory ? I'm asking because I figure the electrons in the atom would stop moving. In fact wouldn't the whole atom just stop moving ? Wouldn't this result in a split all the way to the atomic level ?
No.
Absolute zero simply means everything, all excitations, go to their respective ground states.
Electrons wouldn´t stop "moving" - they don´t stop moving in their ground states.
Atoms in solids also wouldn´t stop moving completely: they would have zero point movements, but no phonons.
 
  • #7
phinds
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Thanks, Dave. I didn't realize that. Still fantasy but interesting none the less.
 
  • #8
Simon Bridge
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It's a tricky question to parse in a way that makes scientific sense - you could cool someone until they froze completely solid ... and beyond.
Very cold bodies can change due to the cold - i.e. they may get freezer burn. You want to go colder than that.

Keep cooling, and eventually you would hit a cooled state which was the lowest it could go and still be considered to be a corpse. This would still be higher than absolute zero.

With this in mind, the question would be like "would removing heat alone be enough to cause the body to disintegrate?" ... but some freezing methods involve disintegration as part of the process so it is not clear how to answer that. Probably grinding the body up and reorganizing it would allow for a colder temperature, but you seem to be asking if this would happen spontaneously. I'd say "no".

We could imagine there is some magick heat pump that does nothing but remove heat ... would removing more heat cause disintegration?
Unfortunately we just said that the magick does nothing else - so it cannot cause disintegration: that's just logic.
See the problem?

But perhaps you are wondering if heat is somehow required to hold things together, so removing heat would cause them to disintegrate?
Heat is more associated with things being more loosely bound together. Removing heat would be expected to bind them tighter.

Fortunately: any way I try looking at the problem - the answer comes out as "no". So that is probably the relevant answer, even though I don't quite know what the question is.

What is it that leads you to ask the question?
Is it something you saw or read?
[edit]Oh - electrons stop moving?
In the simple model you appear to be coming from - electrons and nucei do not need to move to hold each other together ... but in a better model, it is not motion of fundamental particles that holds things together but their fields.
It's [what would happen if all motion stopped] not something that is very well studied because IRL nothing is ever completely and absolutely stationary: you can never actually have zero heat. The "absolute" zero exists as a limiting point on a graph and nothing more.

Why choose a person as the object to be frozen? In general, super-cooling is a poor method for disposing of bodies ;)
 
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  • #9
So new question. In theory how would you split someone into atoms ?
 
  • #10
DaveC426913
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Virtually any sized thermonuclear device will separate the victim into individual atoms that will enthusiastically diverge from each other.
 
  • #11
Drakkith
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So new question. In theory how would you split someone into atoms ?
Very, very high temperatures. 10,000-20,000 k and above should do nicely.
 
  • #12
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It's a tricky question to parse in a way that makes scientific sense - you could cool someone until they froze completely solid ... and beyond.
Very cold bodies can change due to the cold - i.e. they may get freezer burn.
Freezer burns tend to form during melting, in a large part. Or due to slow, gradual cooling.
You want to go colder than that.

Keep cooling, and eventually you would hit a cooled state which was the lowest it could go and still be considered to be a corpse. This would still be higher than absolute zero.
A corpse at absolute zero is still a corpse.
With this in mind, the question would be like "would removing heat alone be enough to cause the body to disintegrate?" ... but some freezing methods involve disintegration as part of the process so it is not clear how to answer that.
With a body, probably not disintegration.
 
  • #13
DaveC426913
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Freezer burns tend to form during melting, in a large part. Or due to slow, gradual cooling.
Pretty sure that freezer burns are from sublimation of ice to vapour once cells rupture due to expansion. That would mean the damage occurs while fully frozen.
 
  • #14
phinds
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I don't know anything about the mechanism but I can guarantee that freezer burn happens when it is frozen. Food doesn't get freezer burn unless it has been frozen, and stays frozen, for a while and you when you pull it out to thaw it, it has freezer burn before any thawing starts.
 
  • #15
Simon Bridge
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A corpse at absolute zero is still a corpse.
No - "a corpse at absolute zero" is an impossibility.
What I was saying was that the geometry of a system is important to the lowest temperature you can get it to.

Freezer burns tend to form during melting, in a large part. Or due to slow, gradual cooling.
Do you have a reference for that?

How freezer burns happen 101:
... http://www.thekitchn.com/food-science-what-is-freezer-b-62927
Freezer burn happens when moisture in the outer layers of the food evaporates into the freezer air, leaving behind empty "dry" pockets in the tissue of the food. This is technically a process of chemical sublimation and is actually done intentionally when making freeze-dried foods. [...] Foods that have been frozen for extended periods of time will inevitably begin to develop freezer burn.​

There's another kind of burn from extreme cold - this is where ice crystal poke through cell membranes. When it happen in living tissue it is called "frostbite".
You may be familiar with rapid cooling to reduce (not eliminate) this effect on frozen foods.

With a body, probably not disintegration.
... Do you have information that it is not possible to cool a body (we are taking about a corpse right?) to super-low temperatures by using a process involving disintegrating the body? I'd love to see that reference.
Whatever - the process of getting a substance to a very low temperature may involve physically manipulating it in a destructive fashion... that's all I was trying to point out.


Niggles aside: I think we have a consensus that extreme cooling of a body is unlikely to disintegrate it as a result, only, of the loss of heat.

Mynameiscommon said:
So new question. In theory how would you split someone into atoms ?
... still working on corpse disposal huh?
You could try waiting a very long time ... normal decomposition and erosion will take care of that for you.
For faster methods, extreme heat, big explosions, and very strong gravity wells come to mind.
Why do you need "component atoms" though?
 
  • #16
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No - "a corpse at absolute zero" is an impossibility.
Impossible, but still a corpse.
How freezer burns happen 101:
... http://www.thekitchn.com/food-science-what-is-freezer-b-62927
Freezer burn happens when moisture in the outer layers of the food evaporates into the freezer air, leaving behind empty "dry" pockets in the tissue of the food. This is technically a process of chemical sublimation and is actually done intentionally when making freeze-dried foods. [...] Foods that have been frozen for extended periods of time will inevitably begin to develop freezer burn.
There's another kind of burn from extreme cold - this is where ice crystal poke through cell membranes. When it happen in living tissue it is called "frostbite".
You may be familiar with rapid cooling to reduce (not eliminate) this effect on frozen foods.
You are right - freezer burn turns out to be a name from an effect quite different from frostbite.

Note that freezer burn is in no way inevitable on extended freezing! It is sublimation.
Food stored in humid air should undergo frost accumulation and no freezer burn at all. Whereas sublimation requires heat, and substances frozen to temperatures far below freezing point cannot sublime even over prolonged time.

The mechanism of frostbite is by growth of ice crystals through cell membranes. This process can only take place below but near freezing point.

If a tissue is frozen rapidly then usually the ice crystals remain small and do less damage (but still some). In that case, when the microcrystalline ice is kept for prolonged time near freezing point, like during slow thawing, the small crystals will grow bigger and thus do damage they did not do during the rapid freezing.

If water were frozen fast enough, it should form no ice crystals at all, but freeze into a glass. However, amorphous water is only stable below about -140 degrees, and freezes into crystal ice when warmed above that temperature.

And it is very difficult to freeze a sizable piece of tissue fast enough to turn it into water glass.
... Do you have information that it is not possible to cool a body (we are taking about a corpse right?) to super-low temperatures by using a process involving disintegrating the body? I'd love to see that reference.
Whatever - the process of getting a substance to a very low temperature may involve physically manipulating it in a destructive fashion... that's all I was trying to point out.
And my point is that it may not involve disintegrating it.
Niggles aside: I think we have a consensus that extreme cooling of a body is unlikely to disintegrate it as a result, only, of the loss of heat.
Body frozen under glass transition temperature is likely to be fairly brittle - but still possess nonzero strength and toughness.

Water expands on freezing to ice - but liquid water also expands on cooling below 4 degrees. How does the volume of water respond to rapid cooling below glass transition temperature?

Would rapid freezing to glass set up mechanical stresses, for example because water, bone and fat have different thermal expansions? At low temperatures, annealing is also impossible, thus internal stresses cannot be so relieved. Would a frozen body build up sufficient internal stress to allow crack initiation at low temperature, and shatter into pieces as the crack propagation relieves the stress and accelerates the fragments?
 
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  • #17
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So new question. In theory how would you split someone into atoms ?
I have a swamp behind my house that does a nice job. Nobody surfaces. Contact me if you're interested.
 

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