Contact: Ellen Sterner
SMU News & Media Relations
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Interview with Eugene Herrin, Ph.D.
Seismologist
Southern Methodist University

What is strange quark matter?
Quarks are the fundamental building blocks of the nucleus of atoms. There are six different quarks. Strange quark matter is made of three of these – the Up, the Down, and the Strange.

Why haven’t we detected strange quark matter so far?
The only way that we now believe you can detect it is by the seismic signature as these particles pass through the Earth and we’re the first to ever look.

Why use seismology to detect strange quark matter?
Seismology can be used to detect strange quark matter if it passes through the Earth and creates a seismic signal that can be seen at a number of seismic stations.

How is the seismic pattern of strange quark matter distinct?
Normal earthquakes and explosions are point sources – the energy radiates from a single point. In the passage of a strange quark nugget through the Earth you’d have a linear source with energy radiating from the whole lines of the Earth and this will give a different pattern in the way seismic stations record the data.

Why do you think the seismic events you describe might indicate the passage of strange quark matter through the Earth?
The two we found in 1993 are linear sources, according to our analysis. The only way you could have such a linear source – at least theoretically – is by the passage of strange quark matter.

How frequently does strange quark matter hit the earth?
The size particles we were looking for probably hit on the average of one time a year, but the extremely small ones may be hitting the earth almost continuously.

What are the chances of strange quark matter hitting a person and if it did hit a person, what would it feel like?
If it is a small particle you’d probably never know it. The chances of getting hit by a very large particle are extremely rare and just what the effect might be, I don’t know.


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