Black Holes, Spaghettification, and Quarks

In Cecil’s latest column, he says the following:

Is being torn to quarks possible? I thought that because of color confinement, the worst that could happen was being torn to protons/neutrons/electrons. Can we not separate bunches of quarks because we don’t have the gear, or because it isn’t physically possible?

Mods- I think this is distinct enough from the current black hole thread, but a merger is fine.

Others can perhaps comment on this in greater detail, but under the right circumstances (for instance, in high energy particle collisions producing a quark-gluon plasma), quarks can indeed become deconfined and behave at least quasi-freely. Generally, such a phase of matter is known as quark (or QCD-) matter, and is thought to occur naturally, for example, in ultra-dense degenerate stars.

However, I’m not sure if spaghettification actually is a process through which you can ‘tear up’ matter into quarks – my intuition wants to tell me that you’ll just end up with some particle shower, no matter how hard you pull. But, when the matter eventually reaches the singularity as it must, the resulting compression surely serves to reach the density necessary for quark degeneracy.

I just asked my son about this. He said the problem with the strong force is as you pull two particles apart, the strong force between the two gets stronger. As a result, if you pull two quarks apart, the force between them gets strong enough that it creates another couple of quarks to pair up with the two you’re pulling apart. Thus, you can never have a naked quark.

However, we really don’t understand the physics that takes place near and inside a black hole. It may be possible that the tidal forces are strong enough to overcome the strong force and thus you get a quark plasma soup.

Whether torn asunder into quarks or mere protons, neutrons, and electrons, I still wouldn’t want to get close enough to a black hole to find out which theory is correct – even if it is in the name of science.

Any situation sufficient to spaghettify nucleons into individual quarks would likely also be sufficient for quantum gravity to be relevant. Which is just a fancy way of saying that we’ven’t a clue.

It makes sense that its a “We don’t really know,” with the explanations. I don’t want to give Cecil career advice or anything, but he really needs to get to work on quantum gravity. I’m sure a Nobel would look really nice on the mantle.