few years ago, physicists at U. C. Berkeley and the
the initial skepticism about the monopole’s “discovery” was well
justified. It turned out that there were some problems with the Cal/Houston
measurement, and it was later essentially declared “inoperative.” But the
false alarm had an interesting result. It prompted the Dutch physicist Gerald
t’Hooft to consider the possibility that monopoles might be produced by the
Big Bang. What he found was that in the early stages of the Big Bang there are
intense “Higgs” magnetic fields, which become very tangled. During the rapid
expansion of the early universe they become “snarled,” leaving behind
“clumps” of magnetic lines which are magnetic monopoles.
primordial monopoles are very heavy, about 1016 times heavier than a hydrogen
atom. Ever since t’Hooft’s discovery of this mechanism, cosmologists have
been desperately seeking ways of “turning off” the production of such
monopoles, but have found them to be essentially inescapable. Their presence
represents a serious criticism of the Big Bang cosmology, for no such monopoles
have ever been observed.
are problems with detecting heavy monopoles: they are likely to move very slowly
and will not produce much ionization in detectors. But their detection may
have been accomplished. Professor Blas Cabrera of
this device had been in operation continuously for 126 days, on St. Valentine's
Day, February 14, 1982, the apparatus showed a flux change of exactly the right
size to correspond to the passage of a magnetic monopole with one Dirac unit of
magnetic charge through the loop. So
far, only one such event has been recorded.
There is an amusing sidelight to this result. Cabrera works at the Stanford laboratory of Professor William Fairbank, who has recently announced the observation of fractionally charged objects on superconducting niobium spheres (see “New Phenomena," Analog, February l983). The Dirac estimate of the size of a quantum monopole magnetic charge was based on the assumption that the electric charge on the electron is the minimum possible electric charge. Fairbank’s fractionally charged objects, if taken seriously, would indicate that the minimum electric charge is three times smaller. And this would make the monopole charge three times larger than the value which Cabrera has observed. Thus, if Dirac's calculation is applicable, these two remarkable results from the same laboratory, monopoles and fractional electric charges, cannot both be correct! Or is Nature even trickier than we thought?
John G. Cramer's 2016 nonfiction book (Amazon gives it 5 stars) describing his transactional interpretation of quantum mechanics, The Quantum Handshake - Entanglement, Nonlocality, and Transactions, (Springer, January-2016) is available online as a hardcover or eBook at: http://www.springer.com/gp/book/9783319246406 or https://www.amazon.com/dp/3319246402.
SF Novels by John Cramer: Printed editions of John's hard SF novels Twistor and Einstein's Bridge are available from Amazon at https://www.amazon.com/Twistor-John-Cramer/dp/048680450X and https://www.amazon.com/EINSTEINS-BRIDGE-H-John-Cramer/dp/0380975106 . His new novel, Fermi's Question may be coming soon.
Alternate View Columns Online: Electronic reprints of 212 or more "The Alternate View" columns by John G. Cramer published in Analog between 1984 and the present are currently available online at: http://www.npl.washington.edu/av .