Suppose some sci-fi doomsday device was able to generate a chain reaction that interrupts gluon interactions in matter. Once triggered, it expands through all matter in range, disintegrating atoms into their composite fundamental particles. Once all matter in range has been disintegrated, and the reaction stops, all that will be left will be a cloud of elementary particles.

What happens next? Does the cloud just hang around? Or do the elementary particles begin to recombine? If so, what kinds of matter would we expect to reform from this cloud?

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    $\begingroup$ "in range" is utterly vague. Try to be more specific. $\endgroup$
    – L.Dutch
    Feb 16, 2021 at 7:35
  • $\begingroup$ Gluon are massless and propagate at speed of light so we won't know what's hit us if your Doomsday device works as designed ;D $\endgroup$
    – user6760
    Feb 16, 2021 at 7:38
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    $\begingroup$ To be specific, the "elementary particles" which remain are basically electrons, neutrinos and quarks. And take note that 99% of the mass of matter is actually the energy of the strong field: if the strong field is annihilated, this energy is suddely liberated in some form. In which exact form we cannot tell unless you describe the mechanism by which the strong field is annihilated. But anyway: it's a whopping large amount of energy. $\endgroup$
    – AlexP
    Feb 16, 2021 at 12:15
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    $\begingroup$ So... That weapon at the end of Ender's Game? I'm not sure if he went into what the aftermath would be, though I seem to recall it was basically a suicide mission because the ships that launched the weapon were necessarily close enough to have been in range. (Of course the characters all thought it was a simulation.) $\endgroup$ Feb 16, 2021 at 17:52
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    $\begingroup$ "Chain reaction" and "all matter in range" seem contradictory without more details. Chain reaction has no range as such, it would just continue indefinitely, while "in range" implies there is a limit. $\endgroup$
    – hyde
    Feb 16, 2021 at 20:37

2 Answers 2


The dissolution of all matter down to quark level would release such ridonkulous amounts of energy, that you would have a thin quark soup bubble propagating from what used to be Earth at very,very, very high relativistic speeds. ALL of the subatomic binding energy would be released. Much, much more than mere 100% fusion of everything would. The energy release would approach a true matter-antimatter annihilation, except... IT IS CONTAGIOUS!!!

Effectively, you would create a very localized new Big Bang event, that wants to infect any matter within range to do the same.

Figure 99.999999999999999%(arbitrary lotsa nines!) of lightspeed. Due to time dilation, the reaction will still be active when it hits the Sun in 8 minutes (fractional milliseconds for the stuff in the shockwave)

So the Sun also goes KaBoom. In an event about as energetic as 180 Type 1a Supernovae.

Want to bet its ejecta moves so fast, that the reaction is still live when the shockwave hit Alpha Centauri?

Want to bet that you have just condemned the entire universe to death, in something resembling the Strangelet Apocalypse? (Because, frankly.. Your device sounds as if that is exactly what it is doing)

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    $\begingroup$ OK, good, nice work. That sounds good! Now how do we point it at our enemies? Simple terms, no egghead stuff now. $\endgroup$
    – Willk
    Feb 16, 2021 at 15:04
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    $\begingroup$ @Willk Pointing it at the enemy is trivial. Just pull the trigger. If your enemy is in the material universe, you will hit them. The tricksy part is not pointing it at yourself. $\endgroup$
    – PcMan
    Feb 16, 2021 at 17:05
  • $\begingroup$ This seems to lack the math to back up "99.999999999999999%(arbitrary lotsa nines!) of lightspeed" claim... I don't think that would happen. $\endgroup$
    – hyde
    Feb 16, 2021 at 20:46
  • $\begingroup$ @hyde Take a chunk of matter. Convert 99.2% of it into energy. What is the speed of the remaining matter? P.s. Due to prevailing conditions(as from OP question statement), none of his energy can be re-converted into matter via any process. For the duration, the Strong atomic force does not exist $\endgroup$
    – PcMan
    Feb 16, 2021 at 20:58
  • $\begingroup$ Even if 99.2% was converted to kinetic energy (which is implausible, as there would be new photons, neutrinos, electrons/positrons and quarks produced too), you still don't get 99.2% of light speed with that energy. $\endgroup$
    – hyde
    Feb 16, 2021 at 21:08

A gluon is essentially the strong force. In other words, if some weapon somehow neutralizes the strong force, that still leaves the other three forces to be dealt with, them being: electromagnetic, weak and gravity. Gravity is by far the weakest of the bunch, therefore it's effects would be more gradual. The elctromagnetic is not exclusivley, but mostley based on magnets and emissions from other reactions. Seeing as complex constructs such as magnets and iron would disappear in the lack of coherent matter, its own effects would largely on average be zero.

The weak force is therefore main relevent force to this matter, being the only relevent one remaining. Despite it's name, the weak force is pretty impressive. Being the force trying to tear atoms apart, it is best recognized as the force behind fission bombs. While usually canceled out by the strong force, the lack of gluons mean there is nothing holding it back anymore. In other words, the object this device has been used on has become a massive nuke. As nukes do, you can expect massive amounts of x and gamma ray radation along with a hail of neutrons. Seeing as no matter is holding together, the superheated protons and neutron soup will fly outward in an incredible speed.

The exact makeup, density and size of the object such a device is used on would make a differance, but assuming an earth-sized target, you can assume a thinly spread almost pure hydrogen nebula, with enough neutron rdiation expelled to worry people on venus. I didn't do the math for that last part.

  • $\begingroup$ The "weak force" is something of a misnomer, unlike the other three "forces" it doesn't actually exert any force. Rather, think of it as an "interaction" that mediates many different types of particle decay. (This is one of the reasons that physicists no longer refer to "fundamental forces" but now call them "fundamental interactions". $\endgroup$ Feb 16, 2021 at 17:11

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