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Matt Caplan

Co-I (Neutron Stars) and Outreach

I have been a professor of physics at Illinois State University since 2019. My research interests are centered around high-density matter, including white dwarf cores, neutron star crusts, and accreting black holes. 


As a computational physicist and theorist, I use supercomputers to simulate dense matter in order to calculate its microphysical properties. For example, in the inner layers of neutron star crusts one finds ‘nuclear pasta’ with densities and strengths trillions of times greater than anything on earth. While a postdoc at McGill, I calculated the elastic properties and breaking mechanism for this layer and found that nuclear pasta may be the strongest material in the universe, with many implications for crust breaking, starquakes, and now possibly fast radio bursts. 


More recently, I have become interested in dark matter and microscopic “primordial” black holes that may have formed in the early universe. This research is supported by a Cottrell Scholar Award, and I look forward to learning more from my SCEECS collaborators about black hole accretion.


Beyond academia, I am active as a science writer and technical advisor for a handful of YouTube channels, including “In a Nutshell” by Kurzgesagt GmbH and “PBS Space Time” by PBS Digital Studios. These videos reach audiences of tens of millions, and I will be leading our collaboration’s efforts to teach the public about our discoveries.

Five recent relevant references

Yalinewich, A. A., Caplan, M. E. 2021, "Crater morphology of primordial black hole impacts"  MNRAS Letters, Volume 505, Issue 1

Lin, Z., Caplan, M. E., Horowitz, C. J., Lunardini C., "Fast neutrino cooling of nuclear pasta in neutron stars: Molecular dynamics simulations" Phys. Rev. C 102, 045801

Caplan, M. E., Forsman, C. R., and Schneider A. S., "Thermal fluctuations in nuclear pasta" Phys. Rev. C 103, 055810 


Caplan, M. E., "Structure of multicomponent Coulomb crystals" Phys. Rev. E 101, 023201 

Caplan, M. E., Schneider, A. S., and Horowitz,C. J. "Elasticity of Nuclear Pasta" Phys. Rev. Lett. 121, 132701


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