Stories tagged particle physics

Someone might have just been served: but it's too early to say for sure.
Someone might have just been served: but it's too early to say for sure.Courtesy James Alby
If that headline meant anything at all to you, it probably also meant, "Aw, SNAP!"

In the giant, high-energy dance off of the particle accelerators, the tough-but-kinda-slow boy from down the street, LHC, just got served by the scrappy old-schooler, Tevatron. Maybe.

What am I talking about? You know what I'm talking about! Tevatron brought it Chi-town style all up in LHC's huge, eurotrash grill, and pulled off LHC's signature move, a move that, ironically, LHC has not yet executed; according to an Italian physicist's blog, scientists at Fermilab's Tevatron super-collider in Illinois may have discovered evidence of the Higgs boson, the last unobserved particle in everybody's favorite model of particle physics. The Higgs, if it does in fact exist, is what gives matter mass. If it doesn't exist, we need to re-think our ideas about how the universe works.

The icing on the cake of the maybe-discovery is that the Tevatron particle accelerator has been scheduled to shut down sometime in the next couple years, because the much larger and more powerful new accelerator near Geneva, Switzerland, the LHC, was about to make it obsolete. The LHC was built, in part, to prove the existence of the Higgs boson.

Now the LHC is sitting there wondering if the old dog really just called it "son."


RHIC collision of gold ions: The tracks indicate the paths taken by thousands of subatomic particles produced in the gold ion collisions at RHIC.
RHIC collision of gold ions: The tracks indicate the paths taken by thousands of subatomic particles produced in the gold ion collisions at RHIC.Courtesy Argonne National Laboratory
A heavy isotope of antihydrogen was created at the Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider (RHIC) on Long Island, New York. This antihydrogen isotope was heavier than the previous antimatter record-holder, antihelium. I say "was", because it only lasted a few hundred trillionths of a second.

Super smash-up

To make the antimatter, physicists smashed two gold nuclei against each other with enormous energies. The data resulting from the collision "literally looked like haystacks". Sophisticated software was used to make sense out of the debris and pick out the new antimatter.

To form the new antihydrogen isotope, first an antistrange quark binds with an antiup and antidown quark to make an antilambda -- an antineutron-like particle. The antilambda, which is fractionally heavier than a neutron, must then combine with a conventional antineutron and an antiproton. The chances of this happening are very slim: out of 100 million collisions, RHIC generated just 70 of the new antihydrogen isotopes.


Studying the properties of antinuclei such as these might help physicists study the primordial form of matter that existed in the universe shortly after the Big Bang and why the Universe is full of matter rather than antimatter.

Source article
Heavy antimatter created in gold collisions Scientific American


I'm not sayin, I'm just sayin...
I'm not sayin, I'm just sayin...Courtesy ROOTS UP
I don't need scientists to tell me there are hints of dark matter on Minnesota's Iron Range. Have you heard that Bob Dylan song, North Country Blues? If you believe Bob, the Iron Range can be a pretty depressing place. A dark place, full of dark matter. Are you following me here?

It turns out that Bob Dylan grew-up not far from a very deep hole in the ground known as the Soudan mine. It used to be an iron mine, but as he points out in that song I mentioned, "The shaft was soon shut, and more work was cut, and the fire in the air, it felt frozen." Hmmm...what did he mean by "fire in the air"?

He may not have been referring to the Soudan mine in particular, but it seems a little bit odd that around the time he released Down in the Groove, a terrible album, this half-mile deep mine was reopened by scientific researchers as a high-energy physics laboratory. Deep beneath the ground, shielded from outside particle interference by the surrounding geologic formations, researchers began studying things like neutrinos and proton decay, searching for WIMPS (Weakly Interacting Massive Particles) and conducting something called a Cryogenic Dark Matter Search.

So Bob Dylan and a bunch of scientists, all hanging out on the Iron Range, all thinking about the nature of the universe. I'm telling you, this is no coincidence. I don't mean to imply that Bob Dylan writes his songs inside a physics laboratory a half mile beneath the Iron Range, but wouldn't that just make so much sense?

Recently a team of scientists working in this very underground lab announced that they may have detected particles of dark matter, invisible material that could lead to huge breakthroughs in both physics and astronomy. HUGE BREAKTHROUGHS. I would explain more, but to be honest, I don't really understand physics. Perhaps one of you can chime in?

Bob Dylan also recently released a new album of Christmas songs. Are these events related? You tell me.

This MinnPost article explains more about the recent scientific discovery. You can also look back at this Science Buzz post about dark matter, or follow-up on this conversation with physicist Prisca Cushman, who knows all about WIMPS and Dark Matter, and may even know Bob Dylan. On that note, this is pretty funny.


Garrett Lisi uses math to describe everything

E8: the largest and most complex of the exceptional simple Lie algebras
E8: the largest and most complex of the exceptional simple Lie algebrasCourtesy Claudio Rocchini
Surfer dude, Garrett Lisi lives in his van on a beach in Maui. Using a type of algebra he calls E8, Garrett has developed an exceptionally simple theory of everything -- a grand unified theory that explains all the elementary particles, as well as gravity. (link to pdf of paper found below)

Lisi describes how gravity, the standard model bosons, and three generations of fermions can be unified as parts of an E8 superconnection. This unified field theory attempts to describe all fundamental interactions that physicists have observed in nature, and stands as a possible theory of everything, unifying Albert Einstein's general relativity with the standard model of particle physics.

"I think the universe is pure geometry - basically, a beautiful shape twisting and dancing over space-time. Since E8 is perhaps the most beautiful structure in mathematics, it is very satisfying that nature appears to have chosen this geometry."

"This is an 'all or nothing' kind of theory -- meaning it's going to end up agreeing with and predicting damn near everything, or it's wrong. At this stage of development, it could go either way." Garrett Lisi

This video explains how mathematics predicts reality

Warning, even though I have a degree in physics education, the material presented was way over my head. I will watch it again though, because it does give me a glimpse of how mathematics can lead to understanding, perhaps even someday making possible something like electrogravity. Click this link if the video below does not work

Learn more
Garrett Lisi forum frequently asked personal questions
Garrett Lisi forum frequently asked questions about E8 and Theory of Everything
31 page paper (pdf) An exceptionally simple theory of everything