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Posts Tagged "particle physics"

Basic Space

Happy Birthday Higgs Boson!

Lindau Higgs press conference

A year ago today I was at the 62nd Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting in Germany. Miles away in Geneva, Switzerland, scientists were getting ready to tell the gathering media about a discovery that would change physics forever. It was Higgs day. It was great to be in Lindau then, surrounded by Nobel laureates and young [...]

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Basic Space

Tricking nature to give up its secrets #lnlm12

By their very nature, those discoveries that most change the way we think about nature cannot be anticipated This was Douglas Osheroff’s claim at the start of his lecture on Wednesday morning, where he promised to tell the young researchers at Lindau “how advances in science are made”. In his talk Osheroff offered five things [...]

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Basic Space

A week in space: Dragon docks, dark matter doesn’t not exist (maybe), and the many ways you could have seen the eclipse

The ISS grabs Dragon. Credit: NASA

The Dragon spacecraft finally set off to the International Space Station on Tuesday morning. On Friday, Dragon docked with the ISS and NASA streamed it live. If you want to relive the disappointment/excitement take a look at the NASA coverage. In the run up to the launch, WIRED had a series of Q&As with experts [...]

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Basic Space

Faster-than-light neutrinos expose the inner workings of science

It looks like the faster-than-light neutrino saga – or should that now be slower-than-light or the-same-speed-as-light? – may nearly be over. On Friday, CERN updated their statement on the initial OPERA result with some new results from ICARUS, another experiment at the Gran Sasso laboratory in Italy. Here are the important bits of the statement: [...]

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Basic Space

Faster-than-light neutrinos explained?

The faster-than-light neutrinos seen by the OPERA particle physics experiment last year may have just been explained. By a loose cable. I wish I was joking. To back up a little, the OPERA collaboration based at the Gran Sasso laboratory underneath the mountain of the same name in Italy published a paper to pre-print server [...]

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Basic Space

Faster-than-light neutrinos: a timeline

2011 has been a busy year for particle physicists. They’ve found a new particle, closed in on the elusive Higgs boson, and witnessed some neutrinos acting pretty strangely, amongst other things. I’m talking, of course, about the faster than light neutrinos detected by the Opera experiment in Italy. They dominated the science headlines for a [...]

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Basic Space

A Sweet and Simple Higgs Discovery

Edible CERN

Tomorrow afternoon, in “the most eagerly awaited scientific presentation of the century to date”, particle physics laboratory Cern will update the world on its search for the Higgs boson, that elusive particle that is believed to give mass to fundamental particles. The Higgs is the only particle predicted by the Standard Model of particle physics, [...]

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Basic Space

Why the Higgs Boson Matters

Every year the Royal College of Science Union at Imperial College runs an essay competition called the Science Challenge. There are usually four questions to answer and a number of prizes for the essays that answer them best. I’ve been shortlisted before, but this year I finally won something — the Physics prize. Check out [...]

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Basic Space

In praise of the Tevatron

Fermilab's two accelerator rings, as seen from the air. Credit: {link url="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Fermilab.jpg"}Fermilab, Reidar Hahn{/link}

Tomorrow, the Tevatron particle accelerator at Fermilab will shut down. The end will be no song and dance: the accelerator operators will simply stop putting new protons and antiprotons into the machine. The last few particles will whiz around the accelerator until the number of collisions per second drops below a useful level, after which [...]

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Basic Space

Faster-than-light neutrinos show science in action

Gran Sasso mountain sits on top of both the OPERA and ICARUS experiments. Credit: {link url="http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Gran_sasso_italia.jpg"}Wikipedia/w:nl:Gebruiker:Idéfix{/link}

Unless you’ve been hiding under a rock for the past 24 hours, you’ve probably heard about the neutrinos that turned up at the Gran Sasso Laboratory in Italy a few nanoseconds earlier than they were supposed to, in a feat that would have required them to travel faster than the speed of light. The story [...]

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But Seriously...

Particle Fever, I’ve Got It!

LHC

By now, I hope you’ve heard about Particle Fever. It premiered a few weeks ago – if I remember correctly, the same week as Neil deGrasse Tyson’s new Cosmos premiered. What a great week for science in the mass media. While it hasn’t gotten quite as much attention as Cosmos, it deserves to! It’s a [...]

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Critical Opalescence

Gravitational Waves Reveal the Universe before the Big Bang: An Interview with Physicist Gabriele Veneziano

It’s not usually put like this, but the discovery of primordial gravitational waves two weeks ago has given us our first direct glimpse of a period before the big bang. The term “big bang” is sometimes taken to mean the beginning of the universe, and that’s the impression you get from diagrams such as the [...]

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Critical Opalescence

When the Large Hadron Collider Is Too Small

The Large Hadron Collider has only just begun its explorations, so it might seem a little premature to begin thinking about what new particle projects might come next. But given how long these things take to plan, is it ever too soon? This summer, particle physicists held a huge planning retreat in Minneapolis, which Peter [...]

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Critical Opalescence

Can We Resolve Quantum Paradoxes by Stepping Out of Space and Time? [Guest Post]

Next month will be the 100th anniversary of Bohr’s model of the atom, one of the foundations of the theory of quantum mechanics. And look where we are now: we still don’t know what the darned theory really means. One of the most radical interpretations (which is saying something) has got to be the so-called [...]

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Critical Opalescence

How to Build Your Own Quantum Entanglement Experiment, Part 2 (of 2)

In my last post, I scrounged the parts for a very crude, but very cool, experiment you can do in your basement to demonstrate quantum entanglement. To my knowledge, it’s the cheapest and simplest such experiment ever done. It doesn’t give publishable results, but, to appropriate a line from Samuel Johnson, a homebrew entanglement experiment [...]

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Critical Opalescence

How to Build Your Own Quantum Entanglement Experiment, Part 1 (of 2)

Geiger counter

Quantum entanglement experiments are not something you can buy in the science kit aisle at Toys ’R Us. The cheapest kit I know of is a marvel of miniaturization, but still costs 20,000 euros. In the past month, though, I’ve put together a crude version for just a few hundred dollars. It’s unbelievably simple—so simple [...]

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Critical Opalescence

Physicists Find a Backdoor Way to Do Experiments on Exotic Gravitational Physics

The whole point of an explanation is to reduce something you don’t know to something you do. By that standard, you don’t gain much by explaining anything in terms of black holes. Appealing to the most mysterious objects known to science as an explanation sounds like using one mystery to explain another. Yet this is [...]

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Critical Opalescence

When You Fall into a Black Hole, How Long Have You Got?

In chatting with colleagues after a talk this week, Joe Polchinski said he’d love to fall into a black hole. Most theoretical physicists would. It’s not because they have some peculiar death wish or because science funding prospects are so dark these days. They are just insanely curious about what would happen. Black holes are [...]

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Critical Opalescence

Hacking the Quantum: A New Book Explains How Anyone Can Become an Amateur Quantum Physicist

For years I’ve been thinking and hoping that quantum physics would become the next hacker revolution. DIYers in their basements, garages, and hackerspaces have already pioneered radio communications, PCs, household robots, and cheap 3-D printers—why not quantum entanglement, cryptography, computers, and teleportation? In recent years, physics educators have streamlined quantum experiments to the point where [...]

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Critical Opalescence

How to Build the World’s Simplest Particle Detector

In about 10 minutes, using stuff you probably already have lying around your house, you can watch atomic nuclei and elementary particles for yourself using a diffusion cloud chamber—a rudimentary particle detector. There are lots of websites and YouTube videos giving step-by-step instructions to build such a chamber, but all require some component that’s hard [...]

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Critical Opalescence

What Is the Higgs Boson? [Video]

Observations

Scientists Find First Neutrinos from Distant Space [Video]

IceCube

The world has heard the first faint whispers of the most powerful cataclysms in the universe. Scientists working on the IceCube experiment in Antarctica report that they have found 28 neutrinos that must have come to earth from explosions in the distant universe—the first time scientists have found neutrinos coming from outside our own solar [...]

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Observations

5 Unanswered Questions That Will Keep Physicists Awake at Night

Orion Nebula photo

Physics is all about probing the most fundamental mysteries in nature, so it’s no surprise that physicists have some very basic questions about the universe on their minds. Recently, Symmetry Magazine (published by two U.S.-government funded physics labs) asked a group of particle physicists to name the open questions in physics they most want answers [...]

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Observations

The Fingerprints the Higgs Leaves Behind

The Higgs at Last

Tomorrow, the Nobel prize in physics will most likely be awarded to Peter Higgs and Francois Englert. Along with other researchers, the two physicists are credited with the 1964 introduction of the then-theoretical Higgs field—a fluid that permeates every corner of the universe and gives each particle a distinct mass. The physical manifestation of this [...]

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Observations

Particles and the People Who Love Them: Documentary Shows Human Side of Large Hadron Collider

Particle Fever poster

Full disclosure: I cried at a movie about particle physics. And I wasn’t alone. As the film showed footage of the July 4, 2012 announcement of the Higgs boson discovery, I noticed the woman next to me wiping her eyes just as I was doing the same. I was at a screening of the new [...]

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Observations

Move Over, Space Shuttle: There’s a New Science Giant Cruising the U.S. This Summer

Muon g-2 storage ring

When NASA flew the shuttle prototype Enterprise through New York City last year, all we had to do was look out our windows at Scientific American one morning to watch it cruise past. Countless Americans got a look at one of the decommissioned shuttles as NASA paraded them around the country en route to their [...]

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Observations

It’s Official: We’ve Found the Higgs Boson–but Which One?

Potential Higgs to photon decay event as seen by the CMS experiment at the LHC

When last we checked in on the hunt for the Higgs, physicists weren’t yet ready to call the deal done. They were only willing to say that they had discovered a new particle—some sort of boson—and that this new boson was “Higgs-like.” Their reticence hinged on the measurement of the new particle’s spin, a fundamental [...]

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Observations

Have Scientists Found 2 Different Higgs Bosons?

Higgs boson

A month ago scientists at the Large Hadron Collider released the latest Higgs boson results. And although the data held few obvious surprises, most intriguing were the results that scientists didn’t share. The original Higgs data from back in July had shown that the Higgs seemed to be decaying into two photons more often than [...]

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Observations

Relative Masses of 7-Billion-Year-Old Protons and Electrons Confirmed to Match Those of Today’s Particles

100-m dish of Effelsberg radio telescope

The mass of the proton in relation to its much lighter counterpart, the electron, is known to great precision: the proton has 1836.152672 times the mass of the electron. But has it always been so? Quite possibly, according to new research which taps the cosmos as a vast fundamental-physics laboratory. A study of a distant [...]

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Observations

Why Do Physicists Care So Much about Finding the Higgs Boson?

higgs boson event display

If you’ve read anything about the Higgs boson, you probably know that this particle is special because it can explain how fundamental particles acquire mass. Specifically, evidence of the boson is evidence that an omnipresent Higgs field exists—one that slows particles down and makes them heavy. But there’s a misconception that sometimes creeps into this [...]

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Observations

New Higgs Results Bring Relief—and Disappointment

Potential Higgs to photon decay event as seen by the CMS experiment at the LHC

This past July, physicists at the Large Hadron Collider announced that they had discovered a new particle that looked much like the long-sought-after Higgs boson. In fact, the Higgs-like particle they found was nearly perfect—based on the available data, it looked almost exactly like what the Standard Model of Particle Physics predicts the Higgs to [...]

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PsiVid

Particle Fever: A Movie About the LHC Comes to US Theaters March 5

particleFever_poster-small-200x300

“Imagine being able to watch as Edison turned on the first light bulb, or as Franklin received his first jolt of electricity.” -Particle Fever: With One Switch, Everything Changes. A few months back a new movie, an important one in the field of science, and a delight to particle physicists everywhere, debuted at the New [...]

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Symbiartic

Physics Hasn’t Looked This Hot Since The Big Bang

13-032FEATURE

The ATLAS detector at CERN is overwhelming to mere mortals like myself. It’s one of four detectors along the Large Hadron Collider designed to detect the most fundamental particles in our universe. It sits in a cave 92 meters below ground, is over 45 meters long and weighs a mere 7000 metric tons (that’s equivalent [...]

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Talking back

Higgsteria: We Didn’t Need No U.S. Supercollider

“Europe Overtakes U.S. in Physics Pursuing God Particle,” the headline blared. The Bloomberg News story declared that the home of Galileo and Newton has recaptured the lead in physics with its pursuit of the Higgs boson, a place in the scientific firmament that was once indisputably owned by the birthplace of Benjamin Franklin. The story [...]

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The Curious Wavefunction

Physics and fundamental laws: Necessary truth or misleading cacophony?

004

Robert Oppenheimer’s greatest contribution to physics was one that he wanted nothing to do with for the rest of his life. In 1939 Oppenheimer and his student Hartland Snyder published a paper in the same issue of the Physical Review that featured Niels Bohr and John Wheeler’s seminal article on the mechanism of nuclear fission [...]

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The Curious Wavefunction

Five mysteries that (should) keep physicists awake at night

Consciousness challenges the fundamental principles of physics like few other phenomena (Image: Costa Rican Times)

Scientific American editor Clara Moskowitz has a nice post showcasing some of the big questions asked by participants at a recent particle physics conference. These are the kinds of questions that make scientists worry and keep the midnight oil burning at institutes and labs around the world. As relevant as the questions were they all [...]

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The Curious Wavefunction

Nobel complexity: How the Nobel prize for the Higgs can mislead

Cut-away computer drawing of the ATLAS detector at CERN without which the Higgs-like boson would not have been discovered (Image: Wikipedia Commons)

The 2013 Nobel Prize for physics was awarded today to two very deserving individuals – Peter Higgs and Francois Englert. But as is rapidly turning out to be the case, the Nobel Prize – and other prizes for that matter – are finding themselves increasingly out of sync with the way science actually works these [...]

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The Curious Wavefunction

In surprise advance announcement, 2013 Nobel Prize in physics awarded to Higgs boson

A proton-proton collision which may or may not produce the Higgs boson (Image: Wikipedia Commons)

In a stunning and premature decision that is a first in the 113 year history of the august institution, the Nobel Prize Committee in Stockholm today announced the awarding of the 2013 Nobel prize for Physics to the Higgs Boson. Originally scheduled for October 8, the announcement instead came more than a week in advance. [...]

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The Curious Wavefunction

The Higgs boson and the future of science

The discovery of the Higgs boson (or the “Higgs-like particle” if you prefer) is without a doubt one of the signal scientific achievements of our time. It illustrates what sheer thought – aided by data of course – can reveal about the workings of the universe and it continues a trend that lists Descartes, Hume, [...]

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