Posts Tagged ‘Subatomic particle’

We’re All Doomed

February 20, 2013

As if the recent near miss by an asteroid and the actual impact in Russia were not enough, we have even more to worry about. Asteroids may be deflected. We could conceivably colonize other planets if something were to happen to the Earth, but what could we possibly do if the whole universe is destroyed? Yet that is a terrifying possibility, if the latest theories on the higgs boson turn out to be true. The higgs boson is believed to be the reason why matter has mass in the universe, and it would seem that the higgs boson is just the right mass to make the entire universe unstable, causing it all to destroy itself. I read the story at yahoo news.

A subatomic particle discovered last year that may be the long-sought Higgs boson might doom our universe to an unfortunate end, researchers say.

The mass of the particle, which was uncovered at the world’s largest particle accelerator — the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) in Geneva — is a key ingredient in a calculation that portends the future of space and time.

“This calculation tells you that many tens of billions of years from now there’ll be a catastrophe,” Joseph Lykken, a theoretical physicist at the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory in Batavia, Ill., said Monday (Feb. 18) here at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

“It may be the universe we live in is inherently unstable, and at some point billions of years from now it’s all going to get wiped out,” added Lykken, a collaborator on one of the LHC’s experiments. [Gallery: Search for the Higgs Boson]

The Higgs boson particle is a manifestation of an energy field pervading the universe called the Higgs field, which is thought to explain why particles have mass. After searching for decades for proof that this field and particle existed, physicists at the LHC announced in July 2012 that they’d discovered a new particle whose properties strongly suggest it is the Higgs boson.

For example, the mass of the new particle is about 126 billion electron volts, or about 126 times the mass of the proton. If that particle really is the Higgs, its mass turns out to be just about what’s needed to make the universe fundamentally unstable, in a way that would cause it to end catastrophically in the far future.

That’s because the Higgs field is thought to be everywhere, so it affects the vacuum of empty space-time in the universe.

“The mass of the Higgs is related to how stable the vacuum is,” explained Christopher Hill, a theoretical physicist at the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory. “It’s right along the critical line. That could either be a cosmic coincidence, or it could be that there’s some physics that’s causing that. That’s something new, which we didn’t know before.”

Strikingly, if the Higgs mass were just a few percent different, the universe wouldn’t be doomed, the scientists said.

Oh, tens of billions of years from now. Well, maybe I won’t worry too much about it after all.



God Particle Found?

July 2, 2012
Large Hadron Collider quadrupole magnets for d...

Large Hadron Collider quadrupole magnets for directing proton beams to interact. These superconducting quadrupole electromagnetas were made in Fermilab. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Well, maybe. According to the AP, physicists working at the Large Hadron Collider are expected to announce that they have found convincing evidence for the existence of the Higgs Boson, or the “God Particle”. If their observations are confirmed, than this could be the biggest discovery in physics in decades. Here is part of the story.

Scientists believe the “God particle” that might explain the underpinnings of the universe is real, and they are about to present their evidence to the world.

Physicists at the world’s biggest atom smasher plan to announce Wednesday that they have nearly confirmed the primary plank of a theory that could shape the scientific understanding of all matter.

The idea is much like gravity and Isaac Newton’s discovery: It was there all the time before Newton explained it. But now scientists know what it is and can put that knowledge to further use.

The focus of the excitement is the Higgs boson, a subatomic particle that, if confirmed, could help explain why matter has mass, which combines with gravity to give an object weight.

Researchers at the European Organization for Nuclear Research, or CERN, say that they have compiled vast amounts of data that show the footprint and shadow of the particle – all but proving it exists, even though it has never actually been glimpsed.

But two independent teams of physicists are cautious after decades of work and billions of dollars spent. They don’t plan to use the word “discovery.” They say they will come as close as possible to a “eureka” announcement without uttering a pronouncement as if from the scientific mountaintop.

“I agree that any reasonable outside observer would say, `It looks like a discovery,'” said British theoretical physicist John Ellis, a professor at King’s College London who has worked at CERN since the 1970s. “We’ve discovered something which is consistent with being a Higgs.”

CERN’s atom smasher, the $10 billion Large Hadron Collider on the Swiss-French border, has been creating high-energy collisions of protons to investigate dark matter, antimatter and the creation of the universe, which many theorize occurred in a massive explosion known as the Big Bang.

The phrase “God particle,” coined by Nobel Prize-winning physicist Leon Lederman, is used by laymen, not physicists, more as an explanation for how the subatomic universe works than how it all started.

I really wish that they wouldn’t refer to the Higgs Boson as the God particle. Unless someone is planning to start a new religion that worships sub-atomic particles, it is neither an accurate nor appropriate term. Also, the writers of this article really should know better than to refer to the Large Hadron Collider as an “atom smasher”. The LHC is a particle accelerator. Writing atom smasher sounds as if they don’t know much about the subject they are writing about.

One possible way the Higgs boson might be prod...

One possible way the Higgs boson might be produced at the Large Hadron Collider. Similar images at: (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

You can find up to date and accurate information from  physicist Matt Strassler at Of Particular Significance.

Faster Than Light

September 23, 2011
Tachyon visualization. Since that object moves...

Image via Wikipedia

It would seem that the physicists at CERN have detected subatomic particles moving faster than  the speed of light. This is impossible, according to Einstein’s theory of relativity. So, either we’re about to see a revolution in the way we see the universe or there is a mistake.

A meeting at Cern, the world’s largest physics lab, has addressed results that suggest subatomic particles have gone faster than the speed of light.

The team presented its work so other scientists can determine if the approach contains any mistakes.

If it does not, one of the pillars of modern science will come tumbling down.

Antonio Ereditato added “words of caution” to his Cern presentation because of the “potentially great impact on physics” of the result.

The speed of light is widely held to be the Universe’s ultimate speed limit, and much of modern physics – as laid out in part by Albert Einstein in his theory of special relativity – depends on the idea that nothing can exceed it.

Neutrinos come in a number of types, and have recently been seen to switch spontaneously from one type to another.

The Cern team prepares a beam of just one type, muon neutrinos, and sends them through the Earth to an underground laboratory at Gran Sasso in Italy to see how many show up as a different type, tau neutrinos.

In the course of doing the experiments, the researchers noticed that the particles showed up 60 billionths of a second earlier than they would have done if they had travelled at the speed of light.

This is a tiny fractional change – just 20 parts in a million – but one that occurs consistently.

The team measured the travel times of neutrino bunches some 16,000 times, and have reached a level of statistical significance that in scientific circles would count as a formal discovery.

There is good reason to believe that the speed of light is the ultimate speed limit. As any object moves faster, it gains mass. We don’t notice this because, at the speeds we move the gain is too small to be detected. As you approach the speed of light, the gain in mass is larger and larger. In order to achieve light speed the mass would increase to infinite. This is obviously impossible. This gain in mass has been detected in subatomic particles that have been accelerated to 99.99999% of the speed of light.

Scientists have speculated on particles that move faster than light called tachyons. These particles would be unable to slow down to the speed of light. Tachyons have never been detected (how would you?) and there is no good reason to suppose they exist.

But, here’s something I saw in the wikipedia article on tachyons that seems to have some relevance to this story.

In 1985 it was proposed by Chodos et al. that neutrinos can have a tachyonic nature.[7][8] Today, the possibility of having standard particles moving at superluminal speeds is a natural consequence of unconventional dispersion relations that appear in the Standard-Model Extension,[9][10][11] a realistic description of the possible violation of Lorentz invariance in field theory. In this framework, neutrinos experience Lorentz-violating oscillations and can travel faster than light at high energies.

I am going to have to work on translating that to English. Maybe this article will help.

Most likely this will turn out to be an error in measurement and I have to commend the scientists for their caution. If this turns out to be valid than maybe something like warp drive is not too far away.

Maybe not

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