Comments on a cultural reality between past and future.

This blog describes Metatime in the Posthuman experience, drawn from Sir Isaac Newton's secret work on the future end of times, a tract in which he described Histories of Things to Come. His hidden papers on the occult were auctioned to two private buyers in 1936 at Sotheby's, but were not available for public research until the 1990s.

Showing posts with label Antimatter. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Antimatter. Show all posts

Monday, June 25, 2012

Everything You Never Wanted to Know About the God Particle

CERN visited by English physicist Peter Higgs, who (among others) conceived of the God Particle in the 1960s. Image Source: Alan Wal/University of Edinburgh/EPA via Time.

A centre of the scientific world, CERN is a magnet for metaphors. The Swiss lab pursues the Holy Grail of modern physics, the so-called 'God Particle.' Following yesterday's CERN-related post, Tengri News just shared an AFP wire announcing that on 4 July 2012, CERN is going to present an update on the hunt for the elusive Higgs Boson particle, which may or may not confirm the Standard Model of physics.

The rumour already spread on the Internet on 20 June 2012, via a physics blog, that independent CERN experiments were reaching similar conclusions:
It started when physics blogger Peter Woit of Not Even Wrong posted a short item:

Reliable rumors couldn’t wait, and they indicate that the experiments are seeing much the same thing as last year in this year’s new data: strong hints of a Higgs around 125 GeV. The main channel investigated is the gamma-gamma channel where they are each seeing about a 4 sigma signal.

Translation: Both the ATLAS and CMS experiments at the Large Hadron Collider have detected signals that could very well be the Higgs boson in their latest data, right in the range where the LHC announced preliminary results last December.

Back then, ATLAS reported a 3.5 sigma signal, while CMS reported a 2.6 sigma signal.

This is not sufficient to warrant a declaration of discovery; you need a five-sigma signal or higher for that. But it was certainly a tantalizing hint. 

Monday, July 11, 2011

The Dark Matter World

One of the great mysteries of our times is Dark Matter. In various forms, it makes up most of reality, somewhere between 85 and 98 per cent, yet we know almost nothing about it, including the particles of which it is composed, because we can't see it (it neither emits nor scatters light). Scientists assume it exists because they can detect its mass and gravitational pull (see a piece at I09 on Dark Matter here and an explanation from Scientific American here). Now there are speculations that there might have been (might still be?) stars and potentially alternate, unseen galaxies, a coexistent unseen universe, composed of Dark Matter.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Scientists Trap Antimatter for Sixteen Minutes

This is an artist's image of the ALPHA trap which captured and stored antihydrogen atoms, whose trapped path is shown by the electric blue lines. Image Credit: Chukman So. Image Source: Physorg.

Amid April rumours that the God Particle, or Higgs Boson, the theoretical Holy Grail of Particle Physics, may have been found at CERN (the data is being verified and checked by thousands of scientists), there's a new report that the ALPHA project team working at the Large Hadron Collider has captured and studied Antimatter for 1,000 seconds.  From the Telegraph:
Scientists have trapped and stored antihydrogen atoms for a record 16 minutes, a stunning technical feat that promises deeper insights into the mysteries of anti-matter. ... We can keep the antihydrogen atoms trapped for 1,000 seconds. This is long enough to begin to study them -- even with the small number that we can catch so far," said Jeffrey Hangst, spokesman for the ALPHA team conducting the tests at the European Organisation for Nuclear Research (CERN) in Geneva. In the study, published in the journal Nature Physics, researchers report trapping some 300 antiatoms. Scientists used CERN's high-energy accelerator to create the antihydrogen atoms, and then chilled them to near-zero temperatures. The aim is to use laser and microwave spectroscopy to compare the immobilised particles to their hydrogen counterparts.
(Hat tip: Phantoms and Monsters.)  One of the questions posed in these experiments is why Antimatter is so rare.  It was created when particles collided at the dawn of the universe, creating Matter and Antimatter (explained here and here). Researchers assert that there is no mirror Antimatter universe.  Therefore, in their estimation, half the cosmos is missing.  Scientists are seeking to verify that Antimatter particles would behave consistently if they were in a mirror universe with reversed charges and were moving backwards through time:
Antimatter is a puzzle because it should have been produced in equal amounts with normal matter during the Big Bang that created the universe 13.7 billion years ago. Today, however, there is no evidence of antimatter galaxies or clouds, and antimatter is seen rarely and for only short periods, for example during some types of radioactive decay before it annihilates in a collision with normal matter.

Hence the desire to measure the properties of antiatoms in order to determine whether their electromagnetic and gravitational interactions are identical to those of normal matter. One goal is to check whether antiatoms abide by CPT symmetry, as do normal atoms. CPT (charge-parity-time) symmetry means that a particle would behave the same way in a mirror universe if it had the opposite charge and moved backward in time. “Any hint of CPT symmetry breaking would require a serious rethink of our understanding of nature,” said Jeffrey Hangst of Aarhus University in Denmark, spokesperson for the ALPHA experiment. “But half of the universe has gone missing, so some kind of rethink is apparently on the agenda.”
For other reports, go here, here, here and here.  CERN has a public page explaining Antimatter here. The original article at Nature Physics is here.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Did Someone Say ... Apocalypse?

Image Source: I09.

The Necropolis blog just said it all: "I picture the end of the world, whenever that may be, to look something kind of like this." (Hat tip: I09.) Puyehue volcano in Chile has erupted on 4 June.  These unbelievable photographs reveal a rare phenomenon called a dirty thunderstorm, also known as volcanic lightning, when lightning is produced in a volcanic plume.  I'm more inclined to think of the medieval nightmares of Dante or Bosch's early Renaissance than straight old Armageddon.

Lightning strikes over the Puyehue volcano, over 500 miles south of Santiago, Chile, Monday June 6, 2011. Image Source: AP via NPR.
Locals stay in front of their home as ash and steam rise from the Puyehue-Cordon Caulle volcanic chain near Osorno city in south-central Chile June 5, 2011. Image Credit: Reuters/Ivan Alvarado.
Ash and steam erupti from the Puyehue-Cordon Caulle volcanic chain near Osorno city, Chile, on June 5, 2011. Image Credit: Reuters/Air Force of Chile/Handout.
Lightning flashes amid a cloud of ash billowing from Puyehue volcano near Osorno, Chile, on June 5, 2011. Image Credit: Claudio Santana/AFP/Getty Images.
Lightning bolts strike around the Puyehue-Cordon Caulle volcanic chain in the Patagonia region June 4, 2011. Image Credit: Reuters/Carlos Gutierrez.
Lightning bolts strike around the Puyehue-Cordon Caulle volcanic chain on June 5, 2011. Image Credit: Reuters/Ivan Alvarado.
Volcanic lightning is seen over the Puyehue volcano, on Sunday June 5, 2011. Image Credit: AP Photo/Francisco Negroni, AgenciaUno.
A car, completely covered in volcanic ash, on Sunday June 5, 2011. Image Credit: AP Photo/Alfredo Leiva.

Most of the above pictures and captions were taken from The Atlantic (which lists full image credits); there are more photographs of the eruption in that report.

For my earlier posts on Storms, go here and here; and for all my posts on the Environment, go here.

Monday, May 16, 2011

End of an Era: The Last Voyage of the Space Shuttle Endeavor

Space Shuttle Endeavour straddling the stratosphere and mesosphere.(9 February 2010), STS-130. Image Source: NASA via Wiki.

Caption for the above photograph: The image was photographed by an Expedition 22 crew member prior to STS-130 rendezvous and docking operations with the International Space Station. Docking occurred at 11:06 p.m. (CST) on Feb. 9, 2010. The orbital outpost was at 46.9 south latitude and 80.5 west longitude, over the South Pacific Ocean off the coast of southern Chile with an altitude of 183 nautical miles when the image of the was recorded. The orange layer is the troposphere, where all of the weather and clouds which we typically watch and experience are generated and contained. This orange layer gives way to the whitish Stratosphere and then into the Mesosphere.

The Space Shuttle Endeavor, active since 1992, is taking off for its final flight today after some delays.  Coming on the heels of the last voyage of Space Shuttle Discovery, which landed on 9 March, these events mark the decommissioning of the Space Shuttles and the end of an era.  This may be the last flight ever in the program, depending on how planning goes for the last mission of Space Shuttle Atlantis in June. Endeavor's crew, however, will be initiating an experiment that may take us into a new age.  The Space Shuttle is carrying an Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer (the AMS02) to install on the International Space Station.  The instrument will detect sub-atomic particles in cosmic rays and search for dark matter and antimatter.

In October of last year, I posted the first photograph ever taken of a Rubidium 85 atom - and was struck by how the atom looked like a star. This is a moment in which the science of the very small intersects with the science of the very large.  Given that reconciling those two traditions is one of the biggest problems of our time, Endeavor mission has a critical function to fulfill.

Image Source: Wiki.

Caption for the above image:  By studying sub-atomic particles in the background cosmic radiation, and searching for anti-matter and dark-matter, it will help scientists better understand the evolution and properties of our universe. The shape of the patch is inspired by the international atomic symbol, and represents the atom with orbiting electrons around the nucleus. The burst near the center refers to the big-bang theory and the origin of the universe. The Space Shuttle Endeavour and ISS fly together into the sunrise over the limb of Earth, representing the dawn of a new age, understanding the nature of the universe.

This mission is numbered STS-134, and is led by Mark Kelly, the husband of congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, who survived an assassination attempt on 8 January. She will be attending the launch.
Space Shuttle Program Commemorative Patch.  Image Source: Wiki.

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Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Millennial Extremes 4: A Laser that Can Rip Apart Space

Image Source: ELI.

Laser technology is reaching new extremes in terms of power and brevity of time (work with a new European mega-laser will be conducted in attoseconds, or a billionth of a billionth of a second, or one quintillionth of a second; "for context, an attosecond is to a second, what a second is to about 31.71 billion years"). Three ELI facilities will conduct this research: "attosecond science in Hungary, beamline generation of secondary sources in the Czech Republic and laser-driven nuclear physics in Romania." According to the ELI Website, the construction phase began late last year and is expected to last for five years. A fourth, undetermined facility will house a mega-laser:
The first three Extreme Light Infrastructure (ELI) research stations are relatively tame--sticking to ultra-short energy particles and radiation, atomic photography, and ultra-short energetic particle.
The crown jewel of ELI’s laser research facilities, the highest intensity pillar location of the four, is still being decided upon but they plan to create the world’s most powerful laser there. A 200-petawatt laser to be exact, which is 100,000 times the power of the world electric grid.
These two aspects of Europe's Extreme Light Infrastructure Project will create a laser that can rip apart space. Researchers are hoping that lasers will offer some solid proof for quantum physics. Dvice reports:
The European Commission has approved the construction of three gigantic new research lasers, with the option for a fourth that would, for an instant, be several hundred times more powerful than the entirety of the power generated by our civilization. The hope is that this will be enough energy to actually conjure virtual particles out of nothingness.
At peak power, the fourth laser in Europe's Extreme Light Infrastructure project (or ELI) will combine ten beams into a single pulse measuring 200 petawatts. 200 petawatts is significantly more power that our entire race generates at any given moment, and in fact more total power than Earth receives from the sun.
... The only way that this massive amount of power is able to be harnessed is if the amount of time that it's being used for is insanely small. The 200 petawatt pulses will only last 1.5 x 10^-14 second, which is about the same amount of time that it takes for light to travel from one side of a human hair to the other, if you shave the hair down by 90%.
The point of all this is to try to explore some of the weirdness of quantum mechanics, which suggests that space is actually a giant party of random particles that are popping in and out of existence too fast for us to see. The hope is that a laser this powerful might actually be able to tear apart the vacuum of space-time itself, revealing the matter and antimatter underneath.
The laser is expected to contribute to the fields of "particle, nuclear, gravitational, and ultrahigh-pressure physics; as well as nonlinear field theory, astrophysics and cosmology." Again, the science of the very small is colliding with the science of the very large. (Hat tip: @Swadeshine)

Monday, January 17, 2011

Thunderstorms Produce Beams of Antimatter Plus Dark Matter Mysteries

Image Source: NASA via BBC.

Caption for the above image: Electrons racing up electric field lines give rise to light, then particles, then light.

BBC is reporting on research findings presented at the meeting of the American Astronomical Society, which state that thunderstorms emit Antimatter.  From the report:
[The Fermi] space telescope has accidentally spotted thunderstorms on Earth producing beams of antimatter. Such storms have long been known to give rise to fleeting sparks of light called terrestrial gamma-ray flashes. But results from the Fermi telescope show they also give out streams of electrons and their antimatter counterparts, positrons. The surprise result was presented by researchers at the American Astronomical Society meeting in the US. It deepens a mystery about terrestrial gamma-ray flashes, or TGFs - sparks of light that are estimated to occur 500 times a day in thunderstorms on Earth. They are a complex interplay of light and matter whose origin is poorly understood.

Thunderstorms are known to create tremendously high electric fields - evidenced by lightning strikes. Electrons in storm regions are accelerated by the fields, reaching speeds near that of light and emitting high-energy light rays - gamma rays - as they are deflected by atoms and molecules they encounter. These flashes are intense - for a thousandth of a second, they can produce as many charged particles from one flash as are passing through the entire Earth's atmosphere from all other processes.
Read the rest of the report here.