Scientists Looking for the Force Finally Put CERN’s Large Hadron Collider to Good Use
In theory, when physicists turn on the tons of machinery inside the Akira-like LHC 17-mile-long ring in 2008, they will be able to produce the Higgs boson. Observing it could confirm many physicist predictions and “missing links” in the Standard Model, which is a physics theory that aims to describe how elementary particles interact with each other. It’s either that or destroy the planet. We can go either way (actually, although it was a joke, CERN just wrote back saying that they don’t want to destroy the planet. Thankfully, Jeff Vader doesn’t work there.)
The existence of the Higgs particle, also called the God Particle, has only been predicted so far. It was first proposed by University of Edinburgh physicist Peter Higgs in 1965, after coming from a walk on the mountains. If confirmed by the LHC, it could bring scientists closer to the Grand Unified Theory, “which seeks to unify three of the four fundamental forces.”
The Force can also explain why the fourth, gravity, is weak compared to the other three: electromagnetism, strong force, and weak force. I guess the strong force is the good one and the weak force is really the Dark Side. I don’t know. I’m lost now, so I’m just going to list other of the cool stuff that the LHC will produce: strangelets, micro black holes, magnetic monopoles and supersymmetric particles.
Turning ‘funky’ quantum mysteries into computing reality
The strange world of quantum mechanics can provide a way to surpass limits in speed, efficiency and accuracy of computing, communications and measurement, according to research by MIT scientist Seth Lloyd.
Quantum mechanics is the set of physical theories that explain the behavior of matter and energy at the scale of atoms and subatomic particles. It includes a number of strange properties that differ significantly from the way things work at sizes that people can observe directly, which are governed by classical physics.
“There are limits, if you think classically,” said Lloyd, a professor in MIT’s Research Laboratory of Electronics and Department of Mechanical Engineering. But while classical physics imposes limits that are already beginning to constrain things like computer chip development and precision measuring systems, “once you think quantum mechanically you can start to surpass those limits,” he said.
Lloyd will be speaking about this research at the American Association for the Advancement of Science annual meeting in Boston, on Saturday, Feb. 16, in a session on Quantum Information Theory.
“Over the last decade, a bunch of my colleagues and postdocs and I have been looking at how quantum mechanics can make things better.” What Lloyd refers to as the “funky effects” of quantum theory, such as squeezing and entanglement, could ultimately be harnessed to make measurements of time and distance more precise and computers more efficient. “Once you open your eyes to the quantum world, you see a whole lot of things you simply cannot do classically,” he said.
Among the ways that these quantum effects are beginning to be harnessed in the lab, he said, is in prototypes of new imaging systems that can precisely track the time of arrival of individual photons, the basic particles of light. “There’s significantly greater accuracy in the time-of-arrival measurement than what one would expect,” he said. And this could ultimately lead to systems that can detect finer detail, for example in a microscope’s view of a minuscule object, than what were thought to be the ultimate physical limitations of optical systems set by the dimensions of wavelengths of light.
Synthetic Black Hole Event Horizon Created in UK Laboratory
Researchers at St. Andrews University, Scotland, claim to have found a way to simulate an event horizon of a black hole – not through a new cosmic observation technique, and not by a high powered supercomputer… but in the laboratory. Using lasers, a length of optical fiber and depending on some bizarre quantum mechanics, a “singularity” may be created to alter a laser’s wavelength, synthesizing the effects of an event horizon. If this experiment can produce an event horizon, the theoretical phenomenon of Hawking Radiation may be tested, perhaps giving Stephen Hawking the best chance yet of winning the Nobel Prize.
So how do you create a black hole? In the cosmos, black holes are created by the collapse of massive stars. The mass of the star collapses down to a single point (after running out of fuel and undergoing a supernova) due to the massive gravitational forces acting on the body. Should the star exceed a certain mass “limit” (i.e. the Chandrasekhar limit – a maximum at which the mass of a star cannot support its structure against gravity), it will collapse into a discrete point (a singularity). Space-time will be so warped that all local energy (matter and radiation) will fall into the singularity. The distance from the singularity at which even light cannot escape the gravitational pull is known as the event horizon. High energy particle collisions by cosmic rays impacting the upper atmosphere might produce micro-black holes (MBHs). The Large Hadron Collider (at CERN, near Geneva, Switzerland) may also be capable of producing collisions energetic enough to create MBHs. Interestingly, if the LHC can produce MBHs, Stephen Hawking’s theory of “Hawking Radiation” may be proven should the MBHs created evaporate almost instantly.
Hawking predicts that black holes emit radiation. This theory is paradoxical, as no radiation can escape the event horizon of a black hole. However, Hawking theorizes that due to a quirk in quantum dynamics, black holes can produce radiation.
Particle Accelerator May Reveal Shape Of Alternate Dimensions
When the world’s most powerful particle accelerator starts up later this year, exotic new particles may offer a glimpse of the existence and shapes of extra dimensions.
Researchers from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and the University of California-Berkeley say that the telltale signatures left by a new class of particles could distinguish between possible shapes of the extra spatial dimensions predicted by string theory.
String theory, which describes the fundamental particles of the universe as tiny vibrating strings of energy, suggests the existence of six or seven unseen spatial dimensions in addition to the time and three space dimensions that we normally see.
Much as the shape of a musical instrument determines its sound, the shape of these dimensions determines the properties and behavior of our four-dimensional universe, says Gary Shiu, lead author of a paper appearing in the Jan. 25 issue of Physical Review Letters.
“The shape of the dimensions is crucial because, in string theory, the way the string vibrates determines the pattern of particle masses and the forces that we feel,” says the UW-Madison physics professor.
Scientists succeed in storing quantum bit
A team of scientists from the University of Heidelberg (Germany), the Technical University of Vienna (Austria) and the University of Science and Technology of China for the first time has succeeded in buffering a quantum bit during its transmission. The achievement could be used for the construction of quantum repeaters and perhaps, eventually, to build a memory for a quantum computer.
The team succeeded in storing the quantum bit while performing an experimental transmittal of an unknown quantum state, a spokesperson of the group explained. Hitherto, it was not possible to store and read out a quantum state.
During the experiment, the scientists transferred the state of a photon to what they called an atomic quantum store. In this atomic ensemble, the state was stored for 8 microseconds before it was read out again and transferred to a photon.
Photon Propulsion Breakthrough Could Cut Mars Transit From Six Months to a Week
The aerospace industry has taken notice of a California researcher who, using off-the-shelf components, built and successfully demonstrated the world’s first successful amplified photon thruster. Dr. Young Bae of the Bae Institute first demonstrated his Photonic Laser Thruster (PLT) with an amplification factor of 3,000 in December, 2006.Major aerospace agencies and primary contractors have since invited Bae to present his work, including NASA JPL, DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency), and AFRL (Air Force Research Laboratory). Senior Aerospace Engineer at AFRL, Dr. Franklin Mead, “Dr. Bae’s PLT demonstration and measurement of photon thrust (is) pretty incredible. I don’t think anyone has done this before. It has generated a lot of interest.”
Bae’s PLT demonstration produced a photon thrust of 35 uN, which is sufficient for several space missions currently envisioned, and is scalable to achieve much greater photon thrust for future space missions. Applications for PLT include: highly precise satellite formation flying configurations for building large synthetic apertures in space for earth or space observation, precision contaminant-free spacecraft docking operations, and propelling spacecraft to unprecedented speeds greater than 100 km/sec.
Bae, looking forward with anticipation, observes, “This is the tip of the iceberg. PLT has immense potential for the aerospace industry. For example, PLT powered spacecraft could transit the 100 million km to Mars in less than a week.” Several aerospace players have expressed intent to collaborate with the Bae Institute to further develop and integrate PLT into civilian, military, and commercial space systems.
Physicists have ‘solved’ mystery of levitation
Levitation has been elevated from being pure science fiction to science fact, according to a study reported today by physicists.In earlier work the same team of theoretical physicists showed that invisibility cloaks are feasible.
Now, in another report that sounds like it comes out of the pages of a Harry Potter book, the University of St Andrews team has created an ‘incredible levitation effects’ by engineering the force of nature which normally causes objects to stick together.
Professor Ulf Leonhardt and Dr Thomas Philbin, from the University of St Andrews in Scotland, have worked out a way of reversing this pheneomenon, known as the Casimir force, so that it repels instead of attracts.
Their discovery could ultimately lead to frictionless micro-machines with moving parts that levitate But they say that, in principle at least, the same effect could be used to levitate bigger objects too, even a person.