Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Smashing news!

This is the same particle accelerator that some claim will create a black hole and suck up the earth.

Bosons are supposed to be what cause matter to have mass.

Me, I just want to know how I can lose more bosons.

BTW the picture, if you don't know, is the Sea of Holes from the movie Yellow Submarine.

At 78, scientist hopes for proof soon that he was right about the Universe
Mark Henderson, Science Editor

The 40-year hunt for the holy grail of physics – the elusive “God particle” that is supposed to give matter its mass – is almost over, according to the leading scientist who first came up with the theory.

Peter Higgs, whose work gave his name to the elusive Higgs boson particle, said that he was more than 90 per cent certain it would be found within the next few years.

The Higgs boson was the professor’s elegant 1964 solution to one of the great problems with the standard model of physics – how matter has mass and thus exists in a form that allows it to make stars, planets and people. He proposed that the universe is pervaded by an invisible field of bosons that consist of mass but little else.

As particles move through this field, bosons effectively stick to some of them, making them more massive, while leaving others to pass unhindered. Photons, light particles that have no mass, are not affected by the Higgs field at all.

The mysterious boson postulated by Professor Higgs, of the University of Edinburgh, has become so fundamental to physics that it is often nicknamed the “God particle”. After more than 40 years of research, and billions of pounds, scientists have yet to prove that it is real. But Professor Higgs, 78, now believes the search is nearly over.

A new atom-smasher that will be switched on near Geneva later this year is virtually guaranteed to find it, he said. It is even possible that the critical evidence already exists, in data from an American experiment in Illinois that has yet to be analysed fully.

Speaking after visiting Cern, the European particle physics laboratory that has built the £2.6 billion Large Hadron Collider (LHC) to find the Higgs boson, he praised the collaborative work behind the project, adding that such future work could be jeopardised by a funding crisis surrounding particle physics in Britain. The government agency responsible is being told to make £70 million in cuts, forcing Britain to withdraw from a project to build the successor to he LHC.

“It looks like a major disaster in the funding of this kind of physics in the UK,” said Professor Higgs. “You are letting down your international partners, and what happens after that sort of thing is they don’t trust you any more. That’s even worse than the impact on the domestic users of this machine.”

Tantalising glimpses of the boson from other, less powerful particle accelerators, have suggested that unequivocal evidence should emerge almost immediately when the LHC begins its experiments.

The Higgs boson is hard to detect because it is hypothesised to exist only at very high energies, which last existed in nature in the moments after the Big Bang, hence the need for an atom smasher.

The LHC will fire beams of protons around a 17-mile underground tunnel before these collide at close to the speed of light to release vast bursts of energy. Four vast caverns hold sophisticated detectors that will track the particles produced by the collisions. The largest, named Atlas, is buried in a space big enough to enclose the nave of Westminster Abbey.

More than 70,000 people, including Professor Higgs, attended two open days at Cern at the weekend to see the LHC before its tunnels and experiment caverns are sealed. Professor Higgs last visited in 1987, before the LHC’s predecessor had even been built.

If the LHC is successful, all that might then stand between him and a Nobel prize will be the mammoth task of interpreting the reams of data the collider will produce - which would fill a stack of compact discs 40 miles (65km) high every year.

If all goes well, he hopes he will be celebrating by the time he turns 80 in May 2009.
“My prejudice would certainly be, on the basis of the evidence we already have, that it’s not far off,” said the professor. “But there’s a lot of analysis of the data to be done before you make the announcement that you have found it. That’s what will take the time.”

If he turns out to be right, “I will certainly open a bottle of something”, he said. If the boson is not found, however, “I should be very, very puzzled. If it’s not there, I no longer understand what I think I understand.”

In the early 1990s, William Waldegrave, then the Science Minister, staged a competition for the best explanation of the mechanism on a single side of paper.
The winning analogy was of Margaret Thatcher – a massive particle – wandering through a Conservative cocktail party and gathering hangers-on as she moved about.

Smashing atoms
— The European particle physics laboratory’s accelerator will smash beams of protons against one another at 0.999997828 times the speed of light. It is housed in a tunnel 17 miles long, about the same length as the London Underground’s Circle Line
— When the tunnel was cut, the ends met with only 1cm of error
— Each proton will go around the tunnel 11,245 times a second
— The proton beam will carry the equivalent energy of an aircraft carrier sailing at 11 knots
— The superconducting cables used to power the LHC would stretch around the Equator 6.8 times. All the filaments would stretch to the Sun and back five times, plus a few trips to the Moon
— The cooling apparatus could keep 140,000 fridges full of sausages at a temperature a little above absolute zero
— The beam pipes contain a vacuum similar to that found in space.
— Engineers look for leaks so small that they would cause a car tyre to go flat in 10,000 years