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Particle physics

Abell 222/223 galaxies, showing a filament of dark matter stretching between the two galax...

Recently the media has been saturated with overly-hyped reports that NASA's Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer (AMS) may have detected dark matter. These claims may have some justification if the word "may" is shouted, but they rest on a number of really major assumptions and guesses, some of which are on weak and shifting soil. So just what was seen in the experiment, and what are the possible explanations?  Read More

Artist's impression of the ILC tunnels (Graphic: Fermilab/Sandbox Studio)

According to Nature, Japan is the frontrunner for the planned International Linear Collider (ILC), for which Europe and the United States are also in the running to host. Scientists and engineers are already examining potential sites in the island nation for the US$7 to $8 billion machine, which is intended to complement the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) at CERN. The head of the global design effort for the ILC, physicist Barry Barish, presented finalized blueprints at a ceremony in Tokyo earlier this month.  Read More

Do cosmic rays hold the key to the future of carbon capture and storage? (Photo: Igor Kova...

An international research team has been given the novel task of developing a practical means of monitoring underground stores of CO2 using none other than cosmic rays. The research hinges on the detection of the muons that occur as cosmic rays interact with the Earth's atmosphere, but which can penetrate several kilometers beneath the Earth's surface. It's thought that the approach could save significant amounts of money compared to alternative techniques.  Read More

High-energy particle collision similar to those which may be giving us a glimpse of a new ...

In the mid-1930s, physicists thought they knew all the subatomic particles of nature - the proton, neutron, and electron of the atom. However, in 1936 the muon was discovered - a new particle having such surprising properties that Nobel laureate I.I. Rabi quipped "Who ordered that?" when informed of the discovery. Evidence that a new light boson may exist has recently been published. If the discovery is confirmed, such a boson is not part of the Standard Model of Particle Physics - potentially leading to another "Who ordered that?" moment for physicists.  Read More

Artist's impression of a proton-proton collision producing a pair of gamma rays (yellow) i...

The recent discovery at the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) of the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) of a massive particle "consistent with" the predicted properties of the Higgs boson hit the news with the force of a hurricane. But the phrase "consistent with" suggests that the CERN observation may also be "consistent with" other types of particle. Is it or isn't it? We're going to attempt to clarify the situation for you.  Read More

A proton-proton collision observed by CMS produces two high-energy photons - behavior cons...

Numbers are yet to be crunched and the data analysis goes on, but one thing appears to be certain: scientists at CERN have discovered a new boson, and it's probably the Higgs particle, the missing particle of the Standard Model which is thought to lend all matter its mass. Both the ATLAS and CMS experiments at CERN observe a new particle with mass between 125 and 126 GeV, comfortably within the band of possible Higgs masses previously identified.  Read More

The ALPHA experiment at CERN

An international collaboration of 15 research institutions have produced and trapped antimatter atoms for the first time ever. The feat was part of the ALPHA experiment, which is being conducted at Switzerland’s CERN particle physics laboratory. It could be a step towards answering one the biggest cosmological questions of all time.  Read More

Our current “Standard Model” of cosmology (left), a model without dark energy, and a warm ...

Scientists have for some time postulated that "dark matter" could partially account for evidence of missing mass in the universe, while the hypothetical form of energy known as "dark energy" is the most popular way to explain recent observations that the universe appears to be expanding at an accelerating rate and accounts for 74 percent of the total mass-energy of the universe according to the standard model of cosmology. To better understand these two mysterious cosmic constituents scientists at the Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) are using Roadrunner, the world’s fastest supercomputer, to model one of the largest simulations of the distribution of matter in the universe.  Read More

Artist's rendering showing a NIF target pellet inside a hohlraum capsule with laser beams ...

Lasers, is there anything they can’t do? If they’re not shooting down UAVs, they’re fighting AIDS or bringing us the next generation of HDTVs. That’s all well and good, but when it comes to lasers there’s none bigger than the National Ignition Facility (NIF) at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) in California - an instrument capable of delivering 500 trillion watts of power in a 20-nanosecond burst which is now nearing completion. Its myriad uses will include providing fusion data for nuclear weapons simulations, probing the secrets of extrasolar planets and could even lead to the holy grail of energy production - practical fusion energy.  Read More

CERN opens its doors to the world

March 20, 2008 Next week (April 6, 2008), one of the most famous research institutions in history CERN will open its doors to the public, offering a unique chance to visit. The European Organization for Nuclear Research (commonly known as CERN) is situated in Geneva and will display its newest and largest particle accelerator, the Large Hadron Collider (LHC), before it goes into operation later this year. This scientific instrument, the largest and most complex in the world, is installed in a 27km tunnel, 100 metres underground.  Read More

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