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Scientists Find Long-Sought Majorana Particle

Soulskill posted about 2 years ago | from the checking-under-all-the-couch-cushions dept.

Science 128

New submitter boner writes "In a follow-up to an earlier Slashdot story, scientists at the Technical University of Delft in the Netherlands yesterday published their findings that they have indeed found the Majorana particle. The announcement on the university website provides both a summary of the academic paper (PDF) and background of this groundbreaking discovery. Quoting: 'Majorana fermions are very interesting – not only because their discovery opens up a new and uncharted chapter of fundamental physics; they may also play a role in cosmology. A proposed theory assumes that the mysterious ‘dark matter, which forms the greatest part of the universe, is composed of Majorana fermions. Furthermore, scientists view the particles as fundamental building blocks for the quantum computer.'"

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128 comments

Did anyone else read "Marijuana Particle?" (5, Funny)

gestalt_n_pepper (991155) | about 2 years ago | (#39675833)

Or was it just me?

Re:Did anyone else read "Marijuana Particle?" (5, Insightful)

atsabig10fo (857922) | about 2 years ago | (#39675887)

it wasn't just you :)

Re:Did anyone else read "Marijuana Particle?" (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39675923)

I had my hopes up for a few seconds there...

Re:Did anyone else read "Marijuana Particle?" (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39677683)

After reading the headline, I got the munchies... even though I never inhaled

Re:Did anyone else read "Marijuana Particle?" (5, Funny)

bistromath007 (1253428) | about 2 years ago | (#39675945)

You found WHAT playing scientist? You tell Jimmy and the rest of those kids to get the hell out of my basement right now!

Re:Did anyone else read "Marijuana Particle?" (2)

srussia (884021) | about 2 years ago | (#39675953)

Relax, it's just oregano [wikipedia.org]

Re:Did anyone else read "Marijuana Particle?" (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39675955)

Tripped me up for a minute, actually.

Re:Did anyone else read "Marijuana Particle?" (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39676087)

Or was it just me?

I also.
FREEWEED

Re:Did anyone else read "Marijuana Particle?" (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39676387)

Me too

Re:Did anyone else read "Marijuana Particle?" (2)

ko9 (946154) | about 2 years ago | (#39676543)

the Marijuana particle: found in the Netherlands, of course
as for the Hicks-Boozehound particle: they're looking in Switzerland, but if you ask me they'd be better of scouting the southern USA
the names for these particles are a bit strange, but not without a certain charm imho.. ;-)

Re:Did anyone else read "Marijuana Particle?" (2)

chaim79 (898507) | about 2 years ago | (#39676735)

It's a pretty stiff competition between Switzerland and Wisconsin, USA for who will find the Hicks-Boozehound particle, for the moment I think WI is in the lead after formalizing the "Teeth to Tattoo" ratio, and important step in finding the Hicks-Boozehound particle.

Re:Did anyone else read "Marijuana Particle?" (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39677583)

now that's FUNNY!

Re:Did anyone else read "Marijuana Particle?" (1)

mcgrew (92797) | about 2 years ago | (#39679219)

You guys are both wrong. If it's in Anerica it's obviously Kentucky, the only place you can make Bourbon, and home of Hicks and rednecks, and if it's in Europe it's obviously Irish.

How many Irish does it take to change a light bulb? Three. One to hold the bulb and two to drink until the room spins. Obviously, the Irish will find the Hicks-Boozehound particle, particularly if it's an Irishman who's immigrated to Kentucky.

Re:Did anyone else read "Marijuana Particle?" (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39676791)

I read Marijuana Pharimones

Re:Did anyone else read "Marijuana Particle?" (1)

fast turtle (1118037) | about 2 years ago | (#39676877)

Well I read the damn thing as Majoram, as in the damn spice. Planning dinner right now and I just had to wonder what in hell these idiots are doing with majoram

Re:Did anyone else read "Marijuana Particle?" (1)

interval1066 (668936) | about 2 years ago | (#39677031)

While an associate researcher gave a quick tour of the 50 tonne target detetor reporters he drew out a small metal drawer in th side of the machine and said "...plus it has a place for your weed, man."

Re:Did anyone else read "Marijuana Particle?" (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39677183)

I thought it was some Indian spice. "Add 1 tsp of Majorana..."

Re:Did anyone else read "Marijuana Particle?" (1)

Higgins_Boson (2569429) | about 2 years ago | (#39677473)

Or was it just me?

Let me read this again at 4:20 Eastern and I will let you know what I find.

Marijuana (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39675845)

Am I the only one who read the title as "Marijuana"?

Hey now! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39675963)

Why's my paper on the Oregano particle being all ignored? Eh? Helloo! Eh?

I found it first! (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39675967)

Only about 50km to the north of Delft there are plenty of 'coffeeshops' which are full of marijuana particles!

Re:I found it first! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39676001)

Last I checked there were about six inside of Delft, thank you very much.

Re:I found it first! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39676167)

Only 6? Never knew Delft was such a small town.

Re:I found it first! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39679083)

City, TYVM. Back then it had some 60k people, now it seems there's nearly 100k (sayeth wikipedia). Possibly a couple more coffeeshops too then. Recall this is yurp, where cities are measured by rights bought hundreds of years ago (Delft: 1246), not size. Contrast with the 500k souls (and some soulless) The Hague that never used to have city rights (fixed in 1806, eight years after it ceased to make sense), and was derided for it too. Even so, go visit Delft and notice that it's a real city in the old sense, where say Emmen (no city rights) still very much feels like a small province town despite being a tad bigger than Delft. If you'd rather see something you might think of as a city, tour Rotterdam (1340), but that's because it got leveled in 1940, then rebuilt anew instead of like it used to be.

As to coffeeshops, they're bloody everywhere, certainly not restricted to that well-known tourist trap. Not that I mind, though I never go there either. Just could give detailed directions to four or five out of the six, because the pommy band members kept asking. Sole reason they deigned to come and "play" at our venue, if you ask me.

Not Fundamental (5, Informative)

PvtVoid (1252388) | about 2 years ago | (#39675973)

This is not like finding the Higgs Boson. The majorana fermion they created was (hard to tell exactly how from TFA) a condensed matter excitation with the properties of a majorana fermion, not a fundamental particle. Pretty cool though.

Re:Not Fundamental (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39676179)

Drat. For a moment I thought they may have found some indication of supersymmetry. ( The most likely place you will see a majora fermion in the standard model is in the supersymmetric sector. )

Re:Not Fundamental (1, Funny)

dintech (998802) | about 2 years ago | (#39676187)

This is not like finding the Higgs Boson

That's just the bong talking man.

Re:Not Fundamental (1)

sempir (1916194) | about 2 years ago | (#39676969)

This is not like finding the Higgs Boson

That's just the bong talking man.

Nope: if it was the bong talking he would be looking for the Hoggs Bison, and that's one huge mass of "Dark matter".

Re:Not Fundamental (2)

Ambitwistor (1041236) | about 2 years ago | (#39676249)

Right. So it's kind of misleading to mention dark matter in this context. This "quasiparticle" is not dark matter.

Re:Not Fundamental (0)

Anarchduke (1551707) | about 2 years ago | (#39676973)

nah, man. but if you've put enough majorana particles in the air, it can get pretty hazy.

Re:Not Fundamental (1)

kencurry (471519) | about 2 years ago | (#39677565)

nah, man. but if you've put enough majorana particles in the air, it can get pretty hazy.

That would be purple haze... (jimi hendrix reference for you youngsters)

Re:Not Fundamental (1)

dwye (1127395) | about 2 years ago | (#39677851)

nah, man. but if you've put enough majorana particles in the air, it can get pretty hazy.

That would be purple haze... (jimi hendrix reference for you youngsters)

Who is Jimi Hendricks, grandpa?

And what was his unit, rank, and service number before he left the US Army? Seriously, if they don't recognize the reference to one of his most popular songs (as measured by radio play on FM radio, sponsored by stores with names like Heads Together) why would they recognize his name?

Re:Not Fundamental (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39677419)

Does it portend practical interstellar travel?

Let me know when it does.

Not a fundamental particle (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39676027)

My understanding is that what's been discovered is a pseudo-particle, a quantum excitation which behaves like a Majorana particle, not an actual particle like an electron or a neutron.

A Revelation (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39676049)

"It's like... all connected, maaaan!"

MS (3, Interesting)

gadzook33 (740455) | about 2 years ago | (#39676059)

Did I read the article correctly that this was funded by Microsoft? That's sort of coolish...

Re:MS (2)

TaoPhoenix (980487) | about 2 years ago | (#39676153)

Yep.
Microsoft Corporation Station Q.

(What's Station Q?)

Re:MS (4, Informative)

bws111 (1216812) | about 2 years ago | (#39676337)

It is their quantum computing research group. http://stationq.ucsb.edu/ [ucsb.edu]

Re:MS (3, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39676925)

Actually, the research program that funded this research is a public private partnership between MS and the Dutch Physics funding agency FOM. Both payed half of the budget for this research.
(I know since worked at the HQ of the funding agency)

Re:MS (5, Funny)

michelcolman (1208008) | about 2 years ago | (#39677181)

Why is that so surprising? Microsoft software has been based on quantum physics for a very long time now. Users are constantly struggling with the uncertainty principle, and can often make systems collapse simply by observing them.

Re:MS (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39678073)

This makes me feel like black mesa

Re:MS (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39676233)

Yeah, they're a regular Robin Hood.

Re:MS (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39676369)

I know it is popular to view MS as if they eat babies... But they actually have some very cool research going on.

Re:MS (3, Funny)

DogPhilosopher (1149275) | about 2 years ago | (#39676681)

Did I read the article correctly that this was funded by Microsoft? That's sort of coolish...

So it's probably already patented.. That, and we'll all be forced to run Windows 9 on our quantum computers. How is that cool?

Re:MS (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39676989)

You clearly don't understand quantum computing if you think it'll run Windows 9.

A proper quantum computer will be running a superposition of Windows 0.8beta through Windows Finale. Unfortunately, it will usually waveform collapse into ME with a Metro interface.

Re:MS (1)

gadzook33 (740455) | about 2 years ago | (#39677369)

You're right, better that our quantum computers only be available in one model that's produced by one company. Or maybe it'll run an operating system that comes in 101 different flavors. Who wants a generic, hardware agnostic, fairly open and friendly OS after all?

"On the border between matter and anti-matter" (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39676203)

A particle that is its own anti-particle? Sounds pretty special! Of course, that would also describe photons, the commonest particle in the universe.

Come on, science reporting.

Re:"On the border between matter and anti-matter" (5, Informative)

PvtVoid (1252388) | about 2 years ago | (#39676255)

A particle that is its own anti-particle? Sounds pretty special! Of course, that would also describe photons, the commonest particle in the universe.

Come on, science reporting.

Photons are bosons. Bosons being their own antiparticle is nothing unusual. A fermion that is its own antiparticle has never been observed in nature before.

Re:"On the border between matter and anti-matter" (3, Informative)

mark_osmd (812581) | about 2 years ago | (#39676515)

A fermion that is its own antiparticle has never been observed in nature before.

There is one possible exception, the neutrino is a half spin fermion and if it really is zero mass it would be its own anti-particle. But recent evidence suggests a tiny but non-zero mass so if that's true it's not. Maybe one experiment would be to try to observe neutrino-antineutrino annihilation, if that occurs then they are Dirac fermions http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Majorana_fermion [wikipedia.org]

Re:"On the border between matter and anti-matter" (5, Informative)

PvtVoid (1252388) | about 2 years ago | (#39676623)

There is one possible exception, the neutrino is a half spin fermion and if it really is zero mass it would be its own anti-particle.

Actually it's the other way around: massless Fermions are Dirac, because of Chiral symmetry: in the Standard Model with massless neutrinos, all neutrinos are Dirac particles, with neutrinos being left-handed and all antineutrinos being right-handed. Mass terms break chiral symmetry, and a massive neutrino could be either Dirac or majorana depending on how the mass term is generated:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sterile_neutrino#Majorana_or_Dirac.3F [wikipedia.org]

Re:"On the border between matter and anti-matter" (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39679413)

except that photons can't annihilate each other.

it's own antiparticle? (2)

jstave (734089) | about 2 years ago | (#39676251)

From one of the articles: "a particle that is its own anti-particle" Can one of the physics geeks on here explain how that works? I was under the impression that when particle and antiparticle meet, they go boom. How can this thing not annihilate? Or is it that this bit of matter *can't* turn into energy? The wikipedia entry on this didn't make any sense to me.

Re:it's own antiparticle? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39676381)

Antiparticles aren't fundamentally different from regular matter, they're just particles with opposite electric charge. A photon is also its own antiparticle, since it has no electric charge. I'm guessing this means that these majorana particles also have no electric charge.

Re:it's own antiparticle? (1)

jstave (734089) | about 2 years ago | (#39676487)

But, neutrons have no electric charge and there's such a thing as an anti-neutron. What am I missing here?

Re:it's own antiparticle? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39676525)

There are in fact anti-neutrons (composed of three antiquarks). http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Antineutron

Re:it's own antiparticle? (2)

su5so10 (2542686) | about 2 years ago | (#39676591)

Neutrons are actually composite particles made of three charged quarks whose charges add up to 0. Antineutrons are made up of the corresponding antiparticles.

Re:it's own antiparticle? (3, Informative)

Chris Mattern (191822) | about 2 years ago | (#39676775)

Spin. Anti-neutrons spin the opposite way. ("Spin" here being a particle physics term--it's not the same thing as spinning in the macro world).

Re:it's own antiparticle? (2)

blueg3 (192743) | about 2 years ago | (#39676825)

Antiparticles are not just particles with opposite electric charge. They're not magically, fundamentally different, but other particle properties are negated as well.

If it was just electric charge, then neutral-charge particles would have no antiparticle. But they do -- for example, the neutrinos (and antineutrinos).

Re:it's own antiparticle? (3, Informative)

maxwell demon (590494) | about 2 years ago | (#39677125)

Actually for the Neutrinos, the question is not yet settled. That's why experimentalists are seeking for neutrino-less double-beta decay.

Re:it's own antiparticle? (4, Interesting)

ceoyoyo (59147) | about 2 years ago | (#39676449)

When two of them meet, they annihilate. Note from the article that there are two of these things, and they are at opposite ends of the nanowire. Presumably when you turn off the power or cooling they get together and turn back into energy.

Dark matter is suspected to be the same - when two particles meet, they annihilate, potentially giving us a signal we can measure. They don't meet very often though, because dark matter barely interacts with anything, including itself.

Re:it's own antiparticle? (2)

jstave (734089) | about 2 years ago | (#39676643)

OK, thanks. That makes some sort of sense (in the "I don't understand the math" kind of way). So what's the difference between two particles meeting and a single particle by itself? The former is the same as the latter, just double the amount, right?

Re:it's own antiparticle? (1)

ceoyoyo (59147) | about 2 years ago | (#39677257)

Particles have all sorts of properties that may have to be conserved in any decay, including annihilation. Any stable Majorana particle would have to be only able to decay into energy if it meets another particle with complementary quantum numbers.

Re:it's own antiparticle? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39676647)

Trying to simplify, particle behaviour is "driven" by their "wavefunction", particles and antiparticles have similar complex wave functions (complex as complex numbers, i.e. 2+5i), but happen to have the imaginary part of opposite signs, lets say if in a place and time a particle's wavefunction is 2+5i, the antiparticle would show 2-5i.
Majorana fermions do not present any imaginary part in their wavefunctions, so as 2+0i =2- 0i they are own antiparticle as well.
It has to be said that these particles found are not "real" particles as electron or neutrinos, what they are talking about is something similar to the holes (positive charges) moving into a semiconductor, as I understand that opens the door to those "real" particles, but is not a proof of their existence.
Cheers.
E

Re:it's own antiparticle? (1)

ColdWetDog (752185) | about 2 years ago | (#39677939)

Trying to simplify, particle behaviour is "driven" by their "wavefunction", particles and antiparticles have similar complex wave functions (complex as complex numbers, i.e. 2+5i), but happen to have the imaginary part of opposite signs, lets say if in a place and time a particle's wavefunction is 2+5i, the antiparticle would show 2-5i.

Simplify.

You keep using that word. I don't think it means what you think it means.

Re:it's own antiparticle? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39679239)

(Shrug) He simplified it to the level of junior high school math. If you don't understand complex numbers, you're not going to get anything out of this thread but a headache.

Re:it's own antiparticle? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39676757)

How can this thing not annihilate?

It needs another one to annihilate with.

Re:it's own antiparticle? (3, Interesting)

History's Coming To (1059484) | about 2 years ago | (#39677161)

Not a technical explanation, but a good one I heard: if you look at a Feynman diagram (they're pretty easy to understand for a layman) you'll find that you can read them in any direction - if you go "against the time arrows" you're just looking at the antiparticle versions interacting instead, it's still a valid diagram. However, the photons don't have arrows as they don't experience time, so they're identical in either time direction, and therefore their own antiparticles.

The interesting thing here is that it's a massive particle with that property, rather than a massless one.

Majorana is bad... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39676303)

Mmmk?

Implications for the standard model? (1)

JoshuaZ (1134087) | about 2 years ago | (#39676379)

I know that some sorts of proposed Majorana particles would require extending the Standard Model. Is this discovery consistent with the Standard Model or a conservative extension thereof?

A Majorana particle not THE Majorana Particle (5, Informative)

forand (530402) | about 2 years ago | (#39676451)

The summary makes it sound like there is a particle that physicists have been seeking called a Majorana particle when in fact a Majorana particle is named because of its quantum field theory behavior. In this case NO particle was discovered but an excitation of a novel condensed matter state which behaves in an analogous way to a Majorana fermion. So in conclusion this very interesting discovery was both summarized and publicized in a misleading way.

Re:A Majorana particle not THE Majorana Particle (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39677783)

NO particle was discovered but an excitation of a novel condensed matter state which behaves in an analogous way to a Majorana fermion.

How perfect is the analogy? If there's no difference, there's no reason to say that it's not a particle. Maybe the "real" particles are similarly excitations of yet other phenomena.

Selling 20 Majorana Particles for $20 but .. (0)

burni2 (1643061) | about 2 years ago | (#39676505)

you have to pry them from the quarks of the my cold dead Marijuana plant.

No particle Accelerator included!

Well... (0)

EvilBudMan (588716) | about 2 years ago | (#39676707)

It works like this, the more you find out the less you know because of exponential growth in knowledge does not gain wisdom does it now? No big deal. Higgs maybe bigger deal. They know nothing. It's the force, that is what holds it all together. Yoda--

Boggled Brain (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39676709)

Physics has become so complex and beyond most peoples' understanding that we might as well worship the elves that live under the mushrooms. Maybe the next big particle discovery should be called something like the whatduhfuc particle.

Re:Boggled Brain (2)

interval1066 (668936) | about 2 years ago | (#39677147)

It hasn't "become" complex, it simply is, and uncovering its true nature and describing it is complex becuase we're essentially putting our hands in a black box, feeling around, and trying to describe what we feel in a logical way. Trying to describe something you can't directly observe is nessessarily going to have a complex way about it. You can describe the physics of a bouncing ball in a simple way, or you can describe it exactly using mathematical terms. Same with particle physics, bet we're trying to describe objects and phenomena that don't have good parrallels in the everyday world. But you can describe them in general terms as well, see Hawkings "A Brief History of Time".

If I have enough of them (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39676743)

Can I make my own Tina Majorino?

For those that have to look it up (1, Funny)

excelsior_gr (969383) | about 2 years ago | (#39677017)

(like myself), here is the Wikipedia link [wikipedia.org]

A Majorana fermion is a fermion that is its own anti-particle.

What the heck?! I am starting to think that my knowledge of physics will never reach even a mediocre level just because every time I start to think that I got some stuff covered, some smart-ass physicist comes by and pulls jet another particle out of his, ehem, hat.

Marijuana particle (1)

plopez (54068) | about 2 years ago | (#39677273)

LOL, that's how I first read it. I thought, "What have they been smoking" followed by "Cool, there's no stopping it now".

I just thought I'd share that with all.

How i originally read the title. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39677377)

Scientists Find Long-Sought Majora's Particle

In other news, the moon grew a face and is heading towards Earth.

Other uses for dark matter (1)

PFritz21 (766949) | about 2 years ago | (#39677905)

Why would anyone want to waste these particles on quantum computers, when they could be used to power spaceship engines for intergalactic delivery services?

quasiparticles unite! (1)

dsdtzero (137612) | about 2 years ago | (#39678241)

I believe (in a metaphysical sense) that all particles will be found to be "quasiparticles" in sence that they are emergent from some other phenomena. So, stop hating on the fact that this is not a "fundamental" particle. The idea of the quasiparticle is one of the most significant physics developments evar.

In other news:
Condensed matter physicists enherit the earth!!!!!

Pass it on man (2)

Camel Pilot (78781) | about 2 years ago | (#39678529)

"Scientists Find Long-Sought Majorana Particle" and they had all raided the vending machines down the hall and where found in their lab coats sitting cross legged in a circle each in turn sharing there own far-out theories of reality... "hey man don't Bogart that marjorana particle pass in on man".

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