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Physicists Postulate Existance of New Particle

michael posted more than 10 years ago | from the acceleron-sounds-like-a-new-intel-cpu dept.

Science 139

corngrower writes "University of Washington physicists postulate the existence of a new particle called the acceleron which links dark energy with the neutrino. The theory offers an explanation for the recent discovery of the accelerating expansion of the universe."

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Intel Outside! (4, Funny)

NanoGator (522640) | more than 10 years ago | (#9819441)

"University of Washington physicists postulate the existence of a new particle called the acceleron which links dark energy with the neutrino."

Acceleron... Neutrino... and it represents a particle whose value cannot be scientifically measured today. How about Itanion?

Re:Intel Outside! (1)

RevAaron (125240) | more than 10 years ago | (#9820966)

Ha! That's the first thing I thought when I read the name- it's a good thing they got it before Intel did. :P

Re:Intel Outside! (1)

OOO0000OO0O0 (799394) | more than 10 years ago | (#9824295)

But can it be overclocked?

I postulate the existence of... (-1, Troll)

Captain Splendid (673276) | more than 10 years ago | (#9819442)

...my first FP.

Re:I postulate the existence of... (0)

NanoGator (522640) | more than 10 years ago | (#9819459)

"I postulate the existence of......my first FP."

You owe [slashdot.org] me a wheelchair ride!

Re:I postulate the existence of... (3, Funny)

hdparm (575302) | more than 10 years ago | (#9819775)

Surely, you could use some of these accelerons.

okay everybody has to do this at last once... (4, Funny)

shaitand (626655) | more than 10 years ago | (#9819502)

I for one welcome our new dark energy overlords!

Re:okay everybody has to do this at last once... (1)

NanoGator (522640) | more than 10 years ago | (#9819553)

"I for one welcome our new dark energy overlords!"

You know, this isn't exactly "kick a guy in the balls" funny. It actually did get old a long time ago.

Re:okay everybody has to do this at last once... (1)

KnightStalker (1929) | more than 10 years ago | (#9819639)

only 626,654 to go...

Re:okay everybody has to do this at last once... (1)

shaitand (626655) | more than 10 years ago | (#9819707)

NG, that's hardly the point now is it?

Re:okay everybody has to do this at last once... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9821116)

NG, that's hardly the point now is it?

You're right. The point is actually somewhere near the top of your head.

So... (2, Funny)

shfted! (600189) | more than 10 years ago | (#9819515)

Acceleron is to neutrino, as Celeron is to Centrino. Suddlenly, accelerons sound like old news.

Subatomic particles are like programming languages (4, Funny)

HotNeedleOfInquiry (598897) | more than 10 years ago | (#9819520)

There's a zillion of them, of which only about 4 are of any use to most of us...

An acceleron? (4, Funny)

Cecil (37810) | more than 10 years ago | (#9819524)

I've got acceleron in my computer.

Woohoo, that was the worst pun ever! Someone shoot me.

Re:An acceleron? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9825733)

Ok, but you're paying me for the bullet in advance since pawn shops won't even pony up a ball of lint in exchange for a crappy acceleron system.

Re:An acceleron? (1)

morganjharvey (638479) | more than 10 years ago | (#9826062)

I've got acceleron in my computer.

So... Does that mean you're running QuarkXPress?

sorry...

What? (4, Insightful)

Dausha (546002) | more than 10 years ago | (#9819589)

Is it just me, or are scientists trying to make science fit the theory? I mean, once upon a time people thought the Sun revolved around the Earth (now we all know the Universe revolves around me), and kept coming up with more and more complicated explanations regarding why the other planets retrograded. Finally, somebody had the balls to say that the Earth revolves around the Sun (but, based on my parenthetical statement above, he was still wrong).

Now, as I understand it, we have an assumption of science that requires that we account for mass that is not present. Voila! Dark Matter (or Energy, or whatever). However, since we cannot detect this new thing, we have to find a way to make that fit the mould. It seems to me that we are winding on-and-on down the rabbit hole. How long before there is a realization that this is just modern (or is it post-modern) retrograde theory?

Why does reality have to yield to theory? Can't it be the other way around? Do I have the karma to withstand a mod down?

When? (2, Interesting)

PedanticSpellingTrol (746300) | more than 10 years ago | (#9819632)

As soon as the next Copernicus, Newton, Einstein, Planck or Hawking comes along. Considering the exponential population growth lately, and assuming a fixed ratio of paradigm-defining supergeniuses to the general population, we're probably overdue.

Re:When? (3, Interesting)

selderrr (523988) | more than 10 years ago | (#9819937)

yes, i find it fascinating indeed that a paradigm genius hasn't show up in the past 30 years. Or at least not on a scientific level with global implications... Has our science grown so specialised indeed ? Copernicus, Newton and to a certain degree also einstein & planck were universal scientists. Modern day scientists work themselves deeper & deeper in smaller and smaller subfields of an allready tiny science topic... Could it be that we are killing global paradigms ?

Re:When? (3, Informative)

Oddly_Drac (625066) | more than 10 years ago | (#9820092)

"Could it be that we are killing global paradigms ?"

Nope, it's just that paradigm shifts seem a lot more obvious in retrospect once development has followed a decent amount of testing. It could be argued that we're currently in the grip of a paradigm shift that's affecting society as a whole, given that global, affordable communications have really started to take off in the past 20 years.

On the other hand, there isn't a lot of 'pure' research being undertaken, which means that you're limited to the postgrad, postdoctoral academic work these days.

Re:When? (2, Insightful)

Daniel Dvorkin (106857) | more than 10 years ago | (#9822254)

I think part of the problem is that there is just so much to learn before you can make meaningful new contributions in just about any field that becoming a "universal scientist" these days would require more time than most people get. It generally takes a minimum of ten years of university experience -- four years undergrad, four to five years grad, one or two years postdoc -- to start a scientific career in any one, specialized field. People can, and sometimes do, get two PhD's in different fields (usually closely related ones, e.g. math and physics) but realistically, if you want to have any time left for research after that, that's about it. Being a "natural philosopher" who makes great advances in, say, math, physics, astronomy, chemistry, biology, and engineering -- all in one lifetime -- is pretty much impossible these days, because most of the work that's possible for gifted amateurs has already been done.

Re:When? (2, Funny)

jamesh (87723) | more than 10 years ago | (#9820082)

It has been proposed that the sum of the intelligence of mankind is a constant. Lets just hope this isn't true, 'cos the population is increasing rapidly.

Re:When? (1)

bpowell423 (208542) | more than 10 years ago | (#9823828)

Sadly, in my experience, I have no evidence to refute that theory. The more people I meet, the dumber they all seem to be. :)

Re:What? (5, Insightful)

black mariah (654971) | more than 10 years ago | (#9819792)

Is it just me, or are scientists trying to make science fit the theory?
It's just you. Scientists come up with a theory, then try to find out whether it is true or not. What you're describing is best referred to as pseudoscience, willfully bending facts and evidence to support one's own version of the truth. This is not real science. This is not trying to come up with an explanation to a problem. This is the equivalent of a conspiracy theorist being presented with papers that refute one of his theories, then writing those papers off as PART OF the conspiracy. It's idiocy at its finest.

Re:What? (2, Interesting)

nine-times (778537) | more than 10 years ago | (#9822814)

GP: Is it just me, or are scientists trying to make science fit the theory?

P: It's just you. Scientists come up with a theory, then try to find out whether it is true or not. What you're describing is best referred to as pseudoscience...

Well, then Mr. Smarty-Pants, I guess the question then is whether most people who describe themselves as "scientists" are, in fact, scientists, or are they "pseudoscientists"?

I mean, it seems like that's the question the OP was asking. Are these "scientists" making a theory to fit the physical world we live in (which would be proper), or are they making up imaginary particals so they can pretend the physical world we live in fits their theory? It's a good question.

Re:What? (3, Informative)

Ayaress (662020) | more than 10 years ago | (#9825798)

Much as I have a rule againt replying to posts that resort to insults, I always end up doing it.

Your problem comes from the fact that you, like so many other people, insist on a ass-backwards concept of how science works.

These scientists are not creating a theory. You don't have a theory unless you have observation to base it on.

They're making a hypothesis, which is just that - a hypothesis. They throw out a few ideas that give them some inkling of what to look for. It doesn't tell us anything, but it grows out of things we already know.

Then, they go to the observation, and try and see what there actually is. You don't need a hypothesis to do observation, but with extremely complex stuff like this, it's a good idea to know what you're looking for first, or you'll be hit with information overload. They've already got a few thousand particles on the books, so if they don't have an idea of a new one they're looking for, they'll never find it underneath all the protons and electrons and pions and morons. If the observations fit the hypothesis, they start throwing it all into equations.

When they derive equations that hold true, it becomes a law. Law still doesn't really tell you very much. So e=mc^2. It doesn't tell you anything useful about mass or energy.

Theory is the highest level of scientific understanding, and is not just far above theory, but it's actually higher on the scale than law (which is why the "If it was true, it wouldn't be a theory anymore, it would be a law" is wrong. You go from hypothesis to observation to law and lastly to theory).

It comes after you've made your hypotheses, observed confimation, and derived laws from the observation. Theory tells you WHY your hypothesis worked (or didn't, as they case may be), and why the laws do what they do. All the fancy things you can read out of e=mc^2 (like mass being variable, energy and matter being interchangeable, and so on) are Theory. Theory outranks law.

All we have here is hypothesis, nothing more. You're trying to equate hypothesis with theory, but they're completely different things, separated by two levels of understanding.

Re:What? (1)

nine-times (778537) | more than 10 years ago | (#9826996)

Much as I have a rule againt replying to posts that resort to insults, I always end up doing it.

Oh, come on. That was supposed to be funny. I mean, not really funny. I didn't expect my post to get modded up "Funny". But certainly not serious. I mean, who gets insulted by being called "Mr. Smarty Pants"?

Anyway, all this hypothesis, law, theory talk... it's all semantics. The problem here is not that some guy came up with some hypothesis and we're claiming, "this stinks because it isn't proven yet". The problem is a question of which hypotheses the scientific community in general choose to listen to, give credence to, and persue.

See, this is what your explanation lacks. You hint at how a hypothesis is used to guide observation toward the discover of laws and the development of theories. But where does the hypothesis come from? Wouldn't you say that some hypotheses are more valid/worthwhile than others? And further, by announcing this hypothesis in a public forum, haven't they specifically opened themselves (whoever they are) up to criticism?

And the issue at hand is whether this hypothesis is indicative of a negative trend among scientists. Are scientists being close minded and protective of their current understanding, and plowing ahead on a path that they should, within reason, be able to predict is heading the wrong way? Are they too unwilling to shake up old ideas, old hypotheses, old laws, and old theories (whatever order you may put them in)? Is it, perhaps, absurd to purpose some new mysterious particle every time your experimental data fails to turn out how you expect, rather than rethinking what you were expecting in the first place?

I'll say again, I think these are good questions. Or I'll make an even stronger comment: I think "cynically refusing to be convinced to every claim of a 'new particle'," is within the spectrum of valid responses.

Re:What? (4, Interesting)

ekuns (695444) | more than 10 years ago | (#9828003)

Are scientists being close minded and protective of their current understanding, and plowing ahead on a path that they should, within reason, be able to predict is heading the wrong way?

I'm a particle physicist by training (although not by career). The answer to this question, IMHO, is "No." Most particle physicists I know -- of many dozens -- would prefer to find something that the current standard models clearly cannot explain. The problem is that with only a few tweaks, so far, the current standard model is been able to predict just about every measurement thrown its way, and with a dismaying degree of accuracy.

See, here's the problem. The standard model of particle physics accurately predicts all measurements made thus far to as much accuracy as people have been able to bring the calculations. Many consider the standard model to be quite ugly because it has so many "arbitrary" parameters with no underlying theory of where those values come from: It has about 20-ish measured values that go into it. Many of those arbitrary values are the measured masses of particles, and the measured interaction strength of the three forces (not including gravity).

All of the physicists I know and most of the physicists I've ever met in the particle physics field are quite willing to be pursuaded by a new theory, but no such theory has presented itself. Some have thought that string theory will be that paradigm shift, but so far there is not enough evidence to prove or disprove.

When a convincing quantum theory of gravity appears, that will probably fix many of the complaints people have about the standard model.

So the issue at hand here is some scientists who are making a hypothesis within the current framework, extending the current framework, to explain some seemingly unrelated measurements. This is not epicycles on top of epicycles, although it might appear as such.

From reading the article, it appears that this hypothesis is disprovable, and thus a strong scientific hypothesis. It will be interesting to see how this theory holds up against evidence.

Re:What? (1)

nine-times (778537) | more than 10 years ago | (#9828418)

I'm a particle physicist by training (although not by career). The answer to this question, IMHO, is "No." Most particle physicists I know -- of many dozens -- would prefer to find something that the current standard models clearly cannot explain.

I guess you wouldn't believe me if I told you I knew more than might be immediately obvious. I've known many of what I'd like to call "science believers". Sounds silly right? Point is, for some out there, science isn't an open discussion, its a religion. These people talk about what "they've discovered!" without thinking about who "they" are, what constitutes a discovery, and what assumptions the "discovery" is based on. They might be open to "something else" if it fit cleaning into all their preconceived notions about the makeup of the universe, but that doesn't constitue an open mind. And yes, many of these people I have in mind are even "scientists" by trade.

Along with that, I will say that very few of non-believers I know would say that quantum machanics "makes sense". Yeah, ok, you can predict some things. Does it make sense? Really make sense? It's a different question. I still think worth asking. Predictive ability isn't everything. Science believers tend to think predictive ability=making sense. I'd like a theory that really makes sense.

If you want to know, I think string theory may be on the right track, at least in that it questions the makeup of these supposed "particles". Although I'm disappointed that a number of talks I've heard on the subject retreat into talking about strings as though they, too, were just particles.

My objection to particles is not that I claim detectors don't detect anything, but sooner or later we may need to conceive of a different notion of the makeup of matter. Perhaps one that doesn't merely default to different or additional particles.

Re:What? (4, Informative)

Alsee (515537) | more than 10 years ago | (#9819929)

as I understand it, we have an assumption of science that requires that we account for mass that is not present. Voila! Dark Matter

You have it backwards. They are trying to account for matter that apparently *is* present, we just can't see it and don't know what it is.

There is lots of evidence that there is *something* there, we can see its gravitational effects on the stuff we can see. Gravitational lensing and orbital speeds. And there's plenty of other evidence I don't know offhand.

If you can somehow explain all of the evidence without "dark matter", well you'll be almost as famous as Einstein.

-

Re:What? (2, Insightful)

nine-times (778537) | more than 10 years ago | (#9822872)

You have it backwards. They are trying to account for matter that apparently *is* present, we just can't see it and don't know what it is. There is lots of evidence that there is *something* there, we can see its gravitational effects on the stuff we can see. Gravitational lensing and orbital speeds. And there's plenty of other evidence I don't know offhand.

It still illustrates his point. We measure activity that seems to be caused by strong gravity, but we can't account for it by the amount of matter that we can find in the universe, so we assume there are massive quantities of magical matter that we can't detect. Couldn't it be that our understanding of gravity is a little off, or this is being caused by something else we haven't thought of yet? Could it be our estimate of matter in the entire universe might be off somehow? Or, well, maybe we've decided on means of measurement (for any one of the variables) that don't work as well as we think. Or maybe our whole theory is off. Who knows?

But let's just assume it's magical matter we can't detect. [sarcasm] It's far more scientific than when people didn't understand gravity and assumed the planet were move by angels![/sarcasm]

Re:What? (1)

|/|/||| (179020) | more than 10 years ago | (#9825895)

So how do you suggest we understand the unexplained (by current theory) gravitational effects? You offered several hypotheses, but not a way to determine which is the best one.

Obvoiusly, you have to take each hypothesis, *assume* that it's true, and then see if it makes any measurable predictions.

Just because there are other possibilities does not mean that this one should be ignored - it is plausible enought that somebody ought to play around with the idea and see what happens. That doesn't in any way preclude investigating other possibilities.

Re:What? (1)

nine-times (778537) | more than 10 years ago | (#9826631)

Just because there are other possibilities does not mean that this one should be ignored - it is plausible enought that somebody ought to play around with the idea and see what happens. That doesn't in any way preclude investigating other possibilities.

Sure, I'm not saying no one can investigate it. But with each new, rare, strange particle and force that gets added to the realm of "particle physics", I think it is a good question to ask, "Is this one particle too many?" After all, we don't even have a satisfactory explanation about what a "particle" at the level of an electron is. I mean, electrons don't even behave the way we think of matter behaving, so it really isn't clear that they are "particles" in any classical sense. We don't know what they are, and they're one of the most reasonable particles we're talking about.

As you "detect" more and more particles that you will never be able to measure or detect directly, and you need more particles to do weirder and weirder things to support your current way of looking at things, doesn't it make sense to at least ask, "Are we trying to force a square peg into a round hole here? Are we trying to hard to support our current way of looking at things, and not giving enough credence to the possibility that our current way of looking at things is wrong?"

I think these are at least good questions.

Re:What? (1)

nine-times (778537) | more than 10 years ago | (#9826729)

Obvoiusly, you have to take each hypothesis, *assume* that it's true, and then see if it makes any measurable predictions.

I have a response which may be more relevant than the other one. When you "assume that it's true", I really think you should assume more for the sake of argument. Going back to my sarcastic comparison, I could hypothesize that it is angels that move the planets, assume that it's true, and spend hundreds of years trying to see if it makes measureable predictions. But I think you would admit that it wouldn't be good scientific practice.

If you really want to study things, you should only ever assume for the sake of argument. However, I think what's happened with some of these things (like string theory, and dark matter, and new particles every month), is that these methods and ideas get to be so in vogue, or they get assumed for such a long time, that people go beyond assuming for the sake of argument. They just assume, and they assume that we should all just assume these things, up until the point that they get disproven.

Re:What? (4, Insightful)

hcdejong (561314) | more than 10 years ago | (#9819984)

No. It's always a matter of trying to make the theory fit your observations. Adding stuff to the theory, and then trying to prove or measure that addition is a perfectly valid way of working.
Yes, sometimes a paradigm shift is needed. But that doesn't make the work done before it invalid. In fact, tracking the consequences of your current theory until you've painted yourself into a corner is a good way to find out if a paradigm shift is needed.
Of course, human nature makes adding stuff to a theory you already have a lot easier than coming up with a completely new idea.
Also, an entirely new theory will have to account for quite a lot. In this case, things like the components of an atom, the wave/particle duality, E=MC^2, etc, all of which took a century of work by the entire scientific community to figure out, will have to be explained by your new theory.

Re:What? (2, Interesting)

ghostlibrary (450718) | more than 10 years ago | (#9820635)

"Is it just me, or are scientists trying to make science fit the theory?"

It's neither :) The main thing is, when faced with a problem in the current theory, the scientists are saying "Okay, maybe it's _X_"-- but they make sure _X_ is testable.

That's what keeps it from just being pseudoscience or fiction. As long as a theory is testable, it can be as wacky as you want.

Subject to the usual criteria and Occam's Razor, of course-- really wacky ideas (like 'the Big Bang' or 'Sun is center of solar system') take a little time for the advancements needed to test them.

Dark Matter may be a hack or totally wrong, but at least it's well-defined and _testable_. Alternative theories (like a modified gravity law or a new particle type) are equally wacky and equally testable. I can't wait to see which wins!

Re:What? (1)

Valluvan (564515) | more than 10 years ago | (#9821724)

Well, in a sense it is called the Scientific Method. But it isn't exactly similar to what you describe. Science does not pull rabbits out of the rear. See here [wikipedia.org]

Re:What? (1)

UnknownSoldier (67820) | more than 10 years ago | (#9822435)

> Is it just me, or are scientists trying to make science fit the theory?

Don't worry, science will undergo a major revolution soon enough, when they stop being blind to the truth of the subjective.

--
I wasn't smart enough to be a Mathematician,
and was too lazy to be a Engineer,
so I became a programmer :)

Re:What? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9826630)

Yea science! Only wish it would be true for politics.

Re:What? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9824452)

You may wish to consider the information that NASA has posted about dark matter. They explain it somewhat superficially, but at least they hit the major facts involved. The only reason it's called "dark matter" is because it's stuff that's there (we can see the effects of it) but we can't see the matter, itself.

NASA talks about dark matter [nasa.gov]

Re:What? (1)

blincoln (592401) | more than 10 years ago | (#9824470)

Is it just me, or are scientists trying to make science fit the theory?

This is my feeling as well.

Ever since I read The Elegant Universe, I've thought that there was a pretty obvious source of the gravitational effects currently attributed to things like "dark matter" - gravitons entering our brane from other branes. Given that they're the only particle that isn't bound to a brane, it would seem pretty obvious to me that many trillions of them should be passing from brane to brane all of the time.

It's kind of far out, but it seems a lot more likely to me than a bunch of quasi-invisible matter and mysterious acceleron particles.

Re:What? (1)

jlowery (47102) | more than 10 years ago | (#9826882)

Actually, you could take any point in space and say the universe revolves around it. Motion is relative; it's justs that some motions are easier to write equations for.

Hello /. Editors. (2, Informative)

pb (1020) | more than 10 years ago | (#9819624)

It is spelled 'existence'; it's even correct in the article body. So please fix it in the title.
Thank you.

Re:Hello /. Editors. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9822327)

/. editors: dumber than /. submitters
michael: dumber than taco /. readers: dumber than michael

Let the language evolve! (0, Troll)

Maxite (782150) | more than 10 years ago | (#9824209)

Man, let the language evolve! The spelling of so many words is changing, like independence to independance, or worse and using it in some cases as worser. For the love of all humanity and the simplification of the English language, just let it go and let the languange evolve!

Re:Let the language evolve! (1)

agm (467017) | more than 10 years ago | (#9826349)

Arre yoo reelie shore yoo want the langwidge to evolve lyk that?

I sure as hell don't. Unambiguous written communication requires correct grammar and spelling.

Hmmm (3, Funny)

advocate_one (662832) | more than 10 years ago | (#9819733)

observations don't match your theory???

postulate a new particle...

how about working on the existing theory so that it doesn't require yet another particle???

Re:Hmmm (1)

gnovos (447128) | more than 10 years ago | (#9820053)

how about working on the existing theory so that it doesn't require yet another particle???

If you can do that I think I may have Nobel Prize around here somewhere to give you.

Re:Hmmm (4, Insightful)

Oddly_Drac (625066) | more than 10 years ago | (#9820098)

"how about working on the existing theory so that it doesn't require yet another particle???"

And if that particle actually exists?

There was a furor that surrounded the nuetrino when it was first thought up and they did think that it was so weakly interacting that they'd never find it. Turns out that several hundred tonnes of chlorine and some sensitive photodetectors embedded in a mountain do the trick.

The Higgs boson is another case in point; to find it in a collider requires extremely high energy collisions, but we don't have one. Do we write off the Higgs boson because we don't have a detector for it?

Re:Hmmm (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9822490)

Do we write off god because we don't have a detector for him?

Re:Hmmm (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9824480)

Yes, because unlike neutrinos and Higgs bosons, the existence of gods would explain nothing that cannot be better explained otherwise.

Re:Hmmm (0, Flamebait)

nine-times (778537) | more than 10 years ago | (#9822842)

There was a furor that surrounded the nuetrino when it was first thought up and they did think that it was so weakly interacting that they'd never find it. Turns out that several hundred tonnes of chlorine and some sensitive photodetectors embedded in a mountain do the trick.

That's not necessarily definitive. How did they decide what would be a valid "detection" of nuetrinos? Is the method of detection valid? Or could it there be something other than nuetrinos which would set off this "detector"?

I mean, you could have a witch detector, which is a stake on top of a bondfire. If the woman burns to death, she's a witch. You could go around testing women left and right, and you'd find your detector worked quite well, and proved that there are witches everywhere....

and oh, wait. I know what you're going to say. They figured out the detector "scientifically"! Meaning, according to the current scientific theory of how things work. Meaning they're proving their scientific theory by means that are proved to be good means according to the scientific theory they're trying to prove. I'm not saying they're necessarily wrong, but it aint definitive.

Why modded down? (1)

nine-times (778537) | more than 10 years ago | (#9824521)

Why is this modded troll/flamebait? I'm really curious here. Is it because you've misread what I'm saying, or merely because you disagree?

I mean, a troll says something untrue to provoke the people foolish enough to take him seriously. However, I'm serious. And I don't see where my post says anything inflamitory enough to be flamebait.

If it's because you don't agree, couldn't you have just modded "overrated"? I'm actually, no sarcasm here, curious.

Re:Why modded down? (1)

advocate_one (662832) | more than 10 years ago | (#9825537)

yes... that's confused me as well... I wasn't expecting to be modded funny either...

Re:Why modded down? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9826161)

Why is this modded troll/flamebait?

For one, it's dripping with sophomoric sarcasm. The witch analogy is totally pointless. Worse, the whole thing sounds really stupid if you know how the existence of neutrinos was shown.

To be honest I can't figure out what the point of your post was. It sounds like someone who has never heard of nihilism picking a stupid fight for no reason.

Still, I wouldn't have modded you down unless you got modded up (not that I can mod).

Re:Why modded down? (1)

nine-times (778537) | more than 10 years ago | (#9827637)

I'd say this sounds like flamebait, itself, but I'll bite:

GP: Why is this modded troll/flamebait?

P: For one, it's dripping with sophomoric sarcasm.

You must be new here.
(which is both a response, and an example)

The witch analogy is totally pointless.

It was an example, relevant, I think, to the discussion. Whenever you're talking about a device to detect something, you first need to acknowledge that you're looking for that thing. That you're looking for it isn't all bad- you have to do it. But it can also have negative ramifications. The witch example shows this, in that, if you want to find witches, you'll take measures to increase your chances of finding them. If you go too far in increasing your chances of finding them, you'll find them even if they aren't there.

More specifically, the example shows that the means of detection is of paramount importance when discussing the accuracy of detection. In the witch example, part of the problem is that the means of detection assumes that witches are real things. Is it so far off to presume that these "particle" detections may be similarly slanted? Have all the other possibilties been ruled out?

In fact, many professional physicists, specializing in particle physics, will readily admit that they don't know what the little buggers are. Each type of "particle" represents a value which seems meaningful, but none of these subatomic particles can be detected directly. Especially not something as weak as a neutrino. Because subatomic particle detection is always indirect, it's a perfectly valid question to ask, "What, exactly, are you detecting?"

And, well, it's especially true that this is a valid question to ask since neutrinos do funny things, like seem to change mass and charge in ways that we don't really understand. And we don't always detect them in the numbers we expect. But I'd expect that someone is trying to remedy that by finding new kinds of neutrinos, rather than reevaluating our understanding of the neutrinos we have.

And, for the record, yes, I chose detecting "witches" as an example, because the sort of people who follow "scientific advancement" blindly are often the same sort who will act viciously towards those who follow anything else blindly.

Worse, the whole thing sounds really stupid if you know how the existence of neutrinos was shown.

What makes you so sure I don't know? It's kind of a childish way of looking at things- to say "If you don't agree with me, and I don't understand why, so you must be stupid!" Maybe it's you who doesn't understand? Just possibly?

To be honest I can't figure out what the point of your post was.

This is a discussion forum, right? I get bored sometimes, and like having discussions, and Slashdot is one place I go out of boredom. I like writing quite a bit- not to claim I'm terrific at it, but I like it. And I like talking to people. Sometimes, when I disagree with someone, I like to voice that disagreement, and see if the person (or anyone else) has a response. I like the activity of listening to the response, thinking about it, and responding myself. I can be a little provocative, sometimes, I guess, but it's all out of good fun.

It sounds like someone who has never heard of nihilism picking a stupid fight for no reason.

Hmmm. I don't know where "nihilism" comes from here. Again, no sarcasm, but I don't see the connection. Maybe just that I'm telling someone his answer is wrong without providing him the right answer? I would think that would be more likely to make me a nihilist than someone who "has never heard of nihilism". Still, really, no sarcasm. (Do I need to keep saying that?)

But really, I think it's this "picking a stupid fight for no reason" business that I don't understand. I think that's what I precisely don't understand about being modded down. I disagreed. The OP asked "why another particle?", someone responded saying "These new particles are real. Just look at the neutrino!" and I said, "Eh, the neutrino isn't so convincing to me." I disagreed to someone who was disagreeing with someone I agreed with. why is that picking a stupid fight?

I'd honestly like someone to answer, if they have anything, but I'm sure no one will bother to read this whole thing. a pity.

Re:Hmmm (1)

slashdotjunker (761391) | more than 10 years ago | (#9825973)

There was a furor that surrounded the nuetrino when it was first thought up and they did think that it was so weakly interacting that they'd never find it. (...we found it)

The Higgs boson is another case in point; (...). Do we write off the Higgs boson because we don't have a detector for it?

Oh, please. You bring up a single example of a hard to find particle that was eventually detected, and use that to support the existence of the Higgs boson? That's not science, it's religion. The existence or non-existence of the Higgs boson will be determined experimentally, not by theory.

The history of physics is full of theorized particles or fields that never panned out. We just never read about them in textbooks, because who wants to learn things that are wrong. We tell glamorous annecdotes about the hard to find particles that were discovered (e.g. Neutrino) and ignore the theories that were failures (e.g. Ether). So, our perceptions are colored, and we over-value theory.

Please don't fall into that trap. Look at things objectively and critically. No matter how good the theory looks, experimental confirmation is necessary. Physicists believed in the existence of Ether [wolfram.com] right up until the 1887 Michelson-Morley experiment.

PS. I wanted to provide links to more examples than just Ether, but for the exact reasons I outlined above I had diffculty locating web pages on other failures.

Re:Hmmm (2, Insightful)

div_B (781086) | more than 10 years ago | (#9828199)

The history of physics is full of theorized particles or fields that never panned out. We just never read about them in textbooks, because who wants to learn things that are wrong. We tell glamorous annecdotes about the hard to find particles that were discovered (e.g. Neutrino) and ignore the theories that were failures (e.g. Ether). So, our perceptions are colored, and we over-value theory.

For the love of Christ... Firstly, I think you'll find that most elementary courses in Special Relativity start with the assumption of the ether, and go onto discuss the Michelson-Morley experiment, the point being that one has to first understand the problems to be able to understand the solutions.

Similarly, Pauli introduced the idea of the Neutrino, since without it, beta decays can't conserve both energy and momentum. I'm sure that at the time introducing a new particle seemed alot less silly than abandoning these conservation laws, given that they had held true (with minor modifications due to SR) for about 300 years. Seems to me that he was right to do so, given the verification of the neutrino's existence decades later.

I took a course in atomic physics, and a fellow student couldn't understand the inclusion of the Sommerfield theory of electron orbits in the course. Again, it's always valuable to see the problems physicists faced at the time, and the valiant but failed attempts to solve them, and I expect that substantially more coverage of these theories is given than you seem to think.

Oh, please. You bring up a single example of a hard to find particle that was eventually detected, and use that to support the existence of the Higgs boson? That's not science, it's religion. The existence or non-existence of the Higgs boson will be determined experimentally, not by theory.

I think the problem here is largely the misconception that as particle physics has progressed, more and more particles have been added to the theory, and that the theories have become more and more complicated and ad hoc, ie, people think "HEP physicists already have 3000-odd particles to play with and now they're introducing a new one." This is not the case at all. Yes, as accelerator energies have increased, more and more particles have been found, but these are mostly composite particles. The situation before Gell-Mann and Zweig postulated the quark, was that there were many hundreds of new particles that had been discovered. The quark theory showed that all these particles could be constructed out of a few elementary particles. Furthermore the theory predicted new composite particles, and their characteristics with great accuracy (which were later verified experimentally). The point here is that modern physics has been for some time reducing the universe to simpler and more elegant symmetries and models. The fact that, as we have probed deeper both with theory and experiment, things have become simpler (though of course the mathematics used has become more heavy-duty), seems to be fairly good indication that HEP theory is on the right track, and if it isn't, that will become clear through experiment, and new theories will come out. That is to say, the scientific method will continue to do it's thing, as it has for hundreds of years, and progress will continue.

The accuracies of the predictions made by quantum mechanics and it's resultant field theories make it very hard to ignore, and mean that it has become very difficult to propose new theories which make the same predictions for lab experiments, fit with the ever-increasing volumes of astrophysical and observational-cosmological data, and at the same time remain self-consistant.

You can percieve the modern theories as attempts to preserve the models that have been built up to date, and you'd be right. I'd be less inclined to attribute this to arrogance and narrowmindedness, and more inclined to believe that it's because reality happens to concur with the theories to 99.99999... %

Not always bad (2, Insightful)

levell (538346) | more than 10 years ago | (#9820237)

Speaking as someone who has predicted new particles [arxiv.org] generally people come up with new model that do something novel (e.g. in the case of the paper I linked to, has a natural explanation of the relative electric charges of the particles.

If the model seems particularly interesting then people will do calculations in it and either show it's wrong or come up with experiments to test it....If it turns out to be right (if only....), then it's a good job you predicted those extra particles because you've just advanced our understanding of the way the world works. Even if it's wrong (likely!) the model might give someone an idea for a better one....

Re:Hmmm (1, Interesting)

nine-times (778537) | more than 10 years ago | (#9823256)

observations don't match your theory???

postulate a new particle...

Well, it's even worse, I think, then physicists' normal tendancies to make up new particals and forces whenever they get stuck. If you read the article, it sounds like these physicists are trying to describe "dark energy", and the only way they can think to do this is to say nuetrinos have mass. OK, but this means a lot of what they thought about nuetrinos makes no sense- and if you ask me, nuetrinos already fit into the classification of "suspect particles".

So... Here's the situation:

A) We've made up one thing (dark energy). We made it up in order to cover the fact that our current understanding of physics doesn't make sense of universe, at least insofar as we are able to measure it.

B) To explain this made-up thing, we take a particle we've made up for similar reasons, and change what we've been saying it is. But we change it in such a way, so that these particles don't explain the equations we made it up to explain in the first place!

c) So, our solution: make up another particle, which is undetectable, and does nothing but make our first made-up particle work the way we need it to again. Why? Because we've postulated it doesn't work the way we had made it up to work. Therefore it doesn't cover up the hole in our understanding that we made it up to cover, which was the reason we made it up in the first place.

Achk! I admit this post is a bit of a jumble, but that's the way it needs to be to accurately describe modern particle physics.

Re:Hmmm (1)

Martin Blank (154261) | more than 10 years ago | (#9826092)

Ideas like dark energy can be more accurately thought of as cloaks over unclear sections of our model of the universe. The idea is to slowly peel back the cloak from one direction or another as our understanding of the universe grows. Hopefully, at some point, the cloak will be removed entirely.

Re:Hmmm (1)

pubudu (67714) | more than 10 years ago | (#9827359)

Well, it's even worse, I think, than physicists' normal tendancies to make up new particals and forces whenever they get stuck. If you read the article, it sounds like these physicists are trying to describe "dark energy", and the only way they can think to do this is to say nuetrinos have mass. OK, but this means a lot of what they thought about nuetrinos makes no sense- and if you ask me, nuetrinos already fit into the classification of "suspect particles".
If this is the impression of particle physics which you got from the article, then you might want to blame the article rather than particle physicists. Things aren't actually as bad as you suggest.

First, I should note that neutrinos weren't invented to explain dark energy. Dark energy really came into its own only once we realized that the expansion of the universe is accelerating, against all expectations: the idea is that dark energy, whatever it is, is driving that acceleration.

Neutrinos were suggested quite a bit before that. All of our well-tested conservation theories suggested that a W+ particle couldn't decay into nothing but a positron (or W- into an electron), and rather than claim that these particles were just 'special,' physicists suggested that perhaps they just couldn't measure the other particle. They could, however, determine that it would have to be an electrically neutral, very light lepton (or anti-lepton for W- decays).

Then, while attempting to determine the decay rate of a proton (a different problem, though also related to the W+ boson), the experiment went haywire. Basically, it looked like protons were decaying left and right, which we don't actually witness in everyday life. After determining that the universe was not in fact disintegrating around us, physicists concluded that something else was causing their detection equipment to register hits. They were able to identify the basic properties of whatever particle was fouling their very expensive experiment, and it turned out to have all the qualities which neutrinos were predicted to possess. So it was decided that they were detecting neutrinos. Looks like a duck, quacks like a duck.

Nor is the idea that neutrinos have mass premised on the needs of this acceleron/dark energy hypothesis. For quite some time, most of the smart money was on their having no mass. There was, however, a problem. If what we really were detecting were neutrinos, the sun should be releasing far more of them than we were measuring on earth.

Other theories suggested that neutrinos should come in three flavors, just like electrons (electron, muon, tau). To be specific, the sun should be emitting each of these in a determinate ratio. We got far more electron neutrinos than we expected, and far fewer mu and tau neutrinos. This could be explained if neutrinos decayed into lighter forms (just as muon and tau decay into electrons, again involving W- particles). Then, all three flavors of neutrino would be produced in the sun according to the calculated ratio, but would arrive at earth according to the measured ratio. Of course, in order to decay into a lighter flavor, or any flavor whatsoever, a particle must have mass. And so those nasty particle physicists conveniently 'adjusted' their theory to force it to fit with observed reality. Bastards. Again, no dark energy required here.

And so what are they doing now? Well, I'm no physicist myself, so I couldn't really tell you, but it looks like they're back up to their old tricks again. Observation tells us that something is causing the universe to act as if the value of Einstein's cosmological constant wasn't 0; let's call it dark energy. They're not entirely aporetic, though; while we can't yet directly measure it, we can measure its effects (rate of acceleration of the universe at given distances), and this gives us some idea as to its nature. Lo and behold, postulate the existence of an as-yet unheardof particle with certain properties and we don't have to throw all of the past century's physics out the window and come up with some other set of theories which explain everything we can explain now. Call this particle an acceleron. Physicists should be able to predict certain other properties, including how it interacts with other particles which are easier to measure. Then look to those particles and see if measurements match the predictions. Currently, they are attempting to determine what other properties this 'acceleron' thingie ought to have so they can devise some experiment to test its existence.

Re:Hmmm (1)

ekuns (695444) | more than 10 years ago | (#9828164)

Well, it's even worse, I think, then physicists' normal tendancies to make up new particals and forces whenever they get stuck

This is not an accurate characterization. There are only four forces thus far, maybe five including "dark energy" depending on the theories. That's hardly a large number of forces, and the rules governing those forces are really very simple. And fundamental particles -- well, there are six quarks and six leptons plus the force carriers: The photon, W, Z, gluon, Higgs Boson, graviton, and this new force carrier they are talking about for dark energy. Again, hardly a huge number. Twelve fundamental particles and seven force carriers. That doesn't sound like a theory that is out of control!

All of your A, B, and C above are inaccurate:

A) You are right that "dark energy" was a manufactured concept to explain seeming acceleration of the universe's expansion. Assuming the universe is expanding, some force has to be causing that, right? Do you disagree with that? Now, they chose to call that mysterious force "dark energy" because they don't know what it is. It could turn out to be some misunderstood quirk of gravity -- maybe gravity can both suck and blow. :) It could be a vacuum energy thing. It could be many things. But until someone has a solid theory, it's called "dark energy" because we don't see it. It's not electromagnetic.

more A) And the new particle is hardly an attempt to cover up that we don't completely understand the universe! The new particle is an attempt to understand the universe more thoroughly. It is hypothesized in a disprovable manner. No-one is taking it on faith that the hypothesized particle exist. It's also not like this is a mainstream particle physics idea. It's just someone's new theory.

B) Also, none of the "changes" to neutrinos have impacted the reason for their original creation. Not "neutrinos having mass" nor this new theory change the outcome of the original neutrino experiment outcomes or any of that theory. It's not as if this theoretical change breaks any existing calculations or experimental results. If that DID happen, then no-one would take the theory seriously at all. As it is, it is someone's speculative theory, and at this moment in time, nothing more than that.

C) Since the hypothetical changes described in the article do not, in fact, break the existing theories of the neutrino, C) doesn't even apply. The new particle, in fact, is an attempt to unify two previously unrelated concepts. This doesn't mean I agree with it. It seems a stretch to me. But at least it is a disprovable theory. No-one is going to take this hypothesis on faith. Particle physics will accept the new theory only if experiments agree with its predictions.

Modern particle physics is hardly in the jumble you ascribe. There are some definite outstanding unknowns, but it's not like any particle physicist would pretend that all is known or understood. And like I said in another post, most physicists I know are hungry for a better theory, "better" meaning a theory with fewer parameters that 1) describes all current experiments and 2) accurately predicts future experiments.

Science - Like David Eddings' books (-1, Offtopic)

Fizzl (209397) | more than 10 years ago | (#9819926)

*trundle trundle, lets make shit up...*
- Whoopsie, that doesn't make sense!
- No matter. Let's make up this Deux Ex Machina X and introduce it 5 pages before in context which has nothing to do with the notion of this X.
- Sweet. Now it all makes sense again!

(Sorry. Reading first book of The Dreamers (The Elder Gods) and already bit irritated about his storytelling)

Re:Science - Like David Eddings' books (1)

khaladan (445) | more than 10 years ago | (#9820374)

I really don't like his latest work. I much prefer the Belgariad and the Mallorean.

Re:Science - Like David Eddings' books (1)

AuMatar (183847) | more than 10 years ago | (#9826184)

There's really not much difference. He's been using the same character with different names since the Belgariad. Hck, he veen managed to work in a magical blue jewel.

links dark energy with the neutrino!!?? (0, Offtopic)

floydman (179924) | more than 10 years ago | (#9820016)

Buffy postulated it first

Curiouser and Curiouser (0)

ObsessiveMathsFreak (773371) | more than 10 years ago | (#9820099)

OK given that the very existence of neutrinos is in question, is postulating another unheard of particle connected with them justified?

Quantum physicsists have come up with a lot of crazy stuff that later turned out to be correct. Like positrons, or A-bombs. But a massless,chargeless particle which cannot be detected, dispite the fact that ten trillion pass through us every day is stretching things a little too far in my book.

And now they have mass?! This whole dark energy thing seems very contrived. Perhaps a change is needed to the theory instead of the addition of new particles.

Re:Curiouser and Curiouser (3, Informative)

erik_norgaard (692400) | more than 10 years ago | (#9820132)

There are dectectors that do detect something which is generally accepted as being neutrinos.
The interact very weakly, has an energy less than 29 eV and travel close to the speed of light.

Since they interact so weakly they can be used to detect supernovas before the supernova is visible on the sky.

The problem is that the sensitivity of the current detectors does not allow to determine wether these has a mass and travel a little less than the speed of light or if they are massless. Neutrinos with mass can resolve the dark energy problem.

Another problem is that the detectors does not detect the amount of neutrinos to be expected.

Neutrinos. (3, Informative)

Christopher Thomas (11717) | more than 10 years ago | (#9823017)

The problem is that the sensitivity of the current detectors does not allow to determine wether these has a mass and travel a little less than the speed of light or if they are massless. Neutrinos with mass can resolve the dark energy problem.

Actually, it's the dark _matter_ problem massive neutrinos address, and they only form part of the puzzle ("hot dark matter").

Dark _energy_ appears to be a repulsive force intrinsic to space. This proposed model is one take on a mechanism for it.

Neutrino mass has also been pretty conclusively demonstrated by observations of neutrino _oscillation_ (changing of flavour), which cannot occur if neutrinos are massless. This incidentally also solves the solar neutrino problem (the detectors producing shortfall measurements could only detect one type of neutrino, while solar neutrinos were oscillating between all three types in transit, resulting in many not being detected).

Most of these developments happened within the last decade or so. We're in a very interesting time for particle physics (between new observations, new mathematical approaches to applying string theory, and new approaches to modelling gravity that aren't string theory).

Re:Neutrinos. (1)

corngrower (738661) | more than 10 years ago | (#9824352)

We're in a very interesting time for particle physics.

As you mentioned, there's been a lot of interesting developments in experimental physics in the last decade or so. A lot of observations which are poorly explained, or incompletely explained by current theory. I suspect that some major advancements in the theory will be taking place in the next decade or two, possibly at last reconciling Einstein's gravitational theory with quantum mechanics.

-btw I suppose I should start using a spell checker more often, if there's one on my machine still in existence.

Re:Curiouser and Curiouser (1)

WuphonsReach (684551) | more than 10 years ago | (#9827808)

There are dectectors that do detect something which is generally accepted as being neutrinos. The interact very weakly, has an energy less than 29 eV and travel close to the speed of light.

Since they interact so weakly they can be used to detect supernovas before the supernova is visible on the sky.


Okay, run that one by me again? You're saying that a particle that travels less than the speed of light will show up before the visible light (which travels at light speed)? And what does "weakly interacting" have to do with being able to detect supernovas?

I suspect what you were trying to say is that those particles are precursors to the supernova explosion (or at least emitted at the start of the supernova process before any visible change in the star takes place).

Re:Curiouser and Curiouser (1)

ekuns (695444) | more than 10 years ago | (#9828210)

You're saying that a particle that travels less than the speed of light will show up before the visible light

That occurs for two reasons. One, as you suggest later in your post, is because the neutrinos are emitted before the supernova occurs, but after the supernova is inevitable. The second is because their mass is so small, the light emitted from the supernova does not outrace them across the distances where we have been able to detect supernova neutrinos.

And to an earlier poster who suggested that the very existence of neutrinos was in doubt, when multiple neutrino detectors in the world successfully detected supernova 1987A, including measuring the direction of the supernova with reasonable accuracy, that pretty much dispelled any doubt in the scientific community.

That neutrinos interact so weakly means that they leave the core of the collapsing supernova long before photons do. Photons interact strongly, especially in matter so hot and dense, and basically don't escape the core of the supernova until it explodes. The neutrinos escape well before that.

Note: The core of a supernova is so dense that the average neutrino does not make it out without multiple interactions and scatterings.

Re:Curiouser and Curiouser (1)

jabberjaw (683624) | more than 10 years ago | (#9821832)

Neutrinos can be [in2p3.fr] detected [wisc.edu] .

Re:Curiouser and Curiouser (1)

OOO0000OO0O0 (799394) | more than 10 years ago | (#9824474)

We do not know and do not care if the real thing is exactly as the theory says it is; but we need our theoretical models to accurately predict realworld data. If getting to that point entails, say, creating a whole bunch of otehr crazy particles that almost step over the line of logic, then so be it.

The force (1, Funny)

erik_norgaard (692400) | more than 10 years ago | (#9820109)

This dark energy really is just the dark side of the force which tears apart our universe. We need some Jedis to look at the bright side!

I think Jedis are just really sensible beings, that is sensible to neurtrinos.

Appropriate Context (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9820240)

The headline of this article would work even better in the Onion...

Re:Appropriate Context (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9824406)

No, the Onion has editors who can spell. This one's pure Slashdot.

Writers from ST:Voyager (2, Funny)

wowbagger (69688) | more than 10 years ago | (#9820462)

Does anybody else get the feeling that the writers from Star Dreck:Voyager have moved into the particle physics business?

This just reeks of the "Particle of the Week" writing that ST:V indulged in so frequently.

What next - the hypothesis that the universe will undergo a "Big Rip", but then the interaction of the accelerons and the whetions will reset the timeline and everything will be back to normal?

Testable.. (2, Insightful)

kettlechips (769541) | more than 10 years ago | (#9820605)

"This is the only model that gives us some meaningful way to do experiments on earth to find the force that gives rise to dark energy. We can do this using existing neutrino experiments."

At least this theory could possibly be proven or disproven right here on earth. That's what's nice about it.

Where it comes to hunting for clues concerning the evolution of the universe's expansion rate, or black holes/singularities (Now there's a gem of a postulated "particle"), you can freely conjecture with little chance of ever being proven empirically wrong (or right), as long as you account for whatever bits of information we're able to gather from 10.000(000.000) light years away.

Odd.... (1)

Dachannien (617929) | more than 10 years ago | (#9820615)

Understanding the phenomenon could help to explain why someday, long in the future, the universe will expand so much that no other stars or galaxies will be visible in our night sky,

And here I thought the explanation would be the engulfing of our poor little planet by our sun-turned-red-giant. [wikipedia.org]

Re:Odd.... (1)

EzraTeneflin (755543) | more than 10 years ago | (#9827518)

I predict that 'breakerons' will be discovered soon, lest the accelerons would cause an unlimited expansion of the universe.

Re:Odd.... (1)

Dachannien (617929) | more than 10 years ago | (#9828437)

I predict that 'breakerons' will be discovered soon, lest the accelerons would cause an unlimited expansion of the universe.

Personally, I prefer the term "acceleroffs".

They are NOT postulating! (4, Insightful)

Xentax (201517) | more than 10 years ago | (#9820951)

I actually RTFA (no, I'm not new here...), and I think the submitter is wrong about one thing.

As far as I can tell, the existence of this new particle is being *hypothesized*, and since there's discussion of using neutrino detectors to see if they're right, it may soon be *theorized*.

A *postulate* is something else - a statement that is accepted as truth, usually as the basis of a theory or argument. Here's a helpful definition [reference.com] .

I'm sure these people don't expect anyone to simply "accept as truth" the existence of accelerons, but rather want to go do experiments and turn their hypothesis into either a theory or a failed hypothesis.

A postulate is something along the lines of "Through a point not on a line, one and only one line can be drawn parallel to the given line."

That is, you can accept it as truth or deny it, but trying to actually prove or disprove it *experimentally* is difficult or impossible. There's either a logical counterexample, or not (or we haven't found it yet).

Xentax

Re:They are NOT postulating! (1)

nine-times (778537) | more than 10 years ago | (#9822932)

A *postulate* is something else - a statement that is accepted as truth, usually as the basis of a theory or argument... I'm sure these people don't expect anyone to simply "accept as truth" the existence of accelerons, but rather want to go do experiments and turn their hypothesis into either a theory or a failed hypothesis.

Actually, describing it as a postulate is fine. A postulate is not necessarily something that you believe is actually true; it can also just be something that you accept as true for the sake of argument.

So the scientists probably are postulating that accellerons exist to work out theories, figure out what the consequences of those theories are, figure out which consequences are measurable, and then testing those consequences.

A postulate is something along the lines of "Through a point not on a line, one and only one line can be drawn parallel to the given line."

But the reason this is a postulate is not that it's necessarily true as such. In math, a "postulate" is something that you take as true for the sake of being able to do proofs. However, it's been shown that some mathematical postulates, long taken to be true, can be denied, thereby creating a new mathematical system. And these new mathematical systems can all be complete and, within themselves, coherent, without worrying about which mathematical system is "correct". Each is "correct", assuming the postulates.

P.S.- nice to see a Euclid reference.

Re:They are NOT postulating! (1)

Xentax (201517) | more than 10 years ago | (#9823280)

This is starting to remind me of the whole graviton thing.

I guess I agree with you - perhaps new theories that postulate the existence of accelerons will be formulated, and perhaps they'll hold up well experimentally.

But if so, this is one of those postulates, like the one that there's a quantifiable unit/particle/whatever of gravity, where I hesitate to just blindly grant the assertion that it exists. How much is a seemingly-solid theory worth if it's built upon postulates that are contrived - compared, say, to a slightly-less solid theory based on less-stretchy postulates? I'd give a concrete example but none come to mind (there's probably a good one in the Newtonian vs. relativistic models of mechanics, though).

Basically, I'll accept Euclid's postulate as being fairly self-evident, but things like the existence and behavior of accelerons (which act on neutrinos, which are strange beasts in and of themselves) are not exactly what I'd call self-evident.

I'd like to have proof, or at least some evidence, first; that a theory based on them is self-consistent doesn't buy you squat since, as you pointed out, internally consistent systems can be built upon postulates of what we'd typically assert the opposite. In other words:

"That's a fine theory, but does it have ANYTHING to do with our particular reality?"

'Well, since you postulated accelerons and we don't have any evidence that that postulate (And not it's converse) is true, um, I don't know.'

That predictive capability of the theory is sort of an empiric statement about the quality of the postulate; but it's hard for that to be valuable unless that predictive capability is substantially stronger than any competing theory.

As usual, we need more data!

Xentax

Re:They are NOT postulating! (1)

nine-times (778537) | more than 10 years ago | (#9823445)

How much is a seemingly-solid theory worth if it's built upon postulates that are contrived - compared, say, to a slightly-less solid theory based on less-stretchy postulates? I'd give a concrete example but none come to mind (there's probably a good one in the Newtonian vs. relativistic models of mechanics, though).

This is tough, though. I know people who would argue that Newton's postulates are more solid, and I know people who might argue Einstein's are. Sometimes what's "self-evident" or "common sense" depends on who you talk to.

And you never know what you're going to run into when wandering these woods. Most people would say all of Euclids postulates are common sense. Some might even say you can't imagine an alternative. However, mathematicians have, out of a mental exercise gone awry or a desire to 'prove' a postulate, violated one of Euclid's postulates and derived a new form of mathematics, and one that may be 'correct' (meaning better at explaining our universe).

And there's another wildcard in scientific studies: What if two competing theories, with different postulates, come, eventually, to the same mathematical expression, and therefore exactly equal predictive capabilities? Such a thing may not ever happen, and I can't think of past examples, though there might be something in the Leibnitz/Newton controversies that would suffice.

No data would help you there, but it seems possible we still might care which one was 'right'. Or would we?

Re:They are NOT postulating! (1)

Xentax (201517) | more than 10 years ago | (#9826519)

Well, I was *thinking* that Newton's postulates were simpler, but that relativistic mechanics have greater predictive power (Einstein explaining Newtonian physics basically as estimates that are reasonably accurate when relativistic factors are minimal, Newtonian mechanics as simply not extending into the realm of relativity). Anything dealing with the speed of light is going to quickly go outside the realm of self-evident :)

It's hard to imagine two systems, built on different postulates, collapsing to a truly indentical set of theories. I'd look for some way to show that the postulates actually match up, or where the theories predict differently for specific circumstances, and thus either show that the theories ARE the same, or have a way to test and see how they're different. Or maybe one theorizes part of what the other postulates and vice versa.

If it were to happen though, I think you'd fall back on something like Occam's Razor to try to decide which is 'right' - which relies on the fewest or simplest set of assumptions, IF you can even ascertain that (as above, it may be debatable).

Xentax

Re:They are NOT postulating! (1)

nine-times (778537) | more than 10 years ago | (#9827073)

If it were to happen though, I think you'd fall back on something like Occam's Razor to try to decide which is 'right' - which relies on the fewest or simplest set of assumptions, IF you can even ascertain that (as above, it may be debatable).

Yeah, I agree. Interesting to think about though. What I was trying to remember- it wasn't a Newton/Leibnitz thing now that I think about it. It must have been a Huygens/Leibnitz thing. Both describing the refraction of light when changing media. One described it in terms of waves, and the waves being forced to slow or speed up when entering the new medium. The other supposed, basically, that light automatically took the quickest route- as if it knew which route would be the quickest, and decided on that one. I remember that mathematically, it becomes quickly obvious that they describe the same path. Most of the scientists who followed disregarded the second explanation, but it really doesn't seem so silly sitting next to certain aspects of quantum mechanics.

Anyway, I don't think I could ever decide whether they were essentially the same, or if there was a meaningful difference, nor could I decide which one I liked better. So that was the best example I could think of, but I don't remember well enough to be sure it's really a good example.

Re:They are NOT postulating! (1)

ekuns (695444) | more than 10 years ago | (#9828233)

What if two competing theories, with different postulates, come, eventually, to the same mathematical expression, and therefore exactly equal predictive capabilities?

This has, in fact, already happened! Two decades ago there were four completing unrelated formulations of string theory. Then one person proved that all four formulations were in fact different ways of saying the same thing, and that mathematical transformations could convert one theory into another.

Now, I'm not a big believer in string theory. Mostly because it's not terribly disprovable right now and I distrust theories that are not disprovable. But I bring this up as an example of what you mention above.

Re:They are NOT postulating! (1)

barakn (641218) | more than 10 years ago | (#9826312)

Xentax's own example of a postulate, ""Through a point not on a line, one and only one line can be drawn parallel to the given line," describes Euclidian or parabolic geometry (flat space). Changing it allow one to think about curved spaces. From this reference [wolfram.com] :
If, however, the phrase "exists one and only one straight line which passes" is replaced by "exists no line which passes," or "exist at least two lines which pass," the postulate describes equally valid (though less intuitive) types of geometries known as elliptic and hyperbolic geometries, respectively.

Re:They are NOT postulating! (1)

Xentax (201517) | more than 10 years ago | (#9826414)

Right...so, uh, where were you going with that?

My point was that a postulate is an assertion - accepted as true or false, rather than something that can be proven or disproven via testing, logical proof, etc.

From the Article, it looked to me like they were *hypothesizing* the existence of accelerons, which is far more interesting to me than merely postulating them.

I could postulate that the universe is expanding at an increasing rate because it wants to get the hell away from Earth, now that we're MOSTLY Harmless. It's equally useful if you're not going to go make a hypothesis or twenty based on the postulate.

See the first response to my post though - I'll concede that it'd be useful enough to postulate accelerons IF a theory based on the postulate is developed with meaningful predictive capability, but still ... weird, given that the accleron postulate is pretty 'out there' and (so far at least) lacks any known evidence to support it's validity.

So, I'd like it better if the notion of acclerons was itself a hypothesis that gets some experimental testing/validation before we start basing anything else off of it. The article mentions the possibility of neutrino detector data being of some use here, so that's a good place to start...

Xentax

Re:They are NOT postulating! (1)

Xentax (201517) | more than 10 years ago | (#9826463)

Rereading, I guess you were providing a concrete example of a substitute/contrary postulate and building off of it.

Non-euclidean geometry is definitely fascinating stuff - it's hard, but not impossibly so, to imagine 2-d space being wrapped around a sphere (or an hourglass, etc.) rather than a plane, and thus making a different set of postulates - that's where justification for things like wormholes comes from.

I agree 100% that you can do interesting things by changing postulates and reevaluating whatever theories/hypotheses/axioms you had based on the old set. I'd just be leery of going too far down those roads without some good reason for choosing a particular set of postulates, and the notion of acclerons acting on neutrinos is pretty far out there to simply assert and move on with, IMHO.

Xentax

Re:They are NOT postulating! (1)

nine-times (778537) | more than 10 years ago | (#9827178)

Yeah, I think he was just adding to the discussion by stating explicitly what we were dancing around: That you chose for your postulate the one that is denied in non-Euclidean geometry.

I'd just be leery of going too far down those roads without some good reason for choosing a particular set of postulates

I agree, but I'd like to modify a little. With Euclid's 5th postulate (which is what keeps being cited), any contrary case was considered pretty far out there. That a non-Euclidean system would be self-coherent was considered rediculous, up until the point where someone went "too far down those roads". It was mostly a curious attempt to prove the 5th postulate true, one which kept failing, that lead to other mathematical systems being founded.

In any case, this is math, and physics is different. It's a little more acceptable for math to be abstract and disconnected from reality. With physics, we keep tending to think that these models have *something* to do with reality, so the requirements for a postulate may be a little different.

Re:They are NOT postulating! (1)

barakn (641218) | more than 10 years ago | (#9828249)

The universe isn't flat, so non-Euclidean geometry is very relevant to physics.

Imagine (1)

AragornSonOfArathorn (454526) | more than 10 years ago | (#9821108)

Imagine how fast a Beowulf Cluster of accelerons would be!!

OMGWTFLOLBBQ!!!11!1!

sorry, someone had to....

Old news? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 10 years ago | (#9821836)

http://xxx.lanl.gov/PS_cache/astro-ph/pdf/0309/030 9800.pdf

November 2003

Article text (2, Informative)

TMB (70166) | more than 10 years ago | (#9823899)

Here's a full pre-print of the article [lanl.gov] .

[TMB]

our friend, the schneidon (1)

Doc Ruby (173196) | more than 10 years ago | (#9826400)

The Borges Schneidics Institute has announced the "schneidon", a particle with an informational equivalence of one queeb. Queebs have been described as "disconnection between oneself and the divine", and as "bad vibes", although schneidynamic research into that phenomenon is, as yet, inconclusive. Schneidons are believed to be the building blocks of "nemory": events not remembered, that never happened. Schneidons might be links in the "Time = Money" equivalence sought by BRI. Or I might just be making all this up. Give me a budget, and find out!

We can call it ... (1)

Sam Nitzberg (242911) | more than 10 years ago | (#9827713)

... Unobtanium ;-)

Sorry, I had to do that...
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