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Mesons Flip Between Matter and Antimatter

kdawson posted more than 7 years ago | from the make-up-your-mind dept.

150

steve writes "A team of over 700 physicists at Fermilab's Tevatron accelerator have observed the B-sub-s meson oscillating between matter and antimatter states at 3 trillion times a second. From the Fermilab press release: 'Immediately after the Big Bang some 13 billion years ago, equal amounts of matter and antimatter formed. Much of it quickly acted to annihilate the other, but for little-understood reasons, a bit more matter than antimatter survived, providing the universe with the planets, stars and galaxies visible today.' The Standard Model predicted the oscillation, and Fermilab has been working for 19 years to confirm it. The announcement is good press for Fermilab, which is pushing Congress to build a new 18-mile-long International Linear Collider."

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150 comments

Good thing this wasn't discovered in 2004 (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16236007)

or Republicans would have resorted to calling these "Kerry particles"....

Re:Good thing this wasn't discovered in 2004 (1)

creimer (824291) | more than 7 years ago | (#16236113)

Yeah, now they can call them "Bush-whacked particles". Although what got whacked depends on where you stand politically on the Big Bang.

Re:Good thing this wasn't discovered in 2004 (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16236979)

Nah. 3 trillion times a second is a little slow for a Democratic Party candidate.

Or worse (1)

Travoltus (110240) | more than 7 years ago | (#16237549)

The scientists could be locked up for using this to prove the Earth is greater than 6000 years old.

Non Creationist speak = disagreeing with Bush = enemy combatant

no, John Kerry is a bistable multivibrator :) (1)

FooAtWFU (699187) | more than 7 years ago | (#16237625)

A little off-topic, but fun story. It was 2004. I was in a computer science class - I forget the official name, but we were doing circuit-level stuff with transistors and NAND-gates and multiplexers and what-have-you. Those of you who have taken a class may be familiar with a particular configuration of NAND gates which, for example, stores one input when the other is strobed. These are known as bistable multivibrators [wikipedia.org] or, more commonly, "flip-flops". This simplest one is the SR flip-flop (set/reset) but only a little more complicated is the one termed a JK flip-flop. [wikipedia.org]
The JK flip-flop augments the behavior of the SR flip-flop by interpreting the S = R = 1 condition as a "flip" command. Specifically, the combination J = 1, K = 0 is a command to set the flip-flop; the combination J = 0, K = 1 is a command to reset the flip-flop; and the combination J = K = 1 is a command to toggle the flip-flop, i.e., change its output to the logical complement of its current value. Setting J = K = 0 results in a D-type flip-flop. The JK flip-flop is therefore a universal flip-flop, because it can be configured to work as an SR flip-flop, a D flip-flop or a T flip-flop.

But we digress. What was the topic? Antimatter? :P

Re:Good thing this wasn't discovered in 2004 (1)

evilviper (135110) | more than 7 years ago | (#16241091)

or Republicans would have resorted to calling these "Kerry particles"....

More likely they'd have burned the scientist at the state for heresy.

Only a bit (5, Funny)

0racle (667029) | more than 7 years ago | (#16236041)

a bit more matter than antimatter survived, providing the universe with the planets, stars and galaxies visible today
Did they just call the visible universe only a bit?

Re:Only a bit (4, Interesting)

slidersv (972720) | more than 7 years ago | (#16236491)

Actually "our" universe is much smaller: http://universe.nasa.gov/press/images/cosmos_perce nt_comp.jpg [nasa.gov]. Us "lighties" are really a minority since dark matter (recently proven to exist) and dark energy dominate.

P.S.: In Hawking radiation the effect of more matter than antimatter is also observed.

Re:Only a bit (1)

buswolley (591500) | more than 7 years ago | (#16241237)

Science doesn't prove anything. They gather evidence that support or deny a hypothesis within a certain degree of error. Math uses proofs, and they would not dare call evidence the same thing as proof.

Re:Only a bit (4, Informative)

Stranger4U (153613) | more than 7 years ago | (#16236773)

If I remember correctly from my astrophysics days, for every 8 billion anti-matter particles in the early universe, there were 8 billion and one matter particles. I would say an excess of 1 per 8 billion is "just a bit."

Re:Only a bit (1)

mnmn (145599) | more than 7 years ago | (#16238799)

It may damn well be a bit going back and forth between the big bang and big whimper, becoming each particle.

I forgot the theory's name.

So logically this means that... (1)

creimer (824291) | more than 7 years ago | (#16236055)

The Big Bang was the Big Mistake because more matter survived than anti-matter to form the universe instead of returning to the void. Philosophers are going to have a field day with this one.

Re:So logically this means that... (1)

Potor (658520) | more than 7 years ago | (#16236107)

unsound conclusion: mistake implies intentionality.

Re:So logically this means that... (1)

maxwell demon (590494) | more than 7 years ago | (#16237527)

So all spelling mistakes on Slashdot are intentional?

Re:So logically this means that... (1)

KingArthur10 (679328) | more than 7 years ago | (#16238549)

I think GP means that mistake implies intention to not have a mistake. Technically, something is not a spelling mistake if the person intended for it to be different from normal spelling. The GP is merely saying that using the term mistake implies a set order (read intelligent design) and he doesn't subscribe to that thought.

Re:So logically this means that... (1)

aiken_d (127097) | more than 7 years ago | (#16236219)

Look on the bright side: if more antimatter had survived, we would all be made out of antimatter and living on antimatter planets. Scary!

Re:So logically this means that... (5, Funny)

Em Adespoton (792954) | more than 7 years ago | (#16236277)

Scary? I don't think it would really matter....

Re:So logically this means that... (1)

Quaoar (614366) | more than 7 years ago | (#16236471)

Well, I think it antimatters...

Thank you, thank you, I'll be here all week!

Re:So logically this means that... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16237305)

Perils of Modern Living
Harold P. Furth

Well up above the tropostrata
There is a region stark and stellar
Where, on a streak of anti-matter
Lived Dr. Edward Anti-Teller.

Remote from Fusion's origin,
He lived unguessed and unawares
With all his antikith and kin,
And kept macassars on his chairs.

One morning, idling by the sea,
He spied a tin of monstrous girth
That bore three letters: A. E. C.
Out stepped a visitor from Earth.

Then, shouting gladly o'er the sands,
Met two who in their alien ways
Were like as lentils. Their right hands
Clasped, and the rest was gamma rays

Actually... (1)

Ruberik (935611) | more than 7 years ago | (#16239361)

...while it mostly wouldn't make a difference, Feynman (in his Lectures) once went on a tiff about the difference between matter and antimatter. He said that if you were in voice communication with a far-distant planet, there would be no way to determine whether those people were made of matter or anti-matter. The only way in which the two can not be switched is chirality; basically, an electron in a magnetic field revolves one way, and a positron revolves the other way. The problem is that this is a difference between left and right, and those two concepts are down to vocabulary. Feynman said that you might not know the difference until you held out your right hand to shake, and the other guy held out his left... at which point it would be time to run away very fast.

Re:So logically this means that... (1)

TwilightSentry (956837) | more than 7 years ago | (#16236401)

Except that we would call this substance matter, and, what we now call matter would be deemed antimatter. AFAIK, a system made totally out of antimatter will behave exactly the same as a system made out of matter in an identical configuration...

Any real physicists care to confirm/deny?

Re:So logically this means that... (1)

XenoRyet (824514) | more than 7 years ago | (#16236487)

IANAP, but I have read up on the subject, and that was my understanding as well.

Re:So logically this means that... (1)

quadong (52475) | more than 7 years ago | (#16236613)

Very nearly true. There's a small catch, and that's CP violation, which does allow matter and anti-matter to be distinguished by an experiment, even if the experimental apparatus is also of unknown (anti-)matter composition. (In other words, to use an oft-quoted example, if aliens are approaching the earth and we want to know whether we are made of matter or anti-matter, there are tests we can ask them to run inside their ship that will answer the question. It is not necessary to send any matter down from the ship to see if it explodes.)

However, the difference is so small that it is likely that life as we know it would be essentially unchanged if we were made of anti-matter.

Time Travel (1)

trip11 (160832) | more than 7 years ago | (#16236877)

if aliens are approaching the earth and we want to know whether we are made of matter or anti-matter, there are tests we can ask them to run inside their ship that will answer the question. It is not necessary to send any matter down from the ship to see if it explodes

Unless the aliens are also traveling backwards in time and made of antimatter. Then we're screwed.

(actually there IS another part of CP called T which is time reversal, and is theorized to always cancle out the CP violation in the math)

Re:So logically this means that... (1)

lnjasdpppun (625899) | more than 7 years ago | (#16239733)

But if the Universe was made out of (what we now call) anti-matter wouldn't we simply call that substance matter instead? There may be differences between anti-matter and matter, but the names assigned to them are arbitrary; the first 'stuff' scientists observed is matter and its opposite is anti-matter.

Re:So logically this means that... (1)

quadong (52475) | more than 7 years ago | (#16239807)

True. In my last post, when I said "matter", I meant "what we call matter" and when I said "anti-matter", I meant "what we call anti-matter". We could call them A and B to keep it arbitrary. The point is that there is a difference between them which is more complicated than just flipping signs.

Telling the difference (1)

Zinho (17895) | more than 7 years ago | (#16237021)

I am not a Real Physicist (TM), but I've got a degree in Mechanical Engineering; let's see if I can take a stab at it.

The short answer is that, yes, a sufficiently motivated particle physicist could tell the difference between living in a universe made entirely of matter and one entirely made of antimatter.

Here's a (partial) long answer: I read an article in Scientific American in about 1991 that explored how Alice (of Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass fame) could tell which universe she was in by use of physics. The logic started with checking whether electrons (positrons? you don't know in this case which they are) followed the right hand rule while passing through a magnetic field, which is a good way to tell if you have simply been turned to antimatter and transported to an all-antimatter universe.

The article then digressed into the truly fanciful, exploring how Alice would tell in everything were also switched left-to-right. The author concluded that it would still be possible with the use of a complicated particle accellerator setup and (if I recall correctly) various circular-polarizing filters. Alice would observe how certain sub-atomic particles decay under rare conditions, and the observed behavior would indicate a right-handed matter universe or a left-handed antimatter universe. I think the real point of the article was to show off the author's discovery of odd particle behavior, together with how clever he is =)

Of course, the point is still valid that if we lived in an antimatter universe, we'd simply accept that the left-hand rule is "how things are".

Note to any real physicists: if you remember reading the same article, or can post the exact details from first principles, go right ahead. I'm sure you're a better source than my memory of an article I read my junior year of high school =)

Re:Telling the difference (1)

bar-agent (698856) | more than 7 years ago | (#16239389)

Alice would observe how certain sub-atomic particles decay under rare conditions, and the observed behavior would indicate a right-handed matter universe or a left-handed antimatter universe.


I knew she was an intelligent and imaginitive girl, but I didn't know she was smart enough for that!

Although, I guess hanging with the Cheshire Cat and shrinking to the size of a mouse would tend to direct one's interests towards subatomic quantum physics. :)

Re:So logically this means that... (1)

PakProtector (115173) | more than 7 years ago | (#16237803)

Look on the bright side: if more antimatter had survived, we would all be made out of antimatter and living on antimatter planets. Scary!

But wait! What... What if we ARE all made out of antimatter and living on antimatter planets?!

/me runs off to write a really, really bad movie script

I thought that.... (1)

Psychofreak (17440) | more than 7 years ago | (#16236533)

Isn't matter and energy the same thing? E=m*c^2? So shouldn't energy have turned back into matter at some point? Or is this a discussion similar to why life on earth has the chemistry it does when the "lightning in a bottle experiment" develops equal amounts of "left" and "right" handed molecules? Or could the universe have a preference, and condense out matter instead of anti-matter?

BTW, I AM NOT A PHYSICIST. (If it isn't aparent already.)

Phil

Re:I thought that.... (1)

creimer (824291) | more than 7 years ago | (#16236637)

I have no idea. Haven't read enough science fiction to determine if molecules are left- or right-handed. It's all greek to me! :P

Re:I thought that.... (1)

andy314159pi (787550) | more than 7 years ago | (#16237003)

The Dirac equation which is the governing equation for matter that takes into account relativity (as opposed to the Schrodinger's equation which doesn't) predicts the existence of antimatter. And the Dirac equation specifically takes into account the equivalence of matter and energy.

Re:I thought that.... (1)

trip11 (160832) | more than 7 years ago | (#16237019)

If I recall back from my classes, at the start of the universe matter and energy flipped back and forth all of the time. However the universe was expanding, some of the energy went to inflating the universe. Sort of how when you lower the pressure in a volume, you lower the temp as well. So the energy (photons) couldn't switch back to matter. Going one step more, matter can only convert back to energy when it hits antimatter (more or less). This is where the article comes in. If you can flip between matter and anti-matter, and if you can find, for instance, that antimatter may flip to matter a bit faster or some other asymetry, you can start to explain things.

Re:I thought that.... (1)

budgenator (254554) | more than 7 years ago | (#16237095)

Actually it should be E^2=M^4*c^4*p^2*q^2, but using the actual formula makes the solutions strange, of course oscillating between matter and antimatter 3 trillion times a second is pretty strange too. The other thing this emphysises is how little we really understand about really basics of physics, I bet even to the experts it's jabberwocky most of the time.

Re:I thought that.... (2, Informative)

maxwell demon (590494) | more than 7 years ago | (#16237391)

Isn't matter and energy the same thing?

No. Matter is, well, matter (i.e. electrons, protons, etc.). Energy is a property of matter/fields.

E=m*c^2?

The m here is "mass", not "matter". Again, mass is a property of matter.
BTW, this equation holds only for matter at rest; generally it's E^2 = (mc^2)^2 + (pc)^2.

So shouldn't energy have turned back into matter at some point?

Normally matter and antimatter are produced in equal amounts. Note that antimatter has positive energy (and positive mass) as well.

Re:I thought that.... (1)

slidersv (972720) | more than 7 years ago | (#16240131)

I think the better definition of the difference would be the spin. Half-integer spin particles (fermions) are matter, and integer spin particles (bosons) are energy.
Multiples of matter in our sense of perception cannot exist at the same place at the same time, which is a definition of half-integer spin particles.

Re:I thought that.... (1)

Yehooti (816574) | more than 7 years ago | (#16240289)

Would that mean that a photon emitted from a matter source would be the same as one from an anti-matter source? Are light emissions from either the same to our sensors?

Re:I thought that.... (1)

i_should_be_working (720372) | more than 7 years ago | (#16237863)

Energy did (and does) turn into matter and anti-matter, and vice versa (matter+anti-matter->energy). In the beginning, if energy had done both matter and anti-matter in exactly equal parts there would have been a continuing creation and annihilation of matter and no large scale structure would exist in the universe. It would be mostly energy in the form of light.

GiggityGiggityGiggityGiggityGiggity (3, Funny)

Stanistani (808333) | more than 7 years ago | (#16236081)

I say this oscillation should be called the "Quagmire Effect."

Re:GiggityGiggityGiggityGiggityGiggity (1)

richdun (672214) | more than 7 years ago | (#16236515)

As much as I love Family Guy, I think the Bush Administration has that term trademarked.

I oscillate (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16236177)

between (-1, Troll) and (5, Funny)

Destined to become politicians (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16236229)

They can't make up their mind.

Re:Destined to become politicians (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16236383)

In that case, the particles should be called morons, not mesons.

Re:Destined to become politicians (2, Funny)

The Master Control P (655590) | more than 7 years ago | (#16236829)

Silly AC, everyone knows that morons are the binding particles exchanged by the neutron, vice-neutrons, and assistant-vice-neutrons in the core of an Administratium atom.

Dumb physicists (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16236415)

The announcement is good press for Fermilab, which is pushing Congress to build a new 18-mile-long International Linear Collider."

If they want to get it built they will call it the American Linear Collider. Congress is not going to look too fondly on yet another international science or engineering project.

Re:Dumb physicists (1)

jtwronski (465067) | more than 7 years ago | (#16236591)

Or, perhaps the American-super-patriotic-anti-terrorism-freedom collider. That should get them at least $10 Billion in funding. For bonus points, they could build it in Kansas and proclaim that their using it to prove intelligent design. They could line the tube with incense and nuns, and wait for god to show up.

Re:Dumb physicists (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16238327)

"Or, perhaps the American-super-patriotic-anti-terrorism-freedom collider. That should get them at least $10 Billion in funding."

LOL

You'd get my $.

Re:Dumb physicists (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16236727)

The reality is that Americans don't consider themselves North American citizens or World citizens in the same degree that inhabitants of Europe consider themselves Europeans and World citizens (instead of being primarily or only British, Swedish, French, etc.). When an American politician has to justify a project he or she will get no credit for an international project because Americans generally just don't identify with that. In contrast, inhabitants of Europe can be convinced that a European project is worthwhile and to a lesser degree that an international project is worthwhile. To get Americans to agree to an international project requires a Herculean effort by the other international partners. But since the US has a lot more disposable cash laying around and larger science and space funding than all of Europe, it generally makes sense not to ignore the potential of a US partnership even if it isn't allowed to be called "international." Americans will agree with a US-France-Germany-UK joint collider as long as it is not built in France.

Re:Dumb physicists (1)

budgenator (254554) | more than 7 years ago | (#16237529)

Actually it's not really a linear collider at all but a nutrino cannon! We just finished using a the prototype on japan and there hasn't been a terrorist attack on the subway in tokyo since 1995 [calpoly.edu]. A cannon that can shoot nutrinos through solid earth and stop terrorism, congress will pay-up for sure!

Re:Dumb physicists (1)

vondo (303621) | more than 7 years ago | (#16237611)

In order to have any chance of success, this project needs several billion dollars of non-U.S. funding. And that ain't coming to an ALC.

Brother, can you spare a hadron? (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16236447)

"The announcement is good press for Fermilab, which is pushing Congress to build a new 18-mile-long International Linear Collider.""

What's the matter with the one in Geneva?

Re:Brother, can you spare a hadron? (5, Informative)

trip11 (160832) | more than 7 years ago | (#16236795)

Working as a physicist on the 'one in Geneva', there are a few answers to your question.

First bigger is better. Although we haven't even turned on the LHC (large hadron collider)it isn't hard to imagine that at some point down the road we will reach the limit of what we can easily study here (much like fermilab is now). Do you realize just how long it actually takes to design, build, and get one of these things running? Decades really. And that isn't to mention the time spent just trying to lobby for funding. In effect we need to start now if we don't want to spend 5 years sitting on our asses waiting for construction. And you don't really want 5000 physicist, bored and with nothing to do?

Secondly, the LHC is a ring collider. This means that it has a large circle that it accelerates the particles in. While this has some advantages in that it is easier to run at high energies, there are disadvantages as well. One of the larger problems is polarization of the incoming particles. Basicly spinning particles in a circle randomizes the spin direction which makes it very hard to study. There are some clever tricks to get around this (Check out 'spin flippers' at RHIC) but a linear collider can study this much more precisely.

Another reason for a new collider is that it will collide different particles. Leptons not Hadrons for you physics geeks out there. Again the idea is that it will be harder to achive the same energy but the results will have much less error (roughly speaking). The idea of the NLC (next linear collider) is to be able to study in much more detail some very subtle effects that will be lost in noise at the LHC. And by noise I don't mean noise due to poor construction, but noise due to quantum mechanics.

A last reason to build the NLC in the US and not Geneva is that all of us American's are flocking to Geneva (Yes I'm one of them). We jokingly call CERN the american brain drain. It would be good for american science as a whole I do belive to employ more of us locally.

Arg, but it is late here and if I made any serious physics errors reguarding the LHC or NLC I appologize. Also this is a very hand waving sort of argument, very light on the details, take it as such.

Re:Brother, can you spare a hadron? (1)

symbolset (646467) | more than 7 years ago | (#16238111)

>And you don't really want 5000 physicist, bored and with nothing to do?

Actually, yes, that would be good. Otherwise you might discover that the indivisible unit of mass/energy in this universe is the "ficton", with unimaginable consequences.

Re:Brother, can you spare a hadron? (1)

The_Wilschon (782534) | more than 7 years ago | (#16238379)

I noticed your URL is ohio state. I also noticed at that URL that you are no longer there. However, I am looking at Ohio for physics grad school. Any thoughts on that? I'm also in HEP, been at CDF, looking to go for ATLAS or CMS (of course). I've spoken with Richard Hughes, and worked a little bit with him and Brian Winer on a hardware upgrade at CDF, but I was wondering if you had anything to say about Ohio's physics program?

Re:Brother, can you spare a hadron? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16240655)

haha, I read can you spare a hardon

Re:Brother, can you spare a hadron? (1)

jafac (1449) | more than 7 years ago | (#16241311)

Personally, as an American, I think most of my fellow Americans have forsaken science, logic, and reason, and modernity, and civilization, in general. I'm glad that physicists are finding a new home in Switzerland. In 20 years, when we're as backwards as every other religious fundamentalist theocracy in the world, and wonder what happened to our dominance, and you guys are over in Switzerland eating your chocolate and discovering new particles, please take a moment every first Tuesday in November to laugh at the ignorant Americans that used to be the world leaders in science. But don't piss us off too much, or Mullah Robertson will draw up a fatwah against you.

This post may sound sarcastic, but I'm dead serious.

Re:Brother, can you spare a hadron? (1)

God Of Atheism (1003892) | more than 7 years ago | (#16236953)

That one is not linear, but circular. That is to say are linear accelerators at CERN, but afaik they're far shorter than at Fermilab. The new large hadron collider should come on line next year.

Antimatter Affecting Main Page (4, Funny)

Chagatai (524580) | more than 7 years ago | (#16236469)

I think these mesons have caused some problems on the Slashdot main page. When looking at the article, I saw this:

Science: Mesons Flip Between Matter and Antimatter 7 of 6 comments

Someone must have snuck in an antimatter posting or something.

Re:Antimatter Affecting Main Page (1)

HerrEkberg (971000) | more than 7 years ago | (#16236745)

And it quickly annihilated one of my own normal matter posts.

It was +5 Insightful, Interesting AND Funny as well, I'm telling you!

Re:Antimatter Affecting Main Page (1)

Daemonstar (84116) | more than 7 years ago | (#16237083)

Science: Mesons Flip Between Matter and Antimatter 7 of 6 comments

Eek, I think it's spreading to other stories!

Games: Peter Jackson on the Future of Storytelling 6 of 4 comments

Re:Antimatter Affecting Main Page (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16238447)

Slashdot: stuff that matters, and comments that, er, antimatter.

Enough with the big colliders already! (-1, Flamebait)

kabocox (199019) | more than 7 years ago | (#16236693)

I wish that they'd work on something that didn't involve building huge colliders! I'm sorry, but I've had enough of reading about every larger colliders needed to prove the existance of some subatomic particle. Let me know if you figure out anything useful to do with those particles in the present. I'm not interested in particles our events that may have happened in a few milliseconds after the big bang. There are lots of physics things that I'd like money to be spent on: space elvators, blimps, levies (nah no one is interested in keeping the waves out), http://www.monolithicdome.com/ [monolithicdome.com] , sustainable housing, and "alt" energy. I guess that I'm not happy with this research because they just keep wanting bigger colliders to prove/disprove the existance of particles. Um, I might care if we could build or use those particles, but if the only way that we could even notice one is building these things what's the point?

Ahh, yes I forgot this is blue sky physics research.

Re:Enough with the big colliders already! (4, Insightful)

caerwyn (38056) | more than 7 years ago | (#16236793)

Almost all practical research derives in some way from "blue sky physics".

No, we can't immediately predict what will come out of this. But then, when electron spin was first discovered I'd imagine people were saying similar things- and only recently have there been reports that electron spin has been harnassed for storage/computation, which means it will finally come into the realm of practicality.

Not everything needs to have an immediate, obvious payoff to be worthwhile.

Re:Enough with the big colliders already! (1)

maxwell demon (590494) | more than 7 years ago | (#16237079)

Like Faraday's famous answer when asked by a politician what electricity was good for: "One day you will tax it."

Re:Enough with the big colliders already! (1)

momerath2003 (606823) | more than 7 years ago | (#16237139)

One useful thing that you can do with oscillations is have atomic clocks. Perhaps someday they will use this discovery to time to trillionths-of-a-second accuracy.

Re:Enough with the big colliders already! (2, Interesting)

mph (7675) | more than 7 years ago | (#16236831)

There are lots of physics things that I'd like money to be spent on: space elvators, blimps, levies (nah no one is interested in keeping the waves out), http://www.monolithicdome.com/ [monolithicdome.com] , sustainable housing, and "alt" energy.
I think you misspelled "engineering".

Re:Enough with the big colliders already! (1)

Azarael (896715) | more than 7 years ago | (#16236961)

To my knowledge, the main beneficiary of these colliders are string theorists (who deal with the smallest accepted particle constituents). Improving our understanding of string theory will hopefully trigger breakthroughs in other areas like materials science, Relativity/Quantum theory unification and other disciplines (which apply to the areas that you mention).

Re:Enough with the big colliders already! (3, Funny)

exp(pi*sqrt(163)) (613870) | more than 7 years ago | (#16237009)

...levies...
You want money spent on working out how to tax people more?

Re:Enough with the big colliders already! (1)

JoGlo (1000705) | more than 7 years ago | (#16238127)

Naah, I think he wants more money spent on dances, or ballrooms. Must be something to do with all those hardons!

Re:Enough with the big colliders already! (1)

osgeek (239988) | more than 7 years ago | (#16237041)

Understanding the nature of the universe better is what could very well enable the creation of materials strong enough to create a space elevator or alternative forms of energy. Maybe we could learn how to control gravity if we learn more about what causes it... gravitons?

Re:Enough with the big colliders already! (1)

God Of Atheism (1003892) | more than 7 years ago | (#16237339)

The things you mention are indeed not bad, but they're not physics research, they're mostly engineering. Physics research tries to broaden our understanding of the universe/multiverse/nature/god, whatever word you prefer, and sometimes applications do come from that research. It is possible that new forms of energy creation will be discovered in such an accelerator, or that some results give rise to understanding needed for new engineering efforts to build that cold fusion reactor or the warp drive.

The example you mention of the space elevator is already being tested, and the basic physics are very simple, however that does not mean that building one is simple, or at all possible. At the moment, the suitable material seems to be carbon nanotubes. It might be that the LHC will produce some "exotic matter" which might be stronger, or generate stable transactinides (some heavy nuclei are predicted to be stable [wikipedia.org] but to create them some high energy collisions are needed), they might be used some day, just like Americium (smoke detectors) and Plutonium (nukes, nuclear reactors, radio-isotope batteries) are used today in spite of not being found naturally occurring on earth.

Re:Enough with the big colliders already! (1)

LotsOfPhil (982823) | more than 7 years ago | (#16237435)

It seems like you are confusing "physics" with "engineering."
1) space elevators: I think this would be a material science endeavor.
2) blimps: not sure what you want done with blimps. Aerospace engineering.
3) levees: civil engineering.
4) monolithic dome: umm?
5) sustainable housing: not sure what this means either, but it isn't physics.
6) alternative energy: a little too broad for me to classify.

Re:Enough with the big colliders already! (1)

MrSquishy (916581) | more than 7 years ago | (#16237979)

6) alternative energy: a little too broad for me to classify.
Energeers!

It may very well be (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16237653)

that before anyone can understand how to make a cable strong enough to build the space elevator you want so badly, they will need to understand the particle behaviors that can only be seen by these big colliders, you fatuous troll.

Ubuntu!

Honestly the amount spent on science (1)

Colin Smith (2679) | more than 7 years ago | (#16238359)

And engineering pales into insignificance compared to the amount spent blowing things up. And hey, what if they discover the anti-graviton?

 

New terminology (4, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16236825)

B-sub-s Meson doesn't quite roll off the tongue in the press release.

Since these Mesons flip between matter and anti-matter regularly, I propose calling them...

Freemesons.

Re:New terminology (1)

The_Wilschon (782534) | more than 7 years ago | (#16238177)

Actually, normally it is just called the "Bs". Yes that is true. I work at CDF (the collaboration that produced this result) during the summers, and for CDF during the school year.

Not from TFA... (1)

brownsteve (673529) | more than 7 years ago | (#16236827)

'Immediately after the Big Bang some 13 billion years ago, equal amounts of matter and antimatter formed. Much of it quickly acted to annihilate the other, but for little-understood reasons, a bit more matter than antimatter survived, providing the universe with the planets, stars and galaxies visible today.'
Actually, that quote is not from the Fermilab press release. It's from this Chicago Tribune article [chicagotribune.com] which is a little more down-to-earth for us non-physicists.

Re:Not from TFA... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16237987)

and horribly wrong, for example the top quark is not a consituent particle of the proton, for a start its about a hundred times heavier. And yes I know theres a non-zero probably of finding a top-antitop pair in a proton due to the sea quarks but at rest energies thats effectively zero.

Oh! Shiny! (5, Interesting)

Dr. Eggman (932300) | more than 7 years ago | (#16237277)

Say what you will about the 18-mile-long International Linear Collider, but it is shiny; and I like shiny!



I certainly expect many /.ers here to grumble and groan about the ILC idea, but I like it. Even if it is a colossal expensive project in a time of world-striding debt, I think it is ultimatly in the nations best interest to build the ILC. First, it'll go a ways towards convincing the rest of the international that it need to be built here in the United States.

The US is the world leader in physics research, one of the few fields we still can claim that in. We have 8 of the world's Fusion power research facilities (and 4 more have been decomissioned for a total over time of 12,) more than the other nation in the world combined (if you exclude the ITER which we have rejoined.) But by letting the ILC go to Europe or Japan, we'd be deflating our physics potential. The ILC will be unparralleled in its power; attracting the brightest minds in physics today with real opportunity. If the ILC is in America, we'd be very attractive to those bright minds and with them opportunities to put their minds to work for our country. The LHC (slated to be the largest particle accelerator completed in 2007) would be the only comparable facility.

I think we lost out on a real opportunity by not building the superconducting supercollider. Whether or not you believe it was just being funded to show up the Soviets or not, I can't help but place it's closing as the begining of a distinct lack of focus on science in the US that is only getting worse today. Funding the ILC would at least be a demonstration that America still has interest in its scientific future, and at best would help us get the facility here and mark a hopeful turn in trends.

But showboating our physics prowess and bringing in a few eggheads isn't the only real benefit. The projects like the ILC and other big time projects like the ISS can invigorate the mind of our young children, prompting them to take an early interest in science and physics; the key factor in our nation's future. How many children do you know who want to be an astronaught because they hear about NASA and it's contributions to the ISS? It doesn't matter if it's international, as long as we participate in a meaningful way it gets talked about and can influence our kids.

So I think we should fund the ILC. Lets do it for the children.

Re:Oh! Shiny! (4, Insightful)

kaffiene (38781) | more than 7 years ago | (#16237441)

Science shouldn't be an intra-nation dick measuring competition, it should be about advancing knowledge. I personally don't care where these things get built so long as they get built.

Re:Oh! Shiny! (2, Interesting)

evilviper (135110) | more than 7 years ago | (#16241049)

I personally don't care where these things get built so long as they get built.

It's not some trivial "bragging rights" move. Brain drain is REAL, and very important for the economies of nations.

WWII pushing so many scientists to move out of Europe, is one of the main reasons the US became the top superpower in the world.

Re:Oh! Shiny! (4, Informative)

wass (72082) | more than 7 years ago | (#16238669)

I'm a doctoral student in physics (experimental condensed matter), and I can tell you that the US is already showing signs of declining in its lead in the sciences. While we are still very strong, many other regions (eg China and Europe) are also revealing trends of outpacing us.

At the 2006 March Meeting [aps.org] of the American Physical Society, some of us physicists (students and professors) went to Washington DC to lobby our Congressmen (see Congressional Visits [aps.org]) about looming shortfalls of hard sciences in the USA and to encourage them to vote on upcoming bills to increase science funding.

There is alot of eye-opening data showing how Europe and Asia are significantly outpacing the US in terms of funding basic science education, in terms of the number of undergraduate and graduate degrees in the basic sciences, etc. Graphs plotting hard sciences degrees offered per year show the US lagging quite significantly (where we used to be leading 5+ years ago). Such trends are fairly worrisome because the hard sciences are tightly coupled to engineering and industry. Industries tend to attract to places with higher concentrations of scientists, so the US losing scientists will manifest itself in loss of industries down the line.

These are the kind of things that Senators and Representatives care about. To complicate matters there is a lag between industry and science, meaning that changes in science funding and numbers of scientists now won't be manifest significantly in industry until a decade or longer out. I met with two of my Congressmen and one of my Senators (really with their staffers), who luckily were familiar with this and assured us their bosses would be voting for the upcoming legislation to increase funding.

I come from a blue state, where the Congressmen are usually liberal with such education and funding programs. The red stater politicans were more hostile to funding sciences without seeing immediate industrial rewards. Such short-term thinking in those cases is what is leading to the decline of US scientific leadership.

On a different note, I've also seen major shifts in the attraction of foreign students to the US over the past few years. The Bush administration his been cracking down on student visas, which is also hurting our lead. In my department, within the past 3-4 years, each year a handful of good students accepted to the program are denied visas to enter the US (usually from China). Well, these guys aren't going to put their career on hold, and they'll go elsewhere. Many more foreign students are going to Canada and Europe, for instance, and the great brain drain that the US was known for the past few decades is beginning to show signs of reversing.

Anyway, I just wanted to throw in my two cents becuase I specifically lobbied my Congressmen about this very issue only six months ago.

Meson Gun Question (1)

dudeX (78272) | more than 7 years ago | (#16237365)

This is a bit off topic, but in the old pen and paper RPG called "MegaTraveller" there was a weapon for spaceships called a meson gun. It described the damage as being a form of radiation that can pass through the hull of a spaceship, irradiating the equipment, and thus causing internal explosions.

For the physicists, is this theoretically possible?

Re:Meson Gun Question (1)

vondo (303621) | more than 7 years ago | (#16237575)

Well....

A meson gun might be a beam of pions (pions are one type of meson and the most stable). At the energies provided by the Tevatron, you need several meters of steel to filter out a reasonable number of these pions. They cause interactions that release other (lower energy) pions and you get a cascade effect. Yeah, you wouldn't want to be hit by an intense pion beam.

Of course, why bother with pions? A beam of protons would have the same effect (that's how you produce a beam of mesons).

I'll skip commenting on anything after "pass through the hull." :-)

Cool discovery, but not unexpected (4, Interesting)

vondo (303621) | more than 7 years ago | (#16237421)

Disclaimer: I am a particle physicist.

This is a really cool measurement. But the summary is a little sensationalist. First, the B-sub-s is not the only particle that oscillates between matter and anti-matter. Kaons have been known to do this for decades and regular B mesons have been observed to do this for 20 years or so. In fact we've known for a long time that B-sub-s mesons oscillated. What we didn't know is how fast. We knew "really fast" but not a number.

In fact, the cool thing is that a B-sub-s, statistically, will oscillate many times between particle and anti-particle before it ultimately decays. Nothing else in this class of particles will do that. For instance, most B mesons will not change flavor before decaying.

But, this is a very interesting result.

Interesting (1)

harris s newman (714436) | more than 7 years ago | (#16238143)

Could this be used as a clock for faster computers? I've never heard of anything oscillating at such a fast rate.

Re:Interesting (2, Informative)

Elemenope (905108) | more than 7 years ago | (#16239473)

Not stable enough. Most mesons have a half-life on the order of milliseconds or less. Besides, there is a theoretical upper limit for clock speed where one clock cycle is shorter than the time it takes for the signal to cross the chip (which, ostensibly, is the amount of time it takes for light to cross about a centimeter), and a more practical limitation that involves the functional switching speed of whatever it is you are building your logic gates out of. The matter/anti-matter occilation observed has a period that seriously pushes those limits.

visit Congress some time (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#16241505)

You have never been to D.C. before, have you.

A bit more matter... (1)

Arceliar (895609) | more than 7 years ago | (#16240119)

a bit more matter than antimatter survived, providing the universe with the planets, stars and galaxies visible today.


The whole universe just one bit... this is even more amazing than .kkrieger [slashdot.org], the 96kb fps. Makes me wonder what happened to the other 7 bits... I suppose 3 could be antimatter (0?) and 4 could be matter (1?) but then we'd STILL have a missing bit... unless...

Wait, the universe must have been created before 8 bits became standard!
Ok, now the joke's even gotten old to me.

decay time (1)

gwgwgw (415150) | more than 7 years ago | (#16240201)

Following the links I see that the decay time in seconds (clicking on the column header) is:

1.46Ã-10-12

How is this number to be read as seconds?

George Wyche
gwyche@io.com
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