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  • richardmitnick 1:16 pm on June 13, 2021 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "European Space Agency Lays Out Plans for Next 30 Years of Space Exploration", , , , , GIZMODO   

    From GIZMODO : “European Space Agency Lays Out Plans for Next 30 Years of Space Exploration” 

    GIZMODO bloc

    From GIZMODO

    Isaac Schultz

    The agency revealed its grand plan for the next 30 years, including research into potentially hospitable exoplanets and the earliest era of the Universe.

    An artist’s imagining of the surface of Saturn’s icy moon Enceladus.
    Illustration: ESA/Science Office

    The future of space exploration is looking absolutely thrilling, as the European Space Agency [Agence spatiale européenne][Europäische Weltraumorganisation](EU) has revealed its long-term plans for research that will, hopefully, identify potentially life-hosting planets beyond our solar system and scrutinize the earliest structures of the universe.

    Earlier this week, the ESA confirmed its plan to launch the EnVision orbiter to Venus, just days after NASA announced its own missions to visit the scorched wasteland of a planet.

    ESA EnVision depiction. A rendering of the EnVision spacecraft as presented in the public Assessment Study Report.
    Credit: ArStergann 1

    Artist’s conception of NASA’s DAVINCI probe descent stages.
    National Aeronautics Space Agency (US)/Goddard Space Flight Center (US)

    NASA VERITAS depiction. JPL-Caltech (US)

    But now the agency is looking even further into the future, laying out its ambitions through the year 2050.

    The missions are slated for 2035 to 2050 and will all be large, or L-class—the flagship missions of the agency, which typically launch once a decade. The ESA refers to each of its episodic mission planning cycles as its “Cosmic Vision” and the half-century mark as “Voyage 2050.”

    “The Voyage 2050 plan is the result of a significant effort of the science community, of the topical teams, and of the senior committee who contributed to such a lively and productive debate to arrive at this outstanding proposal,” said Fabio Favata, head of the agency’s Strategy, Planning and Coordination Office, in an agency release. “Voyage 2050 is setting sail, and will keep Europe at the forefront of space science for decades to come.”

    In a meeting this week, the ESA’s science program committee announced the three chosen themes for future L-class missions: the further exploration of our Solar System’s giant moons; the observation of temperate exoplanets in our galaxy; and the study of the evolution of the first structures in the early Universe.

    The first of these themes continues the trend of moon exploration seen in mission proposals like NASA’s Trident and the ESA’s JUpiter ICy moons Explorer, or JUICE, an L-class mission set to launch next year.

    NASA Trident annotated.

    JUICE will spearhead the work on Jovian moons, but it sounds like the ESA will double down in the decades ahead—perhaps heading beyond Jupiter to the Neptunian or Saturnian moons. Hopefully, those plans could even include a lander or a drone like NASA’s Dragonfly, which is heading to Saturn’s moon Titan in about five years, as suggested in a European Space Agency release. Since some of these moons have underground oceans, astrobiologists believe they could potentially host life.

    The agency also committed to making temperate exoplanets a mission focus by 2050. Exoplanets, especially rocky super-Earths, could help us better understand planetary evolution and the possibilities for life elsewhere. That’s where the “temperate” part of this mission focus comes in, referring to temperatures that are hospitable for life as we know it. The ESA already has probes for exoplanet research—Cheops (launched in 2019), Plato (set to launch in 2026), and Ariel (planned for 2029)—but additional missions could focus on improving observations in the mid-infrared region of the electromagnetic spectrum, which would offer better data on exoplanet atmospheres through direct observations, and, if pointed beyond exoplanets, could reveal protoplanetary discs and other structures of galactic formation.

    (NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope, slated to launch later this year, will look for objects in the same wavelength.)

    By the time the ESA’s next-gen mission gets off the ground, it’ll hopefully have a solid foundation of discoveries to build on.

    The final L-class mission plan, to study the universe’s original structures and how they emerged, will address a longstanding cosmic quandary. It’s also the most open-ended in terms of how to go about finding answers. The mission may look like the Planck and LISA space observatories, according to an agency release; the former studies the cosmic microwave background, and the latter is a gravitational wave observatory.

    It’s an exciting time for space. Launches and landings may be the most thrilling elements for some people, but it’s these planning stages that define where we’ll be decades from now.

    See the full article here .


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  • richardmitnick 8:11 am on March 27, 2019 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , GIZMODO, ,   

    From Fermi National Accelerator Lab via GIZMODO: “Fermilab Breaks Ground on a New Particle Accelerator to Solve the Mysteries of Neutrinos” 

    FNAL Art Image
    FNAL Art Image by Angela Gonzales

    From Fermi National Accelerator Lab , an enduring source of strength for the US contribution to scientific research world wide.


    GIZMODO bloc


    Ryan F. Mandelbaum

    FNAL A superconducting radiofrequency cavity responsible for accelerating particles at the new PIP-II accelerator

    Construction began last week on a new particle accelerator at Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory in Illinois. The new project will power Fermilab’s flagship neutrino-studying accelerator experiment.

    The Proton Improvement Plan II, formally approved by the Department of Energy last summer, includes plans for the highest-energy linear particle accelerator to accelerate a continuous stream of protons using superconducting radio-frequency cavities. That’s a mouthful—so it’s best to think of it as a central component to the American particle physics laboratory.

    PIP-II will “enable other particle physics experiments for many decades,” Lia Merminga, the director of the project from Fermilab, told Gizmodo.

    At present, Fermilab has a 500-foot-long superconducting radio-frequency linear accelerator that can send protons to 400 mega-electronvolts (MeV), or around 70 percent the speed of light. The PIP-II upgrade will include a 700-foot-long accelerator that doubles the energy to 800 MeV, 84 percent the speed of light. This is still a small fraction of the energies of particles produced at the Large Hadron Collider, but rather than producing bunches of particles the PIP-II upgrade will produce a continuous beam.

    Similar to how humming into a cup at just the right pitch makes your voice sound louder, linear accelerators amplify electric fields using resonance. There’s an electric field inside a cavity made from a superconductor and cooled by liquid helium, excited by a radio-frequency source with the same resonant frequency as the cavity. This increases the amplitudes of the electric fields, accelerating the charged particles that pass through.

    Though the accelerator has plenty of potential uses, it’s not the protons you should be most interested right now—instead, these protons will hit a graphite target, producing the incredibly low-mass, mysterious particles called neutrinos. Trillions of these neutrinos will travel 800 miles underground to a detector in South Dakota as part of the Deep Underground Neutrino Experiment, or DUNE.

    FNAL LBNF/DUNE from FNAL to SURF, Lead, South Dakota, USA

    Surf-Dune/LBNF Caverns at Sanford

    DUNE’s scientists hope to understand the nature of these particles, like why they oscillate between their three possible types, seemingly by magic.

    PIP-II is also notable as the first Department of Energy-funded accelerator project to be built with significant international contribution. About a quarter of the project’s funding will come from other countries, explained Merminga, including France, India, Italy, and the United Kingdom.

    The project is just one part of the new neutrino experiment, but together with the DUNE detectors and the Long-Baseline Neutrino Facilities that will house the detectors, it will be an important American particle physics experiment to keep your eye on.

    See the full article here.


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    FNAL Icon

    Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory (Fermilab), located just outside Batavia, Illinois, near Chicago, is a US Department of Energy national laboratory specializing in high-energy particle physics. Fermilab is America’s premier laboratory for particle physics and accelerator research, funded by the U.S. Department of Energy. Thousands of scientists from universities and laboratories around the world collaborate at Fermilab on experiments at the frontiers of discovery.

    FNAL MINERvA front face Photo Reidar Hahn


    FNAL Muon g-2 studio

    FNAL Short-Baseline Near Detector under construction

    FNAL Mu2e solenoid

    Dark Energy Camera [DECam], built at FNAL

    FNAL DUNE Argon tank at SURF


    FNAL Don Lincoln


    FNAL Cryomodule Testing Facility

    FNAL MINOS Far Detector in the Soudan Mine in northern Minnesota

    FNAL LBNF/DUNE from FNAL to SURF, Lead, South Dakota, USA

    FNAL/NOvA experiment map

    FNAL NOvA Near Detector


    FNAL Holometer

  • richardmitnick 11:59 am on December 5, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , GIZMODO, , , ,   

    From GIZMODO via FNAL: “Two Teams Have Simultaneously Unearthed Evidence of an Exotic New Particle” Revised to include the DZero result 

    FNAL II photo

    FNAL Art Image
    FNAL Art Image by Angela Gonzales

    Fermilab is an enduring source of strength for the US contribution to scientific research world wide.

    GIZMODO bloc

    Ryan F. Mandelbaum

    I can’t believe I’ve written three articles about this weird XI particle.

    A tetraquark (Artwork: Fermilab)

    A few months ago, physicists observed a new subatomic particle—essentially an awkwardly-named, crazy cousin of the proton. Its mere existence has energized teams of particle physicists to dream up new ways about how matter forms, arranges itself, and exists.

    Now, a pair of new research papers using different theoretical methods have independently unearthed another, crazier particle predicted by the laws of physics. If discovered in an experiment, it would provide conclusive evidence of a whole new class of exotic particles called tetraquarks, which exist outside the established expectations of the behavior of the proton sub-parts called quarks. And this result is more than just mathematics.

    “We think this is not totally academic,” Chris Quigg, theoretical physicist from the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory told Gizmodo. “Its discovery may well happen.”

    Bust first, some physics. Zoom all the way in and you’ll find that matter is made of atoms. Atoms, in turn, are made of protons, neutrons, and electrons. Protons and neutrons can further be divided into three quarks.

    Physicists have discovered six types of quarks, which also have names, masses, and electrical charges. Protons and neutrons are made from “up” and “down” quarks, the lightest two. But there are four rarer, heavier ones. From least to most massive, they are: “strange,” “charm,” “bottom,” and “top.” Each one has an antimatter partner—the same particle, but with the opposite electrical sign. As far as physicists have confirmed, these quarks and antiquarks can only arrange themselves in pairs or threes. They cannot exist on their own in nature.

    Scientists in the Large Hadron Collider’s LHCb collaboration recently announced spotting a new arrangement of three quarks, called the Ξcc++ or the “doubly charged, doubly charmed xi particle.”

    CERN/LHCb detector

    It had an up quark and two heavy charm quarks. But “most of these particles” with three quarks “containing two heavy quarks, charm or beauty, have not yet been found,” physicist Patrick Koppenburg from Nikhef, the Dutch National Institute for Subatomic Physics, told Gizmodo back then. “This is the first in a sense.”

    The DZero collaboration at Fermilab announced the discovery of a new particle whose quark content appears to be qualitatively different from normal.

    The particle newly discovered by DZero decays into a Bs meson and pi meson. The Bs meson decays into a J/psi and a phi meson, and these in turn decay into two muons and two kaons, respectively. The dotted lines indicate promptly decaying particles.

    The study, using the full data set acquired at the Tevatron collider from 2002 to 2011 totaling 10 inverse femtobarns, identified the Bs meson through its decay into intermediate J/psi and phi mesons, which subsequently decayed into a pair of oppositely charged muons and a pair of oppositely charged K mesons respectively. Science paper in Physical Review Letters.

    With the knowledge such a particle could exist (and with the knowledge of its properties like its mass), two teams of physicists crunched the numbers in two separate ways. One team used extrapolations of the experimental data and methods they’d previously used to predict this past summer’s particle. The other used a mathematical abstraction of the real world, using approximations that take into account just how much heavier the charm, bottom, and top are than the rest to simplify the calculations.

    In both new papers published in Physical Review Letters https://journals.aps.org/prl/abstract/10.1103/PhysRevLett.119.202002 and https://journals.aps.org/prl/abstract/10.1103/PhysRevLett.119.202001, a stable four-quark particle with two bottom quarks, an anti-up quark, and an anti-down quark fell out of the math. Furthermore, the predicted particles’ masses were not quite the same, but similar enough to raise eyebrows.

    “As you notice, the conclusions are basically identical on a qualitative level,” Marek Karliner, author of the first study from Tel Aviv University in Israel, told Gizmodo. And while lots of tetraquark candidates have been spotted, this particle’s strange identity—including the added properties and stabilization from its two heavy bottom quarks—would offer unambiguous evidence of the particle’s existence.

    “The things we’re talking about are so weird that they couldn’t be something else,” said Quigg.

    But now it’s just a manner of finding the dang things. Quigg thought a new collider such as one proposed for China might be required.

    Rendering of the proposed CEPC [CEPC-SppC for Circular Electron-Positron Collider and Super Proton-Proton Collider]. Photo: IHEP [China’s Institute of High Energy Physics]

    But physicists are in agreement that the sometimes-overlooked LHCb experiment has been doing some of the year’s most exciting work—Karliner thought the experiment could soon spot the particle. “My experimental colleagues are quite firm in this statement. They say that if it’s there, they will see it.” He thought the observation could come in perhaps two to three years time, though Quigg was less optimistic.

    Such unambiguous detection of the tetraquark would confirm guesses from as far back as 1964 as to how quarks arrange themselves. And the independent confirmation from different methods have made both teams confident.

    “I think we have pretty great confidence that the doubly-b tetraquark could exist,” said Quigg. “It’s just a matter of looking hard for it.”

    See the full article here .

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  • richardmitnick 5:32 pm on April 5, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , GIZMODO, , Scientists Are Getting Closer to Understanding Where All the Antimatter Has Gone   

    From GIZMODO: “Scientists Are Getting Closer to Understanding Where All the Antimatter Has Gone’ 

    GIZMODO bloc


    Ryan F. Mandelbaum

    From Nature: “The fiber shroud of the liquid argon veto and the copper head for mounting the germanium strings. View from bottom.” Image: V. Wagner, GERDA collaboration

    You and me, we’re matter. Everyone you know is matter. Everything on Earth, spare a few particles, is matter. Most of the things in space are matter. But we don’t have convincing reasons why there should be so much more matter than antimatter. So where’s all the antimatter?

    A team of European scientists have taken a major step in understanding this conundrum, using a house-sized detector called the Germanium Detector Array, or GERDA, buried inside a mountain in Grand Sasso, Italy. GERDA’s scientists are looking for a strange behavior in radioactive atoms, called “neutrinoless double beta decay” (I’ll get to that in a second). Some versions of the rules of particle physics says this behavior could help explain where all the antimatter went. But for now, the experiment is reporting some important results: it works.

    “A discovery of [neutrinoless double beta] decay would have far-reaching consequences for our understanding of particle physics and cosmology,” the researchers write in the paper, published today in the journal Nature. It’s important that we understand why there is more matter than antimatter today. The Big Bang probably should have created equal amounts… but it didn’t [CERN].

    If you’ve got a good handle on what neutrinoless double beta decay is, you can skip the next three paragraphs. If not, it’s time for a break from our regular programming.

    Matter is stuff, and it’s made of particles. Antimatter is also stuff, made from the particles’ antiparticle counterparts. We’ve made it in labs and some radioactive elements produce it. Every particle has an antiparticle, like electrons and positrons, which have the same mass, but opposite electric charge. If they meet, they annihilate each other in a burst of energy. There is not a lot of antimatter in the universe. Capisce?

    From Nature: “The inner walls of the water tank are covered by a reflecting foil improving the light detection. This permits the identification of cosmic muons.” Image: K. Freund, GERDA collaboration

    Neutrinos, they’re weird. Scientists don’t know how much they weigh, but even at the upper limit of what we guess their mass is, they’re many times lighter than electrons. They’re also really common—for example, the sun sending almost a hundred billion of them per square centimeter of your body every second. They don’t interact via electromagnetism, though, so they don’t harm us in any way. If they were their own antiparticle, what scientists call “Majorana particles,” they should annihilate one another. Most extensions of our main theory of particle physics, called the Standard Model, say this is true.

    So, the key is to build an experiment that can test whether neutrinos are annihilating one another, and to look for a process that should usually create neutrinos, but doesn’t. In this case, that process is radioactive beta decay, where the neutral neutron turns into a positive proton, a negative electron, and an antineutrino. Some forms of some atoms, like germanium should go through double beta decay, where two neutrons decay simultaneously. If scientists observe double beta decay without any neutrinos (or antineutrinos), then they can say they’ve spotted this neutrinoless double beta decay. This would demonstrate that neutrinos and antineutrinos are essentially the same, and convince us that our physics theories can explain why there’s more matter than antimatter.

    From Nature: “Working on the germanium detector array within the glove box which is located in the clean room on top of the liquid argon cryostat.” (Image: J. Suvorov, GERDA collaboration)

    That’s what GERDA is looking for. They’re watching 35.6 kilograms of a special form of germanium, the shiny semiconducting metal, sitting inside a vat of liquid argon inside a bigger vat of water, waiting however long it takes for it to experience a neutrinoless double beta decay. No, they haven’t found any evidence of the process yet. But their experiment works really, really well—there’s no background noise, which is an incredible feat. Otherwise, we might see a false signal. And there’s radiation that could set off the detector everywhere, from the sun to the air we breathe.

    “Imagine running a radiation detector for a year and seeing nothing! It’s quite an experience,” said Duke physicist Phillip Barbeau, who is not involved in the GERDA collaboration, in an interview with Gizmodo. “We need discerning detectors, ones that avoid sources of these backgrounds by going deep underground, avoiding dust, building them in clean rooms, avoiding cosmic activation of these materials. After all, they can turn radioactive simply by being above ground.”

    Scientists are at least sure that the experiment is working, and not just turned off, by the way. “People would give them the benefit of the doubt,” said Barbeau. But “it’s a difficult experiment to run because you see nothing in the detector.”

    But there are plenty of other complicating factors in this process aside from getting rid of all the outside noise. Most processes we’ve observed in the universe conserves a property called lepton number. In theory, the number of leptons (neutrinos and electrons are examples of leptons) minus the number of antileptons should remain the same before and after some physical reaction. Regular beta decay starts with a lepton number of zero and ends with zero (one electron minus one antineutrino). Neutrinoless double beta decay starts with zero and ends with two. As a note, we want to see this violation happen. I’m just pointing out that this decay is breaking a not-that-well-supported rule.

    And the neutrinoless double beta decay is really, really rare—its half life, the amount of time it takes for half of the possible events to happen, is several times the age of the universe. So scientists might have to sit and watch this vat for a very, very long time. But hey, that’s why they have so much germanium.

    GERDA isn’t the only experiment looking for this decay—there’s the MAJORANA experiment, the CUORE-0, COBRA, and others.

    U Washington Majorana Demonstrator Experiment at SURF

    Yale CUORE-0

    Anyway, now that we’ve got the working GERDA detector…it’s time to watch and wait.

    Yale CUORE-0

    If we don’t spot this decay, we might just have to go looking for other evidence of neutrinos being their own antiparticles. And there’s so much more about neutrinos we don’t know—we can’t even accurately measure their mass, for example.

    See the full article here .

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  • richardmitnick 11:55 am on March 30, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: Asteroid Bee-Zed, , , , , , GIZMODO, or 2015 BZ509   

    From GIZMODO: “This Backwards-Orbiting Asteroid Has Been Flirting With Death For a Million Years” 

    GIZMODO bloc


    George Dvorsky

    The retrograde asteroid is shown in green. (Credit: Paul Weigert/Western University)

    Most asteroids orbit the Sun in a counterclockwise fashion, but a newly-discovered object nicknamed Bee-Zed goes against the grain, spinning around the Solar System the opposite way. Not only that, it frequently ventures within Jupiter’s orbital space—putting it on a potential collision course with the gas giant and its 6,000 co-orbiting asteroids.

    Of the millions of documented asteroids in the Solar System, a scant 82 of them, or 0.01 percent, orbit the Sun in a retrograde motion. But as a new study in Nature points out, asteroid Bee-Zed, or 2015 BZ509, is exceptional even among these backwards-orbiting misfits. It has the distinction of being the only known retrograde object in the Solar System that shares its orbital plane with another planet, in this case mighty Jupiter.

    What makes this celestial anomaly stranger still is that Jupiter is accompanied by 6,000 “Trojan” asteroids, the vast majority of which follow the gas giant in a prograde orbit (a small number of Trojans orbit Jupiter in a retrograde motion, but unlike Bee-Zed, they don’t orbit the Sun independently). Similar to a racecar driver going the wrong way around a track, Bee-Zed is careening towards these objects with each trip around the Sun. According to calculations made by Western University astronomer Paul Weigert, Bee-Zed has been doing this for at least a million years, amounting to tens of thousands of successful “laps” around the Sun. So far, it has emerged unscathed from these close encounters.

    Bee-Zed’s success may not be an accident. As noted in the study, Jupiter’s gravity is causing the rogue asteroid to weave in and out of the planet’s path each time the two objects pass. It’s the only asteroid known to have this relationship with a planet, and this state of “synchronicity” should allow Bee-Zed to avoid a catastrophic collision with either Jupiter or one of its Trojans for the next million years at least. This analysis is based on calculations and observations made with the Large Binocular Camera on the Large Binocular Telescope in Mt. Graham, Arizona.

    Large Binocular Telescope, Mount Graham, Arizona, USA


    With each orbit Bee-Zed and Jupiter make around the sun, the retrograde object passes once inside and once outside the gas giant. This results in two opposing gravitational nudges that keeps the object on a safe path. Even though Bee-Zed crosses Jupiter’s orbital plane, it never actually gets too close; the nearest the two objects get to each other is about 109 million miles, roughly the distance between Earth and the Sun. So for Bee-Zed, it’s like playing “chicken” with a massive semi-truck—but the space rock only ventures onto its path when the truck is still far, far away.

    Not much is known about Bee-Zed, which was discovered by the Panoramic Survey Telescope And Rapid Response System (Pan-STARRS) in 2015.

    Pan-STARRS1 located on Haleakala, Maui, HI, USA

    And although astronomers presume it to be a rocky asteroid, they aren’t even entirely sure—it could be an ice-covered comet. In fact, it may have originated from the same place as Halley’s Comet, perhaps the most famous retrograde object in the Solar System.

    See the full article here .

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  • richardmitnick 1:31 pm on March 28, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , GIZMODO, , , SUPERRADIANCE   

    From PI via GIZMODO: “Mind-Blowing New Theory Connects Black Holes, Dark Matter, and Gravitational Waves” 

    Perimeter Institute
    Perimeter Institute


    Ryan F. Mandelbaum

    The past few years have been incredible for physics discoveries. Scientists spotted the Higgs boson, a particle they’d been hunting for almost 50 years, in 2012, and gravitational waves, which were theorized 100 years ago, in 2016. This year, they’re slated to take a picture of a black hole. So, thought some theorists, why not combine all of the craziest physics ideas into one, a physics turducken? What if we, say, try to spot the dark matter radiating off of black holes through their gravitational waves?

    It’s really not that strange of an idea. Now that scientists have detected gravitational waves, ripples in spacetime spawned by the most violent physical events, they want to use their discovery to make real physics observations. They think they have a way to spot all-new particles that might make up dark matter, an unknown substance that accounts for over 80 percent of all of the gravity in the universe.

    The basic idea is that we’re trying to use black holes… the densest, most compact objects in the universe, to search for new kinds of particles,” Masha Baryakhtar, postdoctoral researcher at the Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics in Canada, told Gizmodo. Especially one particle: “The axion. People have been looking for it for 40 years.”

    Black holes are the universe’s sinkholes, so strong that light can’t escape their pull once it’s entered. They’ve got such powerful gravitational fields that they produce gravitational waves when they collide with each other. Dark matter might not be made from particles (specks of mass and energy), but if it was, we might observe it as axions, particles around one quintillion (a billion billion) times lighter than an electron, hanging around black holes. Now that you understand all the terms, here’s how the theory works.

    Baryakhtar and her teammates think that black holes are more than just bear traps for light, but nuclei at the center of a sort of gravitational atom. The axions would be the electrons, so to speak. If you already know about black holes, you know they have incredibly hot, high-energy discs of gas orbiting them, produced by the friction between particles accelerated by the black hole’s gravity. This theory ignores that stuff, since axions wouldn’t interact via friction.

    Keeping with the atom analogy, the axions can jump around the black hole, gaining and losing energy the same way that electrons do. But electrons interact via electromagnetism, so they let out electromagnetic waves, or light waves. Axions interact via gravity, so they let out gravitational waves. But like I said earlier, axions are tiny. Unlike a tiny atom, the black hole in these “gravity atoms” rotates, supercharging the space around it and coaxing it into producing more axions. Despite the axion’s tiny mass, this so-called superradiance process could generate 10^80 axions, the same number of atoms in the entire universe, around a single black hole. Are you still with me? Crazy spinning blob makes lots of crazy stuff.

    Craziest of all, we should be able to hear a gravitational wave hum from these axions moving around and releasing gravitational waves in our detectors, similar to the way you see spectral lines coming off of electrons in atoms in chemistry class. “You’d see this at a particular frequency which would be roughly twice the axion mass,” said Baryakhtar.

    There are giant gravitational wave detectors scattered around the world; presently there’s one called LIGO (Laser Interferometer Gravitational Wave Observatory) in Washington State, another LIGO in Louisiana, and one called Virgo in Italy that are sensitive enough to detect gravitational waves, and with upgrades, to detect axions and prove their theory right.

    Caltech/MIT Advanced aLigo Hanford, WA, USA installation

    Caltech/MIT Advanced aLigo detector installation Livingston, LA, USA

    VIRGO Gravitational Wave interferometer, near Pisa, Italy

    Scientists would essentially need to record data, play it back, and tune their analysis like a radio to pick up the signal at just the right frequency.

    There are other ways the team thinks it could spot this superradiance effect, by measuring the spins in sets of colliding black holes. If black holes really do produce axions, scientists would see very few quickly-spinning black holes in collisions, since the superradiance effects would slow down some of the colliding black holes and create a visible effect in the data, according to the research published this month in the journal Physical Review D. The black hole spins would have a specific pattern which we should be able to spot in the gravitational wave detector data.

    Other scientists were immediately excited about this paper. “I’m always super excited about new ways to detect my favorite pet particle, the axion! Also, SUPERRADIANCE!” Dr. Chanda Prescod-Weinstein, the University of Washington axion wrangler, told Gizmodo in an email. “It’s so cool, and I haven’t read a paper that talked about [superradiance] in years. So it was really fun to see superradiance and axions in one paper.”

    There are a few drawbacks, as there are with any theory. These theorized black hole atoms would have to produce axions of a certain mass, but that mass isn’t an ideal one for the axion to be a dark matter particle, said Prescod-Weinstein. Plus, the second detection idea, the one that looks at the spin rate of colliding black holes, might not work. “They say [in the paper] that they don’t take into account the potential influence of another black hole” in the colliding pair, Dr. Lionel London, a research associate at Cardiff University School of Physics and Astronomy specializing in gravitational wave modeling, told Gizmodo. “If this does turn out to be a significant effect and they’re not including it, this could cast doubt on their results.” But there’s hope. “There’s good reason to believe the effect of a companion [black hole] won’t be large.”

    When would we spot these kinds of events? As of now, the LIGO and Virgo gravitational wave detectors probably aren’t ready. “With the current sensitivity we’re on the edge” of detecting axions, said Baryakhtar. “But LIGO will continue improving their instruments and at design sensitivity we might be able to see as many as 1000s of these axion signals coming in,” she said. Thousands of hums from these black hole-atoms.

    So, if you’ve gotten all the way to this point of the story and still don’t understand what’s going on, a recap: We’ve got these gravitational wave detectors that cost hundreds of millions of dollars each, that are good at spotting really crazy things going on in the universe. Theorists have come up with an interesting way to use them to solve one of the most important interstellar mysteries: What the heck is dark matter? As with most new ideas in theoretical physics, this is something cool to think about and isn’t ready for the big time… yet.

    “I think that timescale is always a concern, but we’re just getting started with LIGO discoveries,” said Prescod-Weinstein. “So who knows what’s around the corner over the next 10 years.”

    See the full article here .

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    About Perimeter

    Perimeter Institute is the world’s largest research hub devoted to theoretical physics. The independent Institute was founded in 1999 to foster breakthroughs in the fundamental understanding of our universe, from the smallest particles to the entire cosmos. Research at Perimeter is motivated by the understanding that fundamental science advances human knowledge and catalyzes innovation, and that today’s theoretical physics is tomorrow’s technology. Located in the Region of Waterloo, the not-for-profit Institute is a unique public-private endeavour, including the Governments of Ontario and Canada, that enables cutting-edge research, trains the next generation of scientific pioneers, and shares the power of physics through award-winning educational outreach and public engagement.

  • richardmitnick 11:40 am on February 15, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: An entire landscape possibly reshaping itself, An iceberg nearly seven times the size of New York City, Antarctic Peninsula’s Larsen C ice shelf, GIZMODO, , How ice shelves break, Iceberg calving on a grand scale, UK-based Project MIDAS monitoring the rift via satellites   

    From GIZMODO: “What Happens When That Enormous Antarctic Ice Shelf Finally Breaks?” 

    GIZMODO bloc


    Maddie Stone

    Rift in the Larsen C ice shelf photographed by NASA’s IceBridge aerial survey in November 2016. Image: NASA/John Sonntag

    For the past few months, scientists have watched with bated breath as a rift in the Antarctic Peninsula’s Larsen C ice shelf grows longer by the day. Eventually, the rift will make a clean break, expelling a 2,000 square mile chunk of ice into the sea. It’ll be an epic sight to behold—but what happens after the ice is gone?

    Glaciologists, who have been tracking the rift since it first appeared on the Larsen C ice shelf in 2014, are now scrambling to answer that very question. So-called iceberg calving is a natural geophysical process along the Antarctica’s frosty fringes; think of it as the planetary equivalent of your fingernails growing too long and breaking off. But this is one of the largest such events on record, with the potential to dramatically reshape the entire peninsula.

    Moreover, while there’s little direct evidence linking the Larsen C ice shelf breakup to climate change, scientists worry that the processes playing out here could be but a taste of what’s to come for West Antarctica, as rising air and sea temperatures cause this vast, icy mantle to weaken from above and below.

    “What we’re worried about is what we’re seeing here is going to happen everywhere else,” Thomas Wagner, director of NASA’s polar science program told Gizmodo. “[Larsen C] is a natural laboratory for understanding how ice shelves break.”

    Timelapse of the growing rift in the Larsen C ice shelf captured by ESA’s Sentinel-1 satellite. Image: Project MIDAS

    Over 100 miles long, up to two miles wide, and lengthening at a rate of five football fields per day, the rift in the Larsen C ice shelf has been in and out of the spotlight since it first emerged on the eastern flank of the Antarctic Peninsula in 2014. Since punching its way through a section of softer, more ductile ice, the rift has followed a predictable pattern—periods of quietude, punctuated by sudden growth spurts—that experts say is typical of ice shelf calving. But over the last two months, things have accelerated “quite a lot,” according to Martin O’Leary, a glaciologist with the UK-based Project MIDAS, which is monitoring the rift via satellites. “Now we’re paying attention to every satellite image that comes through to see if it jumps again,” he told Gizmodo.

    Having grown an impressive 17 miles (27 km) since December, the Larsen C rift has about 12 miles (20 km) to go before it reaches the other end of the shelf, snaps off, and spits out an iceberg nearly seven times the size of New York City.

    This could happen any day. “It could go tomorrow, it could go in a year’s time,” O’Leary said, adding that the ice “has to leave eventually.” That’s because additional ice is constantly pushing seaward from the peninsula’s interior, exerting a powerful shear force on the ever-weakening shelf.

    The good news is, we don’t have to worry about Larsen C’s breakup contributing to sea level rise. Ice shelves are, by definition, already sitting on top of water. “It’s already made its sea level rise contribution,” O’Leary said.

    The ice shelves at the tip of the Antarctic Peninsula have been changing dramatically in recent decades, as illustrated in this composite satellite photo showing the historic ice extent prior to calving events. Image: NASA Earth Observatory

    Aside from possibly setting a few penguins adrift, the real concern with Larsen C’s imminent calving is what it’ll mean for the rest of the shelf—and for the ice currently tethered to land on the Antarctic Peninsula, which can still contribute to sea level rise, albeit probably just a few millimeters. Glaciologists often liken ice shelves to corks in a champagne bottle: remove them, and all the stuff they’ve bottled up starts to escape. This may be especially true for the Larsen C ice shelf, which appears to be snapping off at two crucial pinning points where land meets ice.

    “We expect this to create a new zone where calving happens more readily, now that we’ve removed these pinning points,” Wagner said. “And when these ice shelves break up, the ice behind surges into the ocean, getting thinner.”

    In other words, Larsen C’s soon-to-be iceberg could be the tip of a much larger, proverbial iceberg, of an entire landscape reshaping itself. The changes glaciologists expect around Larsen C jibe with a bigger-picture pattern of ice retreat across the peninsula, including earlier calving events at the neighboring ice shelves Larsen A and B, which scientists have attributed to rising temperatures.

    Whether or not climate change is playing a direct role in the action on Larsen C, it’s a clearly force to be reckoned with across the Antarctic Peninsula, where average temperatures have risen a staggering 3 degrees Celsius (5.4 degrees Fahrenheit) since pre-industrial times. (Globally-averaged temperatures have risen roughly a single degree Celsius over the same time period.)

    “We may see that one this chunk of [ice] is gone, Larsen C [starts] becoming more vulnerable to climate impacts,” O’Leary said.

    Bird’s eye view of the Amundsen sea embayment, where major glaciers of the West Antarctic ice sheet empty into the ocean. Pope, Smith, and Kohler glaciers were the focus of this study. Image: NASA/GSFC/SVS

    Most importantly to researchers, the breakup of the Larsen C ice shelf could be a harbinger of what’s to come in other vulnerable parts of West Antarctica, particularly the Amundsen Sea embayment to the south, where warming waters are already causing the enormous Pine Island and Thwaites glaciers to melt and retreat. A summary of a scientific workshop compiled last year by the National Snow and Ice Data Center warns that “a significant retreat of the Thwaites Glacier system would trigger a wider collapse of most of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet.” That entire ice sheet contains enough water to raise global sea level by 3.3 meters (over ten feet), on a timescale of decades to centuries.

    “This is going to happen on other ice shelves,” Wagner said, adding that NASA and others have a unique opportunity with Larsen C, to study a massive iceberg calving event from satellites, airborne surveys like Operation IceBridge, and ground-based data. “We’re gonna watch how the ice shelf responds mechanically [as it breaks]. Larsen C is how we model what’s going to happen to Thwaites.”

    In other words, far more disturbing than the breakup of the Larsen C ice shelf is what it can tell us about our future.

    See the full article here .

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    “We come from the future.”

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  • richardmitnick 12:45 pm on January 25, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , GIZMODO, , The speed of dark   

    From GIZMODO: “What’s the Speed of Dark?” 

    GIZMOGO pictorial
    Sophie Weiner

    Illustration: Jim Cooke/Gizmodo

    The speed of light is one of the most important constants in physics. First measured by Danish astronomer Olaus Roemer in 1676, it was Albert Einstein who realized that light sets an ultimate speed limit for our universe, of 186,000 rip-roaring miles per second. But while the immutability of lightspeed is drilled into physics students at a young age, Einstein’s laws also state that all motion is relative, which got us thinking: what’s the speed of light’s nefarious doppleganger, darkness?

    We’re not the first to ask this question (shout out comedian Steven Wright) or take it seriously, but in asking scientists and researchers, we left the interpretation of “darkness” open, eliciting some fascinating responses from experts on black holes and quantum physics. It turns out, darkness could be just as fast as light, or it could be infinitely slower—it all depends on your perspective.

    George Musser

    The speed of dark? The easy answer is that it’s just the speed of light. Switch off the sun and our sky would go dark eight minutes later. But easy is boring! For starters, what we commonly call the “speed of light” is the speed of propagation, and that’s not always the deciding factor. A shadow swoops across the landscape at a speed governed by the object that casts it. For instance, as a lighthouse beacon rotates, it lights up the surroundings at regular intervals. The ground speed of its shadow increases with distance from the lighthouse.

    Go far enough away and the shadow will wash over you faster than the propagation speed of light. (This happens for real in rotating neutron stars in the cosmos, with measurable consequences.) All the speed of light means in this case is that there’s a delay: if the lighthouse points toward you at 12 o’clock, you will see the flash a little later. But that doesn’t affect the pace of events you see at your location.

    While we’re at it, is there even such a thing as darkness? If you did switch off the sun, Earth wouldn’t go completely dark. Light from stars, nebulae, and the big bang would fill the sky. The planet and everything on it, including our bodies, would blaze in the infrared. Depending on how, exactly, you’d managed to switch the sun off, it would keep on glowing for eons. As long as we were able to see, we’d see something. No light detector can register total darkness, because, if nothing else, quantum fluctuations produce tiny flashes of light. Even a black hole, the darkest conceivable object, emits some light. In physics, unlike human affairs, light always chases away dark.

    Darkness isn’t a physical category, but a state of mind. Photons hitting, or not hitting, retinal cells may trigger the experience, but do not explain the subjective experience of darkness, any more than the length of waves explains the experience of color or sound. Our conscious experience changes from moment to moment, but the individual frames of that experience are timeless. In that sense, darkness has no speed.

    And what about speed in general—is there such a thing? It presupposes a framework of space, and scientists see phenomena in quantum physics where spatial concepts seem not to apply—suggesting, to some, that space is derived from a more fundamental level of reality where these is no such as thing as position, distance, or speed. It must be the level that Steven Wright operates on.

    Avi Loeb

    Close to a black hole, matter falls in at a speed that is close to the speed of light. Once it enters the so-called event-horizon of the black holes, nothing can escape. Even light is trapped inside the horizon forever. Hence a black hole can be thought of as the ultimate prison.

    A star like the Sun can be shredded (“spaghettified”) into a stream of gas if it passes too close to a massive black hole, like the one (weighting six billion solar masses) at the center of the Milky Way galaxy.

    As matter falls into the black hole, it often rubs against itself and heats up. As a result it radiates. If the accretion rate is high enough, the force of the radiation flowing out could potentially stop additional matter from falling in. Many of the most massive black holes in the universe, weighting billions of solar masses, are observed to accrete at the maximum possible rate (also called the Eddington limit, after Sir Arthur Eddington who discovered theoretically the maximum radiation output possible for gravity to overcome the radiation force).

    Neil DeGrasse Tyson

    The speed of dark… Consider dark getting erased by light. The light erases it at the speed of light so the speed of dark would be negative the speed of light. If light is a vector, it has magnitude and direction, so… to call it negative means it’s in a negative direction. The dark is receding rather than advancing. I’d call it negative the speed of light.

    Sarah Caudill

    A black hole has gravity so strong that not even light can escape once it has passed the event horizon, an invisible boundary marking the point of no return. Because the black hole has such strong gravity, time dilation will affect observations from outside the strong gravitational field.

    For example, a distant observer watching a glowing object fall into a black hole will see it slow down and fade, eventually becoming so dim it cannot be seen. This observer won’t ever see the object cross the event horizon.

    We can also take the perspective of stuff falling into the black hole, instead of a distant observer. For example, if we take a black hole in the center of a glowing gas cloud, say from a star that has been broken up by passing too close to the black hole, the material will form a flattened disk, known as an accretion disk. This gas will fall into the black hole, but it is not instantaneous. There is a speed limit enforced by the radiation pressure from the hot gas which will fight against the inward force of gravity from the black hole. As the gas falls into the black hole, the black hole grows in size. If a black hole that is 10 times as massive as our Sun is accreting at the maximum allowed rate, in about a billion years it could have reached 100 million times the mass of our Sun.

    David Reitze

    Basically, it depends on whether you’re the matter being consumed by the infinite abyss of a black hole or you’re far enough away to be a dispassionate observer watching someone else falling into the infinite abyss. If you happen to be the unlucky matter falling in, the speed is potentially very large, in principle approaching the speed of light.

    If you’re the observer and you’re far enough away, the speed with which matter is consumed is dramatically slowed down due to an effect known as gravitational time dilation—clocks run slower in gravitational fields, and much slower in the immense gravitational fields near the event horizon of the black hole. By ‘far enough away’, I mean that in your local reference frame, your stationary relative to the black hole (i.e, not getting sucked in) and your local clock is not affected by the gravitational field of the black hole. In fact, to the far away person it will take an infinite amount of time for something to travel to the event horizon of the black hole.

    Niayesh Afshordi

    I believe the speed “of dark” is infinite! In classical physics, the vast darkness of space could be just empty vacuum. However, we have learnt from quantum mechanics that there is no real dark or empty space. Even where there is no light that we can see, electromagnetic field can fluctuate in and out of existence, especially on small scales and short times. Even gravitational waves, the ripples in the geometry of spacetime that were recently observed by the LIGO observatory, should have these quantum fluctuations.

    The problem is that the gravity of these quantum ripples is infinite. In other words, currently there is no sensible theory of quantum gravity that people could agree on. One way to avoid the problem is if the speed “of dark”, i.e. the quantum ripples, goes to infinity (or becomes arbitrarily big) on small scales and short times. Of course, that’s only one possibility, but is a simple (and my favourite) way to understand big bang, black holes, dark energy, and quantum gravity.

    See the full article here .

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  • richardmitnick 9:30 am on January 9, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: After More Than 100 Years, , California's Iconic Tunnel Tree Is No More, GIZMODO, The Pioneer Cabin Tree, Yosemite’s Wawona Tunnel Tree   

    From GIZMODO: “After More Than 100 Years, California’s Iconic Tunnel Tree Is No More” 

    GIZMOGO pictorial


    Hudson Hongo

    Pioneer Cabin Tree. http://www.stancoe.org

    The Pioneer Cabin Tree, a giant sequoia in Calaveras Big Trees State Park that was tunneled through in the 1880s, has fallen due to severe winter weather. It was believed to be hundreds of years old.

    Calaveras Big Trees Association

    Since it was first hollowed out in imitation of Yosemite’s Wawona Tunnel Tree, thousands of tourists and vehicles have passed through the sequoia. The Wawona tree was killed by the process and later fell during a storm in the 1960s, but the Pioneer Cabin Tree clung on, showing signs of life well into the 21st century.

    Yosemite’s Wawona Tunnel Tree. Credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/94207108@N02/24177368222

    “The pioneer cabin tree was chosen because of its extremely wide base and large fire scar,” wrote park interpretive specialist Wendy Harrison in 1990. “A few branches bearing green foliage tell us that this tree is still managing to survive.”

    On Facebook, where the tree’s death was first announced, park visitors shared generations of memories involving the giant sequoia. The Calaveras Big Trees Association, however, offered a simple message about the tree’s return to the earth it sprouted from so many years ago.

    “This iconic and still living tree—the tunnel tree—enchanted many visitors,” wrote the association. “The storm was just too much for it.”

    See the full article here .

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  • richardmitnick 12:54 pm on December 17, 2016 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: GIZMODO, Here's What Would Happen If a Giant Asteroid Struck the Ocean   

    From GIZMODO: “Here’s What Would Happen If a Giant Asteroid Struck the Ocean” 

    GIZMODO bloc


    Maddie Stone

    Image: Los Alamos National Laboratory

    Seventy percent of Earth’s surface is covered by water, meaning if we were unfortunate enough to be struck by an enormous asteroid, it’d probably make a big splash. A team of data scientists at Los Alamos National Laboratory recently decided to model what would happen if an asteroid struck the sea. Despite the apocalyptic subject matter, the results are quite beautiful.

    Galen Gisler and his colleagues at LANL are using supercomputers to visualize how the kinetic energy of a fast-moving space rock would be transferred to the ocean on impact. The results, which Gisler presented at the American Geophysical Union meeting this week, may come as a surprise to those who grew up on disaster movies like Deep Impact. Asteroids are point sources, and it turns out waves generated by point sources diminish rapidly, rather than growing more ferocious as they cover hundreds of miles to swallow New York.

    The bigger concern, in most asteroid-on-ocean situations, is water vapor.

    “The most significant effect of an impact into the ocean is the injection of water vapor into the stratosphere, with possible climate effects” Gisler said. Indeed, Gisler’s simulations show that large (250 meter-across) rock coming in very hot could vaporize up to 250 metric megatons of water. Lofted into the troposphere, that water vapor would rain out fairly quickly. But water vapor that makes it all the way up to the stratosphere can stay there for a while. And because it’s a potent greenhouse gas, this could have a major effect on our climate.

    Of course, not all asteroids make it to the surface at all. Smaller sized ones, which are much more common in our solar neighborhood, tend to explode while they’re still in the sky, creating a pressure wave that propagates outwards in all directions. Gisler’s models show that when these “airburst” asteroids strike over the ocean, they produce less stratospheric water vapor, and smaller waves. “The airburst considerably mitigates the effect on the water,” he said.

    Overall, Gisler says, asteroids over the ocean pose less of a danger to humans than asteroids over the land. There’s one big exception, however, and that’s asteroids that strike near a coastline.

    “An impact or an airburst [near] a populated shore will be very dangerous,” Gisler said. In that case, the gigantic, city-devouring tsunami every B-list disaster movie has primed you for might actually arrive.

    See the full article here .

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