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  • richardmitnick 2:52 pm on January 16, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , , , , Symmetry Magazine, The Dark Sector   

    From Symmetry: “Voyage into the dark sector” 

    Symmetry Mag


    Sarah Charley

    Artwork by Sandbox Studio, Chicago with Ana Kova

    A hidden world of particles awaits. [We hope!]

    We don’t need extra dimensions or parallel universes to have an alternate reality superimposed right on top of our own. Invisible matter is everywhere.

    For example, take neutrinos generated by the sun, says Jessie Shelton, a theorist at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign who works on dark sector physics. “We are constantly bombarded with neutrinos, but they pass right through us. They share the same space as our atoms but almost never interact.”

    As far as scientists can tell, neutrinos are solitary particles. But what if there is a whole world of particles that interact with one another but not with ordinary atoms? This is the idea behind the dark sector: a theoretical world of matter existing alongside our own but invisible to the detectors we use to study the particles we know.

    “Dark sectors are, by their very definition, built out of particles that don’t interact strongly with the Standard Model,” Shelton says.

    The Standard Model is a physicist’s field guide to the 17 particles and forces that make up all visible matter.

    The Standard Model of elementary particles (more schematic depiction), with the three generations of matter, gauge bosons in the fourth column, and the Higgs boson in the fifth.

    Standard Model of Particle Physics from Symmetry Magazine

    It explains how atoms can form and why the sun shines. But it cannot explain gravity, the cosmic imbalance of matter and antimatter, or the disparate strengths of nature’s four forces.

    CERN ALPHA Antimatter Factory

    On its own, an invisible world of dark sector particles cannot solve all these problems. But it certainly helps.

    Artwork by Sandbox Studio, Chicago with Ana Kova

    The main selling point for the dark sector is that the theories comprehensively confront the problem of dark matter. Dark matter is a term physicists coined to explain bizarre gravitational effects they observe in the cosmos. Distant starlight appears to bend around invisible objects as it traverses the cosmos, and galaxies spin as if they had five times more mass than their visible matter can explain. Even the ancient light preserved in cosmic microwave background seems to suggest that there is an invisible scaffolding on which galaxies are formed.

    Some theories suggest that dark matter is simple cosmic debris that adds mass—but little else—to the complexity of our cosmos. But after decades of searching, physicists have yet to find dark matter in a laboratory experiment. Maybe the reason scientists haven’t been able to detect it is that they’ve been underestimating it.

    “There is no particular reason to expect that whatever is going on in the dark sector has to be as simple as our most minimal models,” Shelton says. “After all, we know that our visible world has a lot of rich physics: Photons, electrons, protons, nuclei and neutrinos are all critically important for understanding the cosmology of how we got here. The dark sector could be a busy place as well.”

    According to Shelton, dark matter could be the only surviving particle out of a similarly complicated set of dark particles.

    “It could even be something like the proton, a bound state of particles interacting via a very strong dark force. Or it could even be something like a hydrogen atom, a bound state of particles interacting via a weaker dark force,” she says.

    Even if terrestrial experiments cannot see these stable dark matter particles directly, they might be sensitive to other kinds of dark particles, such as dark photons or short-lived dark particles that interact strongly with the Higgs boson.

    CERN CMS Higgs Event

    CERN ATLAS Higgs Event

    “The Higgs is one of the easiest ways for the Standard Model particles to talk to the dark sector,” Shelton says.

    As far as scientists know, the Higgs boson is not picky. It may very well interact will all sorts of massive particles, including those invisible to ordinary atoms. If the Higgs boson interacts with massive dark sector particles, scientists should find that its properties deviate slightly from the Standard Model’s predictions. Scientists at the Large Hadron Collider are precisely measuring the properties of the Higgs boson to search for unexpected quirks that could open a gateway to new physics.


    CERN/LHC Map

    CERN LHC Tunnel

    CERN LHC particles

    At the same time, scientists are also using the LHC to search for dark sector particles directly. One theory is that at extremely high temperatures, dark matter and ordinary matter are not so different and can transform into one another through a dark force. In the hot and dense early universe, this would have been quite common.

    “But as the universe expanded and cooled, this interaction froze out, leaving some relic dark matter behind,” Shelton says.

    The energetic particle collisions generated by the LHC imitate the conditions that existed in the early universe and could unlock dark sector particles. If scientists are lucky, they might even catch dark sector particles metamorphosing into ordinary matter, an event that could materialize in the experimental data as particle tracks that suddenly appear from no apparent source.

    But there are also several feasible scenarios in which any interactions between the dark sector and our Standard Model particles are so tiny that they are out of reach of modern experiments, according to Shelton.

    “These ‘nightmare’ scenarios are completely logical possibilities, and in this case, we will have to think very carefully about astrophysical and cosmological ways to look for the footprints of dark particle physics,” she says.

    Even if the dark sector is inaccessible to particle detectors, dark matter will always be visible through the gravitational fingerprint it leaves on the cosmos.

    “Gravity tells us a lot about how much dark matter is in the universe and the kinds of particle interactions dark sector particles can and cannot have,” Shelton says. “For instance, more sensitive gravitational-wave experiments will give us the possibility to look back in time and see what our universe looked like at extremely high energies, and could maybe reveal more about this invisible matter living in our cosmos.”

    See the full article here .

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    STEM Icon

    Stem Education Coalition

    Symmetry is a joint Fermilab/SLAC publication.

  • richardmitnick 4:30 pm on December 19, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , CERN Large Hadron Collider, , , , , Large Electron-Positron Collider, , , , , , Symmetry Magazine   

    From Symmetry: “Machine evolution” 

    Symmetry Mag

    Amanda Solliday

    Courtesy of SLAC

    Planning the next big science machine requires consideration of both the current landscape and the distant future.

    Around the world, there’s an ecosystem of large particle accelerators where physicists gather to study the most intricate details of matter.

    These accelerators are engineering marvels. From planning to construction to operation to retirement, their lifespans stretch across decades.

    But to get the most out of their investments of talent and funding, laboratories planning such huge projects have to think even longer-term: What could these projects become in their next lives?

    The following examples show how some of the world’s big physics machines have evolved to stay at the forefront of science and technology.

    Same tunnel, new collisions

    Before CERN research center in Geneva, Switzerland, had its Large Hadron Collider, it had the Large Electron-Positron Collider. LEP was the largest electron-positron collider ever built, occupying a nearly 17-mile circular tunnel dug beneath the border of Switzerland and France. The tunnel took three years to completely excavate and build.

    The first particle beam traveled around the LEP circular collider in 1989. Long before then, the international group of CERN physicists and engineers were already thinking about what CERN’s next machine could be.

    “People were saying, ‘Well, if we do build LEP, then we should make it compatible with the [then-proposed] Large Hadron Collider,’” says James Gillies, a senior communications advisor and member of the strategic planning and evaluation unit at CERN. “If you want to have a future facility, you often have to engage the people who just finished designing one machine to start thinking about the next one.”

    LEP’s designers chose an energy for the collider that would mass-produce Z bosons, fundamental particles discovered by earlier experiments at CERN. The LHC would be a step up from LEP, reaching higher energies that scientists hoped could produce the Higgs boson. In the 1960s, theorists proposed the Higgs as a way to explain the origin of the mass of elementary particles. And the new machine to look for it could be built in the same 17-mile tunnel excavated for LEP.

    Engineers began working on the LHC while LEP was still running. The new machine required enlargements to underground areas—it needed bigger detectors and new experimental halls.

    “That was challenging because these caverns are huge. As they were being excavated, the pressure on the LEP tunnel was reduced and the LEP beamline needed realignment,” Gillies says. “So you constantly had to realign the collider for experiments as you were digging.”

    After LEP reached its highest energy in 2000, it was switched off. The tunnel remained the same, says Gillies, but there were many other changes. Only one of the LEP detectors, DELPHI, remains underground at CERN as a visitors’ point.

    In 2012, LHC scientists announced the discovery of the long-sought Higgs boson. The LHC is planned to continue running until at least 2035, gradually increasing the intensity of its particle collisions. The research and development into the accelerator’s successor is already happening. The possibilities include a higher energy LHC, a compact linear collider or an even larger circular collider.


    Large Electron-Positron Collider
    Location: CERN—Geneva, Switzerland
    First beam: 1989
    Link to LEP Timeline: Timeline
    Courtesy of CERN


    CERN/LHC Map

    CERN LHC Tunnel

    CERN LHC particles

    Large Hadron Collider
    Location: CERN—Geneva, Switzerland
    First beam: 2008
    Link to LHC Timeline: Timeline
    Courtesy of CERN

    High-powered science
    Decades before the LHC came into existence, a suburb of Chicago was home to the most powerful collider in the world: the Tevatron. A series of accelerators at Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory boosted protons and antiprotons to nearly the speed of light. In the final, 4-mile Tevatron ring, the particles reached record energy levels, and more than 1000 superconducting magnets steered them into collisions. Physicists used the Tevatron to make the first direct measurement of the tau neutrino and to discover the top quark, the last observed lepton and quark, respectively, in the Standard Model.

    The Tevatron shut down in 2011 after the LHC came up to speed, but the rest of Fermilab’s accelerator infrastructure was still hard at work powering research in particle physics—particularly on the abundant, mysterious and difficult-to-detect neutrino.

    Starting in 1999, a brand-new, 2-mile circular accelerator called the Main Injector was added to the Fermilab complex to increase the number of Tevatron particle collisions tenfold. It was joined in its tunnel by the Recycler, a permanent magnet ring that stored and cooled antiprotons.

    But before the Main Injector was even completed, scientists had identified a second purpose: producing powerful beams of neutrinos for experiments in Illinois and 500 miles away in Minnesota.

    FNAL/NOvA experiment map

    By 2005, the proton beam circulating in the Main Injector was doing double duty: sending ever-more-intense beams to the Tevatron collider and smashing into a target to produce neutrinos. Following the shutdown of the Tevatron, the Recycler itself was recycled to increase the proton beam power for neutrino research.

    “I’m still amazed at how we are able to use the Recycler. It can be difficult to transition if a machine wasn’t originally built for that purpose,” says Ioanis Kourbanis, the head of the Main Injector department at Fermilab.

    Fermilab’s high-energy neutrino beam is already the most intense in the world, but the laboratory plans to enhance it with future improvements to the Main Injector and the Recycler, and to build a brand-new neutrino beamline.

    Neutrinos almost never interact with matter, so they can pass straight through the Earth on their way to detectors onsite and others several hundred miles away. Scientists hope to learn more about neutrinos and their possible role in shaping our early universe.

    The new beamline will be part of the Long-Baseline Neutrino Facility, which will send neutrinos 800 miles underground to the massive, mile-deep detectors of the Deep Underground Neutrino Experiment.

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

    FNAL DUNE Argon tank at SURF

    Surf-Dune/LBNF Caverns at Sanford

    SURF building in Lead SD USA

    Scientists from around the world will use the DUNE data to answer questions about neutrinos, thanks to the repurposed pieces of the Fermilab accelerator complex.


    FNAL Tevatron

    FNAL/Tevatron map

    FNAL/Tevatron DZero detector

    FNAL/Tevatron CDF detector

    Location: Fermilab—Batavia, Illinois
    First beam: 1983
    Link to Tevatron Timeline: Timeline
    Courtesy of Fermilab


    Neutrinos at the Main Injector (NuMI) beam
    Location: Fermilab—Batavia, Illinois
    First beam: 2004
    Link to Fermilab Timeline: Timeline
    Courtesy of Fermilab

    A monster accelerator

    When physicists first came up with the idea to build a two-mile linear accelerator at what is now called SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory, managed by Stanford University, they called it “Project M” for “Monster.” Engineers began building it from hand-drawn designs. Once completed, the machine was able to accelerate electrons to near the speed of light, producing its first particle beam in May 1966.

    SLAC Campus

    The accelerator’s scientific purpose has gone through several iterations of particle physics experiments over the decades, from fixed-target experiments to the Stanford Linear Collider (the only electron-positron linear collider ever built) to an injector for a circular collider, the Positron-Electron Project.

    These experiments led to the discovery that protons are made of quarks, the first evidence that the charm quark existed (through observations of the J/psi particle, co-discovered with researchers at MIT) and the discovery of the tau lepton.

    In 2009, the lab used the accelerator as the backbone for a different type of science machine—an X-ray free-electron laser, the Linac Coherent Light Source.

    “Looking around, SLAC was the only place in the world with a linear accelerator capable of driving a free-electron laser,” says Claudio Pellegrini, a distinguished professor emeritus of physics at the University of California, Los Angeles and a visiting scientist and consulting professor at SLAC. Pellegrini first proposed the idea to transform SLAC’s linear accelerator.

    The new machine, a DOE Office of Science user facility, would be the world’s first laser of its kind that could produce extremely bright hard X-rays, the high-energy X-rays that let scientists take snapshots of atoms and molecules.

    “Much of the physics and many of the tools learned and developed during the operation of the Stanford Linear Collider were directly applicable to the free electron laser,” says Lia Merminga, head of the accelerator directorate at SLAC. “This was a big factor in the LCLS being commissioned in record time. Without the Stanford Linear Collider experience, this significant body of work would have to be reinvented and reproduced almost from scratch.”

    Little about the accelerator itself needed to change. But to create a free-electron laser, scientists needed to design a new part: an electron gun, a device that generates electrons to be injected into the accelerator. A collaboration of several national labs and UCLA created a new type of electron gun for LCLS, while other national labs helped build undulators, a series of magnets that would wiggle the electrons to create X-rays.

    LCLS used only the last third of SLAC’s original linear accelerator. In part of the remaining section, scientists are developing plasma wakefield and other new particle acceleration techniques.

    For the X-ray laser’s next iteration, LCLS-II, scientists are aiming for an even brighter laser that will fire 1 million pulses per second, allowing them to observe rare and exceptionally transient events.


    To do this, they will need to replace the original copper structures with superconducting technology. The technology is derived from designs for a large International Linear Collider [ILC] proposed to be built in Japan.

    ILC schematic

    “I’m in awe of the foresight of the original builders of SLAC’s linear accelerator,” Merminga adds. “We’ve been able to do so much with this machine, and the end is not yet in sight.”


    Fixed target and collider experiments

    Location: SLAC—Menlo Park, California
    First beam: 1966
    Link to SLAC Timeline: Timeline
    Courtesy of SLAC


    Linac Coherent Light Source
    Location: SLAC—Menlo Park, California
    First beam: 2009
    Link to SLAC Timeline: Timeline
    Courtesy of SLAC

    See the full article here .

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    STEM Icon

    Stem Education Coalition

    Symmetry is a joint Fermilab/SLAC publication.

  • richardmitnick 1:05 pm on December 7, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , Dan Rederth, , South Dakota is already home to a growing suite of physics experiments located a mile beneath the surface in the Sanford Underground Research Facility, Symmetry Magazine, Wenzhao Wei, Wenzhao Wei and Dan Rederth are the first to earn physics PhDs within the state of South Dakota,   

    From Symmetry: Women in STEM – “The PhD pioneers” Wenzhao Wei and also Dan Rederth, obviously not a Woman in STEM 

    Symmetry Mag

    Tom Barratt

    Wenzhao Wei

    Dan Rederth

    Wenzhao Wei and Dan Rederth are the first to earn physics PhDs within the state of South Dakota.

    Completing a PhD in physics is hard. It’s even harder when you’re one of the first to do it not just at your university, but at any university in your entire state.

    That’s exactly the situation Wenzhao Wei and Dan Rederth found themselves in earlier this year, when completing their doctorates at the University of South Dakota and the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology, respectively. Wei and Rederth are graduates of a joint program between the two institutions.

    Wei found out just a few weeks before going in front of a committee at USD to defend her thesis. A couple of students ahead of her had dropped out of the PhD program, leaving her suddenly at the head of the pack.

    “When I found out, I was very nervous,” Wei says. “When you’re the first, you don’t have any examples to follow, you don’t know how to prepare your defense, and you can’t get experience from other people who have already done it.”

    She recalls running between as many professors and committee members as she could for advice. “I did a lot of checking with them and asking questions. I had no idea what they would be expecting from the first PhD student.”

    Despite her wariness, and with some significant publications in the field as the first author, Dr. Wei’s defense was successful, and she is now working as a postdoc at the University of South Dakota.

    Rederth knew he was the first at SDSMT but wasn’t aware it was a first in South Dakota until after he had handed in his dissertation and completed his defense. “The president of the school told me I was the first in South Dakota after I finished,” he says. “But I wasn’t aware that Wenzhao had also completed her PhD at the same time.

    “Being the first, I was not prepared for the level of questioning I received during my defense – it went much deeper into physics than just my research. Together with Wenzhao, being the first in South Dakota really is a feather in the cap to something which took years of hard work to achieve.”

    Different paths to physics

    Rederth started on his path to physics research at a young age. “The most satisfying aspect of my PhD research dates back to my childhood,” he says. “I was always intrigued by magnetism and the mystery of how it works, so it was fascinating to do my research.”

    His work involved studying strange magnetic quantum effects that arise when certain particles are confined in special materials. A computer program he developed to model the effects could help bring new technologies into electronics.

    For Wei’s success, you might expect she had also always made a beeline to research, but physics was actually a late calling for her. At Central China Normal University, she had studied computer science and only switched to physics at master’s level.

    “In high school, I remember liking physics, but I ended up choosing computer science,” Wei says. “Then at college, I had some friends who did physics who were part of the same clubs as me, and they kept talking about really interesting things. I found I was becoming less interested in computer science and more interested in physics, so I switched.”

    Wei’s thesis, entitled “Advanced germanium detectors for rare event physics searches,” and her current research involve developing technologies for new kinds of particle physics detectors—ones that use germanium, a metal-like element similar to tin and silicon. Such detectors could be used for future neutrino and dark matter experiments.

    South Dakota is already home to a growing suite of physics experiments located a mile beneath the surface in the Sanford Underground Research Facility. It was in part a result of these experiments being located in the same state that Wei’s pioneering PhD program came about. USD has been involved with several experiments at SURF, among them the Deep Underground Neutrino Experiment, which will study neutrinos in a beam sent from Fermilab 1300 kilometers away.

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

    FNAL DUNE Argon tank at SURF

    Surf-Dune/LBNF Caverns at Sanford

    SURF building in Lead SD USA

    “DUNE and SURF have been a vehicle to move the physics PhD program at USD forward,” says Dongming Mei, Wei’s doctoral advisor at USD. “With the progress of DUNE, future PhD students from USD will be exposed to thousands of world-class scientists and engineers.”

    Post-doctorate, Wei is now continuing the research she began during her thesis. But with a twist.

    “For my PhD, I did lots of computer simulations of dark matter interactions, so I spent a lot of time stuck at a computer,” Wei says. “Now I’m actually able to get hands-on with the germanium crystals we grow here at USD and test them for things like their electrical properties.”

    So where next for South Dakota’s first locally certified doctors of physics?

    “I want to stay in physics for the long-term,” Wei says. “I taught some physics to undergraduates during my PhD and really loved it, so I’m hoping to be a researcher and lecturer one day.”

    Rederth, too, wants to help inspire the next generation. “I want to stay in the Black Hills area to help raise science and math proficiency in the local schools. I’ve been a judge for the local science fair and would like to become more involved,” he says.

    Perhaps some of their future students will go on to join the list of South Dakota’s physics doctorates, started by their trailblazing teachers.

    See the full article here .

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    STEM Icon

    Stem Education Coalition

    Symmetry is a joint Fermilab/SLAC publication.

  • richardmitnick 8:51 am on December 4, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: A winning map, , , , , , , , , Symmetry Magazine   

    From Symmetry: “A winning map” 

    Symmetry Mag

    Lauren Biron

    Breakthrough Prize. natgeo.com

    The Fundamental Physics Prize recognizes WMAP’s contributions to precision cosmology.

    NASA/WMAP satellite

    Cosmic Microwave Background NASA/WMAP

    The sixth annual Breakthrough Prize in Fundamental Physics has been awarded to an experiment that revolutionized cosmology and mapped the history of our universe. The $3 million prize was given to the science team and five leaders who worked on the Wilkinson Microwave Anisotropy Probe, which investigated matter, the Big Bang and the early conditions of our universe.

    “WMAP surveyed the patterns of the oldest light, and we used the laws of physics to deduce from these patterns answers to our questions,” said Chuck Bennett, the principal investigator of WMAP. He received the award along with Gary Hinshaw, Norman Jarosik, Lyman Page and David Spergel. “Science has let us extend our knowledge of the universe to far beyond our physical reach.”

    The Breakthrough Prizes, which are also awarded in life sciences and mathematics, celebrate both the science itself and the work done by scientists. The award was founded by Sergey Brin, Anne Wojcicki, Jack Ma, Cathy Zhang, Yuri and Julia Milner, Mark Zuckerberg and Priscilla Chan with the goal of inspiring more people to pursue scientific endeavors.

    WMAP, a joint NASA and Princeton University project that ran from 2001 to 2010, has many claims to fame. Scientists have used the spacecraft’s data to determine the age of the universe (13.77 billion years old) and pinpoint when stars first began to shine (about 400 million years after the Big Bang). WMAP results also revealed the density of matter and the surprising makeup of our universe: roughly 71 percent dark energy, 25 percent dark matter and 4 percent visible matter.

    From its home one million miles from Earth, WMAP precisely measured a form of light left over from the Big Bang: the cosmic microwave background (CMB). Researchers assembled this data into a “baby picture” of our universe when it was a mere 375,000 years old. WMAP observations support the theory of inflation—that a rapid period of expansion just after the Big Bang led to fluctuations in the distribution of matter, eventually leading to the formation of galaxies.

    Scientists still hope to unlock more secrets of the universe using the CMB, and various experiments, such as BICEP3 and the South Pole Telescope, are already running to address these cosmological questions.

    BICEP 3 at the South Pole

    South Pole Telescope SPTPOL. The SPT collaboration is made up of over a dozen (mostly North American) institutions, including the University of Chicago, the University of California, Berkeley, Case Western Reserve University, Harvard/Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory, the University of Colorado Boulder, McGill University, The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, University of California, Davis, Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich, Argonne National Laboratory, and the National Institute for Standards and Technology. It is funded by the National Science Foundation.

    One thing scientists would love to find? A twist on a hot topic: primordial gravitational waves left over from the Big Bang.

    “There is still much we do not understand, such as the first moments of the universe,” Bennett said. “So there will be new breakthroughs in the future.”

    [Interesting to me, reference to BICEP3 ans the South Pole Telescope, but no mention of ESA/Planck, whose map further refined and eclipsed the map by WMAP.

    CMB per ESA/Planck


    An oversite or a slight?]

    See the full article here .

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    STEM Icon

    Stem Education Coalition

    Symmetry is a joint Fermilab/SLAC publication.

  • richardmitnick 2:12 pm on November 28, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , Protons, Symmetry Magazine   

    From Symmetry: “LHC data: how it’s made” 

    Symmetry Mag

    Sarah Charley

    Photo by Silvia Biondi; Matteo Franchini, CERN

    In the Large Hadron Collider, protons become new particles, which become energy and light, which become data.


    CERN/LHC Map

    CERN LHC Tunnel

    CERN LHC particles

    Scientists have never actually seen the Higgs boson.

    CERN CMS Higgs Event

    CERN ATLAS Higgs Event

    They’ve never seen the inside of a proton, either, and they’ll almost certainly never see dark matter. Many of the fundamental patterns woven into the fabric of nature are completely imperceptible to our clunky human senses.

    But scientists don’t need to see particles to learn about their properties and interactions. Physicists can study the subatomic world with particle detectors, which gather information from events that occur much faster and are much smaller than the eye can see.

    But what is this information, and how exactly do detectors gather it? At experiments at the Large Hadron Collider, the world’s largest and most powerful particle accelerator, it all begins with a near-light-speed race.

    Starting with a bang

    The LHC is built in a ring 17 miles in circumference. Scientists load bunches of protons into this ring and send them hurtling around in opposite directions, gaining more and more energy with each pass.

    By the time the LHC has boosted the proton beams to their maximum energy, they will have traveled a distance equivalent to a round-trip journey between Earth and the sun. They will be moving so fast that they no longer convert energy into speed but in effect swell with mass instead.

    Once the protons are ramped up to their final energy, the LHC’s magnets nudge the two beams into a collision course at four intersections around the ring.

    CERN/ATLAS detector

    CERN/CMS Detector

    CERN/LHCb detector

    CERN ALICE detector

    “When two protons traveling at near light speeds collide head-on, the impact releases a surge of energy unimaginably quickly in an unimaginably small volume of space,” says Dhiman Chakraborty, a professor of Physics at Northern Illinois University working on the ATLAS experiment. “In that miniscule volume, conditions are similar to those that prevailed when the universe was a mere tenth of a nanosecond old.”

    This energy is often converted directly into mass according to Einstein’s famous equation, E=mc2, resulting in birth of exotic particles not to be found anywhere else on Earth. These particles, which can include Higgs bosons, are extremely short-lived.

    “They decay instantaneously and spontaneously into less massive, more stable ‘daughter’ particles,” Chakraborty says. “The large mass of the exotic parent particle, being converted back into energy, sends its much lighter daughters flying off at near light speeds.”

    Even though these rare particles are short-lived, they give scientists a peek at the texture of spacetime and the ubiquitous fields woven into it.

    “So much so that the existence of the entire universe we see today—ourselves as observers included—is owed to [the particles and fields we cannot see],” he says.

    This CMS experiment event display identifies an electron and a muon passing through the detector. Courtesy of CMS Collaboration

    Enter the detector

    All of this happens in less than a millionth of a trillionth of a second. Even though the LHC’s detectors encompass the beampipe and are only a few centimeters away from the collison, it is impossible for them to see the new heavy particles, which often disintegrate before they can move a distance equal to the diameter of an atomic nucleus.

    But the detectors can “see” the byproducts of their decay. The Higgs bosons can transform into pairs of photons, for example. When those photons hit the atoms and molecules that make up the detector material, they radiate sparkles of light and jolts of energy like meteorites blazing through the atmosphere. Sensors inhale these dim twinkles and transform them into electrical signals, recording where and when they arrived.

    “Each pulse is a snapshot of space and time,” Chakraborty says. “They tell us exactly where, when and how fast those daughter particles traversed our detector.”

    A single proton-proton collision can generate several high-energy daughter particles, some of which produce showers of hundreds more. These streams of particles release detectable energy as they hit the detectors and generate electrical pulses. The time, location, length, shape, height and total energy of each electrical pulse are directly translated into data bits by an electronic readout card.

    Much the way biologists chart animal tracks to study the speed, direction and size of a herd, physicists study the shape of these electrical pulses to characterize the passing particles. A long, broad electrical pulse indicates that a large stream of particles grazed across the detector, but a pulse with a sharp peak suggests that a small pack cut straight through.

    These electrical pulses create a multifaceted connect-the-dots. Algorithms quickly identify patterns in the cascade of hits and rapidly reconstruct particle energies and tracks.

    “We only have a few microseconds to reconstruct what happened before the next batch of collisions arrives,” says Tulika Bose, an associate professor at Boston University working on the CMS experiment. “We can’t keep all the data, so we use automated systems to crudely reconstruct particles like muons and electrons.

    “If the event looks interesting enough based on this limited amount of information, we keep all the data from that snapshot in time and save them for further analysis.”

    These interesting events are packaged and dispatched upstairs to a second series of automated gatekeepers that further evaluate the quality and characteristics of these collision snapshots. Preprogrammed algorithms identify more particles in the snapshot. This entire process takes less than a millisecond, faster than the blink of a human eye.

    Even then, humans won’t lay eyes on the data until after it undergoes a strenuous suite of processing and preparation for analysis.

    Humans can’t see the Higgs boson, but by tracing its byproducts back to a single Higgs-like origin, they were able to gather enough evidence to discover it.

    “In the five years since that discovery, we’ve produced hundreds of thousands more Higgs bosons and reconstructed a good number of them,” Chakraborty says. “They’re being studied intensely with the goal of gaining insight into deeper mysteries of nature.”

    See the full article here .

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    STEM Icon

    Stem Education Coalition

    Symmetry is a joint Fermilab/SLAC publication.

  • richardmitnick 3:22 pm on November 21, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , Symmetry Magazine   

    From Symmetry: “Putting the puzzle together” 

    Symmetry Mag

    Ali Sundermier

    Photos by Fermilab and CERN

    Successful physics collaborations rely on cooperation between people from many different disciplines.

    So, you want to start a physics experiment. Maybe you want to follow hints of an as yet unseen particle. Or maybe you want to learn something new about a mysterious process in the universe. Either way, your next step is to find people who can help you.

    In large science collaborations, such as the ATLAS and CMS experiments at the Large Hadron Collider; the Deep Underground Neutrino Experiment (DUNE); and Fermilab’s NOvA, hundreds to thousands of people spread out across many institutions and countries keep things operating smoothly. Whether they’re senior scientists, engineers, technicians or administrators, each of them has an important role to play.

    CERN/ATLAS detector

    CERN/CMS Detector


    CERN/LHC Map

    CERN LHC Tunnel

    CERN LHC particles

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

    FNAL DUNE Argon tank at SURF

    Surf-Dune/LBNF Caverns at Sanford

    SURF building in Lead SD USA

    FNAL NOvA Near Detector

    FNAL/NOvA experiment map

    Think of it like a jigsaw puzzle: This list will give you an idea about how their work fits together to create the big picture.

    Dreaming up the experiment

    Many particle physics experiments begin with a fundamental question. Why do objects have mass? Or, why is the universe made of matter?

    When scientists encounter these big, seemingly inscrutable questions, part of their job is to identify possible ways to answer them. A large part of this is breaking down the big questions into a program of smaller, answerable questions.

    In the case of the LHC, scientists who wondered about things such as undiscovered particles and the origin of mass designed a 27-kilometer particle collider and four giant detectors to learn more.

    Each scientist in a collaboration brings their own unique perspective and skill set to the table, whether it’s providing an understanding of the physics or offering expertise in operations or detector design.

    Perfecting the design

    Once scientists have an idea about the experiment they want to do and the approach they want to take, it’s the job of the engineers to turn the concepts into pieces of hardware that can be built, function and meet the experiment’s requirements.

    For example, engineers might have to figure out how the experiment should be supported mechanically or how to connect all the electrical systems and make signals available in a detector.

    In the case of NOvA, which investigates neutrino oscillations, scientists needed a detector that was huge and free of dense materials, which made conventional construction techniques unworkable. They had to work with engineers who could understand plastic as a building material so they could be confident about using it to build a gigantic, free-standing structure that fit the requirements.

    Keeping things running

    Technicians come in when the experimental apparatus and instrumentation are being built and often have complementary knowledge about what they’re working on. They build the hardware and coordinate the integration of components. It’s their work that, in the end, pulls everything together so the experiment functions.

    Once the experiment is built, technicians are responsible for keeping everything humming along at top performance. When physicists notice things going wrong with the detectors, the technicians usually have first eyes on it. It’s a vital task, since every second counts when it comes to collecting data.

    Doing the heavy lifting

    When designing and constructing the experiment, the scientists also recruit postdocs and grad students, who do the bulk of the data analysis.

    Grad students, who are still working on their PhDs, have to balance their own coursework with the real-world experiment, learning their way around running simulations, analyzing data and developing algorithms. They also make sure that every part of the detector is working up to par. In addition, they may work in instrumentation, developing new instruments and electronics.

    Postdocs, on the other hand, have already worked on experiments and obtained their PhDs, so they typically assume more of a leadership role in these collaborations. Part of their role is to guide the grad students in a sort of apprenticeship.

    Postdocs are often in charge of certain types of analysis or detector operations. Because they’ve worked on previous experiments, they have a tool kit and experience to draw on to solve problems when they crop up.

    Postdocs and grad students often work with technicians and engineers to ensure everything is properly built.

    Making the data accessible

    The LHC produces about 25 petabytes of data every year, or 25 billion megabytes. If the average size of an MP3 is about one megabyte per minute, then it would take almost 50,000 years to play 25 petabytes of songs. In physics collaborations, computer scientists and engineers have to organize the computing networks to ensure against bottlenecks or traffic jams when this massive amount of data is shared.

    They also maintain the software framework, which takes care of data handling and archiving. Say a scientist wants to know what happened on Feb. 27, 2015, at 3 a.m. Computing experts have to be able to go into the data catalogue and find, among the petabytes of data, where that event is stored.

    Sorting out the logistics

    One often overlooked group is the administrators.

    It’s up to the administrators to sequence all the different projects so they get the funds they need to make progress. They sort the logistics to make sure the right people are in the right places working on the right things.

    Administrators manage a group of people who are constantly coming and going. Is someone traveling to a site from a different institution? The administrators make sure that people get connected, work out itineraries and schedule where visiting scientists will live and work.

    Administrators also organize collaboration meetings, transfer money, and procure and ship equipment.

    Translating discoveries to the public

    While every single person involved in an experiment has a responsibility to effectively communicate with others, it can be challenging to communicate about research in a way that’s relatable to people from different backgrounds. That’s where the professional communicators come in.

    Communicators can translate a paper full of jargon and complicated science into a fascinating story that the rest of the world can get excited about.

    In addition to doing outreach for the public and writing press releases and pitching stories for the media, communicators offer coaching to people in a scientific collaboration on how to relay the science to a general audience, which is important for generating public interest.

    Fitting the pieces

    Now that you know many of the pieces that must fall into place for a large physics collaboration to be successful, also know that none of these roles is performed in a vacuum. For an experiment to work, there must be a synergy of tasks: Each relies on the success of the others. Now go start that experiment!

    See the full article here .

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

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    Symmetry is a joint Fermilab/SLAC publication.

  • richardmitnick 3:11 pm on November 14, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , Symmetry Magazine   

    From Symmetry: “Q&A with Nobel laureate Barry Barish” 

    Symmetry Mag

    Leah Hesla

    Illustration by Ana Kova

    These days the LIGO experiment seems almost unstoppable.

    VIRGO Gravitational Wave interferometer, near Pisa, Italy

    Caltech/MIT Advanced aLigo Hanford, WA, USA installation

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

    Cornell SXS, the Simulating eXtreme Spacetimes (SXS) project

    Gravitational waves. Credit: MPI for Gravitational Physics/W.Benger-Zib

    ESA/eLISA the future of gravitational wave research

    Skymap showing how adding Virgo to LIGO helps in reducing the size of the source-likely region in the sky. (Credit: Giuseppe Greco (Virgo Urbino group)

    In September 2015, LIGO detected gravitational waves directly for the first time in history. Afterward, they spotted them three times more, definitively blowing open the doors on the new field of gravitational-wave astronomy.

    On October 3, the Nobel Committee awarded their 2017 prize in physics to some of the main engines behind the experiment. Just two weeks after that, LIGO scientists revealed that they’d seen, for the first time, gravitational waves from the collision of neutron stars, an event confirmed by optical telescopes—yet another first.

    These recent achievements weren’t inevitable. It took LIGO scientists decades to get to this point.

    LIGO leader Barry Barish, one of the three recipients of the 2017 Nobel, recently sat down with Symmetry writer Leah Hesla to give a behind-the-scenes look at his 22 years on the experiment.

    Barry Barish, who obtained his B.S. and Ph.D from UC Berkeley in 1957 and 1962, respectively, shared the 2017 Nobel Prize in Physics for the discovery of gravitational waves. Barish is the Ronald and Maxine Linde Professor of Physics, Emeritus, at Caltech. (Caltech photo)

    What has been your role at LIGO?

    I started in 1994 and came on board at a time when we didn’t have the money. I had to get the money and have a strategy that [the National Science Foundation] would buy into, and I had to have a plan that they would keep supporting for 22 years. My main mission was to build this instrument—which we didn’t know how to make—well enough to do what it did.

    So we had to build enough trust and success without discovering gravitational waves so that NSF would keep supporting us. And we had to have the flexibility to evolve LIGO’s design, without costing an arm and a leg, to make the improvements that would eventually make it sensitive enough to succeed.

    We started running in about 2000 and took data and improved the experiment over 10 years. But we just weren’t sensitive enough. We managed to get a major improvement program to what’s called Advanced LIGO from the National Science Foundation. After a year and a half or so of making it work, we turned on the device in September of 2015 and, within days, we’d made the detection.

    What steps did LIGO take to be as sensitive as possible?

    We were limited very much by the shaking of the Earth—at the low frequencies, the Earth just shakes too much. We also couldn’t get rid of the background noise at high frequencies—we can’t sample fast enough.

    In the initial LIGO, we reduced the shaking by something like 100 million. We had the fanciest set of shock absorbers possible. The shock absorbers in your car take a bump that you go over, which is high-frequency, and transfer it softly to low-frequency. You get just a little up and down; you don’t feel very much when you go over a bump. You can’t get rid of the bump—that’s energy—but you can transfer it out of the frequencies where it bothers you.

    So we do the same thing. We have a set of springs that are fancier but are basically like shock absorbers in your car. That gave us a factor of 100 million reduction in the shaking of the Earth.

    But that wasn’t good enough [for initial LIGO].

    What did you do to increase sensitivity for Advanced LIGO?

    After 15 years of not being able to detect gravitational waves, we implemented what we call active seismic isolation, in addition to passive springs. It’s very much equivalent to what happens when you get on an airplane and you put those [noise cancellation] earphones on. All of a sudden the airplane is less noisy. That works by detecting the ambient noise—not the noise by the attendant dropping a glass or something. That’s a sharp noise, and you’d still hear that, or somebody talking to you, which is a loud independent noise. But the ambient noise of the motors and the shaking of the airplane itself are more or less the same now as they were a second ago, so if you measure the frequency of the ambient noise, you can cancel it.

    In Advanced LIGO, we do the same thing. We measure the shaking of the Earth, and then we cancel it with active sensors. The only difference is that our problem is much harder. We have to do this directionally. The Earth shakes in a particular direction—it might be up and down, it might be sideways or at an angle. It took us years to develop this active seismic isolation.

    The idea was there 15 years ago, but we had to do a lot of work to develop very, very sensitive active seismic isolation. The technology didn’t exist—we developed all that technology. It reduced the shaking of the Earth by another factor of 100 [over LIGO’s initial 100 million], so we reduced it by a factor of 10 billion.

    So we could see a factor of 100 further out in the universe than we could have otherwise. And each factor of 10 gets cubed because we’re looking at stars and galaxies [in three dimensions]. So when we improved [initial LIGO’s sensitivity] by a factor of 100 beyond this already phenomenal number of 100 million, it improved our sensitivity immediately, and our rate of seeing these kinds of events, by a factor of a hundred cubed—by a million.

    That’s why, after a few days of running, we saw something. We couldn’t have seen this in all the years that we ran at lower sensitivity.

    What key steps did you take when you came on board in 1994?

    First we had to build a kind of technical group that had the experience and abilities to take on a $100 million project. So I hired a lot of people. It was a good time to do that because it was soon after the closure of the Superconducting Super Collider in Texas. I knew some of the most talented people who were involved in that, so I brought them into LIGO, including the person who would be the project manager.

    Second, I made sure the infrastructure was scaled to a stage where we were doing it not the cheapest we could, but rather the most flexible.

    The third thing was to convince NSF that doing this construction project wasn’t the end of what we had to do in terms of development. So we put together a vigorous R&D program, which NSF supported, to develop the technology that would follow similar ones that we used.

    And then there were some technical changes—to become as forward-looking as possible in terms of what we might need later.

    What were the technical changes?

    The first was to change from what was the most popularly used laser in the 1990s, which was a gas laser, to a solid-state laser, which was new at that time. The solid-state laser had the difficulty that the light was no longer in the visible range. It was in the infrared, and people weren’t used to interferometers like that. They like to have light bouncing around that they can see, but you can’t see the solid-state laser light with your naked eye. That’s like particle physics. You can’t see the particles in the accelerator either. We use sensors to do that. So we made that kind of change, going from analog controls to digital controls, which are computer-based.

    We also inherited the kind of control programs that had been developed for accelerators and used at the Superconducting Super Collider, and we brought the SSC controls people into LIGO. These changes didn’t pay off immediately, but paved the road toward making a device that could be modern and not outdated as we moved through the 20 years. It wasn’t so much fixing things as making LIGO much more forward-looking—to make it more and more sensitive, which is the key thing for us.

    Did you draw on past experience?

    I think my history in particle physics was crucial in many ways, for example, in technical ways—things like digital controls, how we monitored beam. We don’t use the same technology, but the idea that you don’t have to see it physically to monitor it—those kinds of things carried over.

    The organization, how we have scientific collaborations, was again something that I created here at LIGO, which was modeled after high-energy physics collaborations. Some of it has to be modified for this different kind of project—this is not an accelerator—but it has a lot of similarities because of the way you approach a large scientific project.

    Were you concerned the experiment wouldn’t happen? If not, what did concern you?

    As long as we kept making technical progress, I didn’t have that concern. My only real concern was nature. Would we be fortunate enough to see gravitational waves at the sensitivities we could get to? It wasn’t predicted totally. There were optimistic predictions—that we could have detected things earlier — but there are also predictions we haven’t gotten to. So my main concern was nature.

    When did you hear about the first detection of gravitational waves?

    If you see gravitational waves from some spectacular thing, you’d also like to be able to see something in telescopes and electromagnetic astronomy that’s correlated. So because of that, LIGO has an early alarm system that alerts you that there might be a gravitational wave event. We more or less have the ability to see spectacular things early. But if you want people to turn their telescopes or other devices to point at something in the sky, you have to tell them something in time scales of minutes or hours, not weeks or months.

    The day we saw this, which we saw early in its running, it happened at 4:50 in the morning in Louisiana, 2:50 in the morning in California, so I found out about it at breakfast time for me, which was about four hours later. When we alert the astronomers, we alert key people from LIGO as well. We get things like that all the time, but this looked a little more serious than others. After a few more hours that day, it became clear that this was nothing like anything we’d seen before, and in fact looked a lot like what we were looking for, and so I would say some people became convinced within hours.

    I wasn’t, but that’s my own conservatism: What’s either fooling us or how are we fooling ourselves? There were two main issues. One is the possibility that maybe somebody was inserting a rogue event in our data, some malicious way to try to fool us. We had to make sure we could trace the history of the events from the apparatus itself and make sure there was no possibility that somebody could do this. That took about a month of work. The second was that LIGO was a brand new, upgraded version, so I wasn’t sure that there weren’t new ways to generate things that would fool us. Although we had a lot of experience over a lot of years, it wasn’t really with this version of LIGO. This version was only a few days old. So it took us another month or so to convince us that it was real. It was obvious that there was going to be a classic discovery if it held up.

    What does it feel like to win the Nobel Prize?

    It happened at 3 in the morning here [in California]. [The night before], I had a nice dinner with my wife, and we went to bed early. I set the alarm for 2:40. They were supposed to announce the result at 2:45. I don’t know why I set it for 2:40, but I did. I moved the house phone into our bedroom.

    The alarm did go off at 2:40. There was no call, obviously—I hadn’t been awakened, so I assumed, kind of in my groggy state, that we must have been passed over. I started going to my laptop to see who was going to get it. Then my cell phone started ringing. My wife heard it. My cell phone number is not given out, generally. There are tens of people who have it, but how [the Nobel Foundation] got it, I’m not sure. Some colleague, I suppose. It was a surprise to me that it came on the cell phone.

    The president of the Nobel Foundation told me who he was, said he had good news and told me I won. And then we chatted for a few minutes, and he asked me how I felt. And I spontaneously said that I felt “thrilled and humbled at the same time.” There’s no word for that, exactly, but that mixture of feeling is what I had and still have.

    Do you have advice for others organizing big science projects?

    We have an opportunity. As I grew into this and as science grew big, we always had to push and push and push on technology, and we’ve certainly done that on LIGO. We do that in particle physics, we do that in accelerators.

    I think the table has turned somewhat and that the technology has grown so fast in the recent decades that there’s incredible opportunities to do new science. The development of new technologies gives us so much ability to ask difficult scientific questions. We’re in an era that I think is going to propagate fantastically into the future.

    Just in the new millennium, maybe the three most important discoveries in physics have all been done with, I would say, high-tech, modern, large-scale devices: the neutrino experiments at SNO and Kamiokande doing the neutrino oscillations, which won a Nobel Prize in 2013; the Higgs boson—no device is more complicated or bigger or more technically advanced than the CERN LHC experiments; and then ours, which is not quite the scale of the LHC, but it’s the same scale as these experiments—the billion dollar scale—and it’s very high-tech.

    Einstein thought that gravitational waves could never be detected, but he didn’t know about lasers, digital controls and active seismic isolation and all things that we developed, all the high-tech things that are coming from industry and our pushing them a little bit harder.

    The fact is, technology is changing so fast. Most of us can’t live without GPS, and 10 or 15 years ago, we didn’t have GPS. GPS exists because of general relativity, which is what I do. The inner silicon microstrip detectors in the CERN experiment were developed originally for particle physics. They developed rapidly. But now, they’re way behind what’s being done in industry in the same area. Our challenge is to learn how to grab what is being developed, because technology is becoming great.

    I think we need to become really aware and understand the developments of technology and how to apply those to the most basic physics questions that we have and do it in a forward-looking way.

    What are your hopes for the future of LIGO?

    It’s fantastic. For LIGO itself, we’re not limited by anything in nature. We’re limited by ourselves in terms of improving it over the next 15 years, just like we improved in going from initial LIGO to Advanced LIGO. We’re not at the limit.

    So we can look forward to certainly a factor of 2 to 3 improvement, which we’ve already been funded for and are ready for, and that will happen over the next few years. And that factor of 2 or 3 gets cubed in our case.

    This represents a completely new way to look at the universe. Everything we look at was with electromagnetic radiation, and a little bit with neutrinos, until we came along. We know that only a few percent of what’s out there is luminous, and so we are opening a new age of astronomy, really. At the same time, we’re able to test Einstein’s theories of general relativity in its most important way, which is by looking where the fields are the strongest, around black holes.

    That’s the opportunity that exists over a long time scale with gravitational waves. The fact that they’re a totally different way of looking at the sky means that in the long term it will develop into an important part of how we understand our universe and where we came from. Gravitational waves are the best way possible, in theory—we can’t do it now—of going back to the very beginning, the Big Bang, because they weren’t absorbed. What we know now comes from photons, but they can go back to only 300,000 years from the Big Bang because they’re absorbed.

    We can go back to the beginning. We don’t know how to do it yet, but that is the potential.

    See the full article here .

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

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    Symmetry is a joint Fermilab/SLAC publication.

  • richardmitnick 4:55 am on October 25, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , Cross scetions in Physics, , Symmetry Magazine   

    From Symmetry: “Speak physics: What is a cross section? 

    Symmetry Mag

    Oscar Miyamoto

    In a gas of particles of individual diameter $2r$, the cross section $\sigma$ for collisions is related to the particle number density $n$, and mean free path between collisions $\lambda$.
    Date 19 August 2017
    Source Own work
    Author Qwerty123uiop, RASch 8-17

    Imagine two billiard balls rolling toward one another. The likelihood of a collision depends on easy-to-grasp concepts: How big are they? How precisely are they aimed?

    When you start talking about the likelihood of particles colliding, things get trickier. That’s why physicists use the term “cross section.”

    Unlike solid objects, elementary particles themselves behave as tiny waves of probability.

    And their interactions are not limited to a physical bump. Particles can interact at a distance, for example, through the electromagnetic force or gravity. Some particles, such as neutrinos, interact only rarely through the weak force. You might imagine them as holograms of billiard balls that occasionally flit into a solid state.

    In physics, a cross section describes the likelihood of two particles interacting under certain conditions. Those conditions include, for example, the number of particles in the beam, the angle at which they hit the target, and what the target is made of.

    “Cross sections link theory with reality,” says Gerardo Herrera, a researcher at the Center for Research and Advanced Studies of the National Polytechnic Institute in Mexico City and a collaborator on the ALICE experiment at the Large Hadron Collider. “They provide a picture of the fundamental properties of particles. That’s their greatest utility.”

    Cross sections come in many varieties. They can help describe what happens when a particle hits a nucleus. In elastic reactions, particles bounce off one another but maintain their identities, like two ricocheting billiard balls. In inelastic reactions, one or more particle shatters apart, like a billiard ball struck by a bullet. In a resonance state, short-lived virtual particles appear.

    Jorge G. Morf´ın , Juan Nievesb , Jan T. Sobczyka

    This plot comes from a paper [Advances in High Energy Physics] on interactions between neutrinos and atomic nuclei. The vertical axis represents the chances of the different reactions (measured in square centimeters over giga-electronvolts), and the horizontal axis represents the energy of the incoming neutrinos (measured in giga-electronvolts). An electronvolt is a measure of energy based on the amount of energy an electron gains after being accelerated by 1 volt of electricity.

    These measurements of one or more aspects of the interaction are called differential cross sections, while summaries of all of these reactions put together are called total cross sections.

    Physicists represent cross sections in equations with the Greek letter sigma (σ). But once they have been measured in actual collisions, their data can be visualized in figures like this:

    The above image is telling us, for instance, that at an energy of 10 giga-electronvolts the most probable result would be a deep inelastic scattering (green line), followed by a resonance state (red line), and lastly by a quasi-elastic event (blue line). The black curve represents the total cross section. The error bars (thin lines that go sideways and upside-down) indicate the estimated accuracy of each measurement.

    “What you see in this figure are attempts to find a common way to display complex experimental results. This plot is showing how we divide up events that we find in our detectors,” says Jorge Morfín, a senior scientist at Fermilab and one of the main authors of the paper.

    Cross sections are used to communicate results among researchers with common interests, Morfín says. The previous cross section serves, then, as a way to compare data obtained from labs that use different measurement techniques and nuclear targets, such as NOMAD (CERN), SciBooNE (Fermilab) and T2K (Japan).

    Scientists studying astrophysics, quantum chromodynamics, physical chemistry and even nanoscience use these kinds of plots in order to understand how particles decay, absorb energy and interact with one another.

    “They make so many connections with different scientific fields and current research that’s going on,” says Tom Abel, a computational cosmologist at SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory and Stanford University.

    In the hunt for dark matter, for example, researchers investigate whether particles interact in the way theorists predict.

    “We are looking for interactions between dark matter particles and heavy nuclei, or dark matter particles interacting with one another,” Abel says. “All of this is expressed in cross-sections.”

    If they see different interactions than they expect, it could be a sign of the influence of something unseen—like dark matter.

    In a world where probability and uncertainty reign, Herrera notes that concepts in quantum mechanics can be difficult to grasp. “But cross sections are a very tangible element,” he says, “and one of the most important measurements in high-energy physics.”

    See the full article here .

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

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    Symmetry is a joint Fermilab/SLAC publication.

  • richardmitnick 1:16 pm on October 20, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , , , Scientists make rare achievement in study of antimatter, Symmetry Magazine   

    From Symmetry: “Scientists make rare achievement in study of antimatter” 


    Kimber Price

    Maximilien Brice, Julien Marius Ordan, CERN

    Through hard work, ingenuity and a little cooperation from nature, scientists on the BASE experiment vastly improved their measurement of a property of protons and antiprotons.

    BASE: Baryon Antibaryon Symmetry Experiment. Maximilien Brice

    Scientists at CERN are celebrating a recent, rare achievement in precision physics: Collaborators on the BASE experiment measured a property of antimatter 350 times as precisely as it had ever been measured before.

    The BASE experiment looks for undiscovered differences between protons and their antimatter counterparts, antiprotons. The result, published in the journal Nature, uncovered no such difference, but BASE scientists say they are hopeful the leap in the effectiveness of their measurement has potentially brought them closer to a discovery.

    “According to our understanding of the Standard Model [of particle physics], the Big Bang should have created exactly the same amount of matter and antimatter, but [for the most part] only matter remains,” says BASE Spokesperson Stefan Ulmer.

    The Standard Model of elementary particles (more schematic depiction), with the three generations of matter, gauge bosons in the fourth column, and the Higgs boson in the fifth.

    This is strange because when matter and antimatter meet, they annihilate one another. Scientists want to know how matter came to dominate our universe.

    “One strategy to try to get hints to understand the mechanisms behind this matter-antimatter symmetry is to compare the fundamental properties of matter and antimatter particles with ultra-high precision,” Ulmer says.

    Scientists on the BASE experiment study a property called the magnetic moment. The magnetic moment is an intrinsic value of particles such as protons and antiprotons that determines how they will orient in a magnetic field, like a compass. Protons and antiprotons should behave exactly the same, other than their charge and direction of orientation; any differences in how they respond to the laws of physics could help explain why our universe is made mostly of matter.

    This is a challenging measurement to make with a proton. Measuring the magnetic moment of an antiproton is an even bigger task. To prevent antiprotons from coming into contact with matter and annihilating, scientists need to house them in special electromagnetic traps.

    While antiprotons generally last less than a second, the ones used in this study were placed in a unique reservoir trap in 2015 and used one by one, as needed, for experiments. The trapped antimatter survived for more than 400 days.

    During the last year, Ulmer and his team worked to improve the precision of the most sophisticated technqiues developed for this measurement in the last decade.

    They did this by improving thier cooling methods. Antiprotons at temperatures close to absolute zero move less than room-temperature ones, making them easier to measure.

    Previously, BASE scientists had cooled each individual antiproton before measuring it and moving on to the next. With the improved trap, the antiprotons stayed cool long enough for the scientists to swap an antiproton for a new one as soon as it became too hot.

    “Developing an instrument stable enough to keep the antiproton close to absolute zero for 4-5 days was the major goal,” says Christian Smorra, the first author of the study.

    This allowed them to collect data more rapidly than ever before. Combining this instrument with a new technique that measures two particles simultaneously allowed them to break their own record from last year’s measurement by a longshot.

    “This is very rare in precision physics, where experimental efforts report on factors of greater than 100 magnitude in improvement,” Ulmer says.

    The results confirm that the two particles behave exactly the same, as the laws of physics would predict. So the mystery of the imbalance between matter and antimatter remains.

    Ulmer says that the group will continue to improve the precision of their work. He says that, in five to 10 years, they should be able to make a measurement at least twice as precise as this latest one. It could be within this range that they will be able to detect subtle differences between protons and antiprotons.

    “Antimatter is a very unique probe,” Ulmer says. “It kind of watches the universe through very different glasses than any matter experiments. With antimatter research, we may be the only ones to uncover physics treasures that would help explain why we don’t have antimatter anymore.”

    See the full article here .

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

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    Symmetry is a joint Fermilab/SLAC publication.

  • richardmitnick 3:28 pm on October 16, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , , , Symmetry Magazine   

    From Symmetry: “Scientists observe first verified neutron-star collision” 


    Sarah Charley


    Today scientists announced the first verified observation of a neutron star collision. LIGO detected gravitational waves radiating from two neutron stars as they circled and merged, triggering 50 additional observational groups to jump into action and find the glimmer of this ancient explosion.

    VIRGO Gravitational Wave interferometer, near Pisa, Italy

    Caltech/MIT Advanced aLigo Hanford, WA, USA installation

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

    Cornell SXS, the Simulating eXtreme Spacetimes (SXS) project

    Gravitational waves. Credit: MPI for Gravitational Physics/W.Benger-Zib

    ESA/eLISA the future of gravitational wave research

    Skymap showing how adding Virgo to LIGO helps in reducing the size of the source-likely region in the sky. (Credit: Giuseppe Greco (Virgo Urbino group)

    This observation represents the first time experiments have seen both light and gravitational waves from a single celestial crash, unlocking a new era of multi-messenger astronomy.

    On August 17 at 7:41 a.m. Eastern Time, NASA astronomer Julie McEnery had just returned from an early morning row on the Anacostia River when her experiment, the Fermi Gamma Ray Space Telescope, sent out an automatic alert that it had just recorded a burst of gamma rays coming from the southern constellation Hydra.

    NASA/Fermi Telescope

    NASA/Fermi LAT

    By itself, this wasn’t novel; the Gamma-ray Burst Monitor instrument on Fermi has seen approximately 2 gamma-ray outbursts per day since its launch in 2008.

    “Forty minutes later, I got an email from a colleague at LIGO saying that our trigger has a friend and that we should buckle up,” McEnery says.

    Most astronomy experiments, including the Fermi Gamma Ray Space Telescope, watch for light or other particles emanating from distant stars and galaxies. The LIGO experiment, on the other hand, listens for gravitational waves. Gravitational waves are the equivalent of cosmic tremors, but instead of rippling through layers of rock and dirt, they stretch and compress space-time itself.

    Exactly 1.7 seconds before Fermi noticed the gamma ray burst, a set of extremely loud gravitational waves had shaken LIGO’s dual detectors.

    “The sky positions overlapped, strongly suggesting the two signals were coming from the same astronomical event,” says Daniel Holz, a professor at the University of Chicago and member of LIGO collaboration and the Dark Energy Survey Gravitational Wave group.

    Dark Energy Survey

    Dark Energy Camera [DECam], built at FNAL

    NOAO/CTIO Victor M Blanco 4m Telescope which houses the DECam at Cerro Tololo, Chile, housing DECam

    LIGO reconstructed the location and distance of the event and sent an alert to their allied astronomers. About 12 hours later, right after sunset, multiple astronomical surveys found a glowing blue dot just above the horizon in the area LIGO predicted.

    “It lasted for two weeks, and we observed it for about an hour every night,” says Jim Annis, a researcher at the US Department of Energy’s Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory, the lead institution on the Dark Energy Survey. “We used telescopes that could see everything from low-energy radio waves all the way to high-energy X-rays, giving us a detailed image of what happened immediately after the initial collision.”

    Neutron stars are roughly the size of the island of Nantucket but have more mass than the sun. They have such a strong gravitational pull that all their matter has been squeezed and transformed into a single, giant atomic nucleus consisting entirely of neutrons.

    “Right before two neutron stars collide, they circle each other about 100 times a second,” Annis says. “As they collide, huge electromagnetic tornados erupt at the poles and material is sprayed out in all directions at close to the speed of light.”

    As they merge, neutron stars release a quick burst of gamma radiation and then a spray of decompressing neutron star matter. Exotic heavy elements form and decay, dumping enough energy that the surface reaches temperatures of 20,000 degrees Kelvin. That’s almost four times hotter than the surface of the sun and much brighter. Scientists theorize that a good portion of the heavy elements in our universe, such as gold, originated in neutron star collisions and other massively energetic events.

    Since coming online in September 2015, the US-based LIGO collaboration and their Italy-based partners, the Virgo collaboration, have reported detecting five bursts of gravitational waves. Up until now, each of these observations has come from a collision of black holes.

    “When two black holes collide, they emit gravitational waves but no light,” Holz says. “But this event released an enormous amount of light and numerous astronomical surveys saw it. Hearing and seeing the event provides a goldmine of information, and we will be mining the data for years to come.”

    This is a Rosetta Stone-type discovery, Holz says. “We’ve learned about the processes that neutron stars are undergoing as they fling out matter and how this matter synthesizes into some of the elements we find on Earth, such as gold and platinum,” he says. “In addition to teaching us about mysterious gamma-ray bursts, we can use this event to calculate the expansion rate of the universe. We will be able to estimate the age and composition of the universe in an entirely new way.”

    For McEnery, the discovery ushers in a new age of cooperation between gravitational-wave experiments and experiments like her own.

    “The light and gravitational waves from this collision raced each other across the cosmos for 130 million years and hit earth 1.7 seconds apart,” she says. “This shows that both are moving at the speed of light, as predicted by Einstein. This is what we’ve been hoping to see.”

    Editor’s note: See LIGO scientific publications here.

    See the full article here .

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    Symmetry is a joint Fermilab/SLAC publication.

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