The world’s biggest and most expensive scientific experiment is ready to re-start


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Underneath some nondescript farmland near Geneva, on the border of France and Switzerland, the world’s biggest and most expensive scientific experiment is ready to re-start.

Physicists hope it could lead to discoveries that could potentially represent the biggest revolution in physics since Einstein’s theories of relativity.

Among them is Prof Jordan Nash from Imperial College London, who is working on the CMS experiment at the LHC.

“We are opening a new window on the Universe and looking forward to seeing what’s there,” he said.
“As much as we have a lot of theories of what might be out there we don’t know. We’d love to find something completely unexpected and we might, and that’s the exciting bit.”

Why are scientists doubling the LHC’s energy?

They want a glimpse into a world never seen before. By smashing atoms harder than they have been smashed before physicists hope to see peel back another veil of reality.

The aim of the various theories of physics is to explain how the Universe was formed and how the bits that make it up work.

One of the most successful of these theories is called the “Standard Model“.

It explains how the world of the very, very small works.

Just as the world became very strange when Alice shrunk after drinking a potion in the children’s book Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, physicists have found things are quite different when they study the goings on at scales that are even smaller than the size of an atom.

By doubling the energy of the LHC, it will enable them to discover new characters in the wonderful and mysterious tale of how the Universe works and came to be.

What is the Standard Model?

The Standard Model describes how the basic building blocks that make up atoms and govern the forces of nature interact.

And just as in Alice’s stories it features some eccentric characters, notably a family of 17 elementary particles.

Some are familiar from school physics lessons, household names if you like.

The biggest celebrity in the sub-atomic world is perhaps the electron, which orbits the atom and is involved in electricity and magnetism.

Another flashy A-lister is the photon, which is a particle of light.

But most particles from the Standard Model family are more niche, a little more art house if you like, and have strange names.

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With the discovery of the sub-atomic world’s biggest celeb of all, the Higgs boson, scientists have now detected all the particles predicted by the Standard Model: a theory that beautifully explains how the Universe works in intricate detail.

What’s next?

Who knows, but possibly one of the biggest changes in thinking in physics for 100 years.

The sub-atomic world is set to become “curiouser and curiouser”.

Source : ITV , BBC

Forget dark matter, STRANGE matter could be lurking somewhere in the universe


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  • Scientists at the National Institute for Space Research in Brazil say an undiscovered type of matter could be found in neutron stars
  • Here matter is so dense that it could be ‘squashed’ into strange matter
  • This would create an entire ‘strange star’ – unlike anything we have seen
  • However, the exact properties of strange matter are unknown
  • If it exists, though, it could help scientists discover ripples in space-time known as gravitational waves

Neutron stars are among the densest objects in the universe – just a spoonful of matter from one of them would weigh more than the moon.

But inside these remarkable stellar objects, which are no bigger than a city on Earth, a remarkable process might be taking place.

Scientists have revealed their matter might become so squashed that it turns into ‘strange matter’ – and observing so-called strange stars could unlock some of the secrets of the universe.

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Scientists at the National Institute for Space Research in Brazil say an undiscovered type of matter could be found in neutron stars (illustration shown). Here matter is so dense that it could be ‘squashed’ into strange matter. This would create an entire ‘strange star’ – unlike anything we have seen

The latest theory was proposed by Dr Pedro Moraes and Dr Oswaldo Miranda, both of the National Institute for Space Research in Brazil.

They say that some types of neutron stars might be made of a new type of matter called strange matter.

What the properties of this matter would be, though, are unknown – but it would likely be a ‘liquid’ of several types of sub-atomic particles.

Source: daily mail

Gravity May Have Saved Very Early Universe – Study


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A team of physicists from Denmark, Finland and the United Kingdom, led by Dr Matti Herranen University of Copenhagen, says that the spacetime curvature – in effect, gravity – is what may have saved the Universe from collapse immediately after the Big Bang.

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Some previous studies have suggested that the production of Higgs particles during the accelerating expansion of the very early Universe (inflation period) should have led to instability and collapse. Physicists have been trying to find out why this didn’t happen, leading to hypotheses that there must be some new physics that will help explain the origins of the Universe that has not yet been discovered.

Dr Herranen and his colleagues, however, believe there is a simpler explanation.

In a new study, published in the journal Physical Review Letters, they describe how the spacetime curvature provided the stability needed for the Universe to survive expansion in that early period.

They investigated the interaction between the Higgs bosons and gravity, taking into account how it would vary with energy.

The results show that even a small interaction would have been enough to stabilize the Universe against decay.

“The Standard Model of particle physics, which scientists use to explain elementary particles and their interactions, has so far not provided an answer to why the Universe did not collapse following the Big Bang,” said co-author Prof Arttu Rajantie of Imperial College London.

“Our research investigates the last unknown parameter in the Standard Model – the interaction between the Higgs particle and gravity.”

This parameter cannot be measured in particle accelerator experiments, but it has a big effect on the Higgs instability during inflation. Even a relatively small value is enough to explain the survival of the Universe without any new physics!”

The physicists plan to continue their research using cosmological observations to look at this interaction in more detail and explain what effect it would have had on the development of the early Universe.

In particular, they will use data from current and future ESA’s missions measuring cosmic microwave background radiation and gravitational waves.

“Our aim is to measure the interaction between gravity and the Higgs field using cosmological data,” Prof Rajantie said.

“If we are able to do that, we will have supplied the last unknown number in the Standard Model of particle physics and be closer to answering fundamental questions about how we are all here.”

Source : Sci-news

NASA looks at future exploration of our Solar System


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The new Paramount film “Interstellar” imagines a future where astronauts must find a new planet suitable for human life after climate change destroys the Earth’s ability to sustain us.

Multiple NASA missions are helping avoid this dystopian future by providing critical data necessary to protect Earth. Yet the cosmos beckons us to explore farther from home, expanding human presence deeper into the solar system and beyond.

For thousands of years we’ve wondered if we could find another home among the stars. We’re right on the cusp of answering that question.

If you step outside on a very dark night you may be lucky enough to see many of the 2,000 stars visible to the human eye. They’re but a fraction of the billions of stars in our galaxy and the innumerable galaxies surrounding us.

Multiple NASA missions are helping us extend humanity’s senses and capture starlight to help us better understand our place in the universe.

Largely visible light telescopes like Hubble show us the ancient light permeating the cosmos, leading to groundbreaking discoveries like the accelerating expansion of the universe. Through infrared missions like Spitzer, SOFIA and WISE, we’ve peered deeply through cosmic dust, into stellar nurseries where gases form new stars.

With missions like Chandra, Fermi and NuSTAR, we’ve detected the death throes of massive stars, which can release enormous energy through supernovas and form the exotic phenomenon of black holes.

Yet it was only in the last few years that we could fully grasp how many other planets there might be beyond our solar system. Some 64 million miles (104 kilometers) from Earth, the Kepler Space Telescope stared at a small window of the sky for four years. As planets passed in front of a star in Kepler’s line of view, the spacecraft measured the change in brightness.

Kepler was designed to determine the likelihood that other planets orbit stars. Because of the mission, we now know it’s possible every star has at least one planet. Solar systems surround us in our galaxy and are strewn throughout the myriad galaxies we see.

Though we have not yet found a planet exactly like Earth, the implications of the Kepler findings are staggering—there may very well be many worlds much like our own for future generations to explore.

NASA also is developing its next exoplanet mission, the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS), which will search 200,000 nearby stars for the presence of Earth-size planets.

As of now, the distance between stars is too great for spacecraft to traverse using existing propulsion. Only one spacecraft is poised to leave the solar system in the near future. Voyager 1, launched in 1977, made the historic entry into interstellar space in August of 2012, reaching the region between stars, filled with material ejected by the death of nearby stars millions of years ago. It won’t encounter another star for at least 40,000 years.

The near-term future of exploration should be cause for much excitement, though, as humans and robotic spacecraft pioneer the path Voyager traveled, deeper into our solar system, where extra-terrestrial life may exist, and where humans could one day thrive.

Life as we know it requires water and heat. On our watery planet, we find life teeming at even the most extreme temperatures. Scientists are eager to know if evidence of microbial life exists on other planets and moons within our reach.

On Jupiter’s moon Europa, for example, there is a temperate ocean caught between a volcanic core and icy surface. Just as life exists in the dark, hot reaches of Earth’s ocean, so too could it exist on Europa, waiting to be discovered. NASA is studying a future mission to the watery moon next decade.

Many scientists question if Earth formed with the water it has now. Comets and asteroid impacts early in the planet’s history may have brought the water and help transform our atmosphere. Upcoming missions to capture samples of asteroids, like OSIRIS-REx, could reveal the building blocks of life embedded in the rock, which could lead to new insights about the origins of life.

Perhaps the most enticing target to search for evidence of life, however, is Mars. A fleet of spacecraft on the surface and orbiting Mars have revealed the Red Planet once had conditions suitable for life.

While the planet’s flowing water and atmosphere have significantly diminished, evidence of past life could still be discovered by future exploration. It could even be a home for future human pioneers.

Martian natural resources like water ice embedded in rock could be extracted to create breathable air, drinkable water, and even components for spacecraft propellant. An ability to live off the land will greatly enable multiple human missions to Mars and forever change the history of humankind.

This Journey to Mars begins aboard the International Space Station where astronauts 250 miles above Earth are learning how to live in space for long durations—key knowledge needed for round trips to Mars, which could take 500 days or more. A new generation of U.S. commercial spacecraft and rockets are supplying the space station and will soon launch astronauts once again from U.S. soil.

As these 21st century spaceflight innovations open low-Earth Orbit in new ways, NASA is building the capabilities to send humans farther from Earth than even before. In December, we’ll conduct the first flight test of the Orion Spacecraft, which will carry astronauts next decade on missions beyond the moon to an asteroid and Mars, launched on the giant Space Launch System rocket.

Many other missions in the near future will expand the frontier of exploration in our solar system. In 2015, New Horizons will fly by Pluto and see the icy world up close for the first time. In 2016, NASA will launch the InSight mission to Mars and asteroid sample return mission OSIRIS-REx.

In 2018, Hubble’s successor, the James Webb Space Telescope, will see light from the universe’s first stars. In about 2019, we’ll launch a robotic spacecraft to capture and redirect an asteroid.

In 2020, we’ll send a new rover to Mars, to follow in the footsteps of Curiosity, search for ancient Martian life, and pave the way for future human explorers.

In 2021, SLS and Orion will launch humans on the first crewed mission of the combined system. In the mid-2020s, astronauts will explore an asteroid redirected to an orbit around the moon, and return home with samples that could hold clues to the origins of the solar system and life on Earth.

In doing so, those astronauts will travel farther into the solar system than anyone has ever been.

It’s an exciting time as NASA reaches new heights to reveal the unknown and benefit humankind. Be a part of the journey and connect with us at www.nasa.gov/connect

Compact Fusion Reactor Within A Decade, Says Lockheed Martin


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American advance technology company Lockheed Martin says it’s within a decade of producing a fusion reactor that’s 90 percent smaller than previous designs.

what is fusion power ?

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Fusion reactor may be the ultimate solution for today’s energy crisis . Fusion is the process that powers stars. Fusion power is the energy generated by nuclear fusion processes. In fusion reactions, two light atomic nuclei fuse to form a heavier nucleus (in contrast with fission power). In doing so they release a comparatively large amount of energy arising from the binding energy due to the strong nuclear force that is manifested as an increase in temperature of the reactants. Fusion power is a primary area of research in plasma physics.

The stakes are high, and so is the enthusiasm and skepticism about Lockheed’s announcement. After all, fusion could generate much more energy much more cleanly than today’s power plants that rely on nuclear fission.

But fusion reactors are elusive. So far, no researcher has been able to wring more energy from a fusion reactor than is needed to power it up.

Most efforts to create a fusion reactor have focused on containing hot plasma, a highly ionized gas, within strong magnetic fields in what’s called a “tokamak,” a doughnut-shaped device. Some of these tokamaks already being built or tested are enormous, including the world’s largest – 30 meters tall – at an international laboratory in France known as ITER. Its projected cost is $50 billion.

In an interview with MIT Technology Review, Tom McGuire, who leads Lockheed’s fusion research, said the aerospace, defense and security company has developed a compact reactor based on what he called “magnetic mirror confinement,” which is designed to contain plasma by reflecting particles from high-density magnetic fields to low-density fields.

By “compact” Lockheed means that its research reactor measures two meters long and one meter wide, much smaller than its rivals. And according to McGuire, it’s not small for small’s sake. He argues that the reduced size makes operations and hardware revisions quicker and more efficient. “That is a much more powerful development paradigm and much less capital intensive,” he said.

Small also means that a working fusion reactor of this size might easily fit in a tractor-trailer and be taken to a remote site to generate 100 megawatts of power. He concedes, “There are no guarantees that we can get there, but that possibility is there.”

Already, Lockheed’s fusion reactor team has conducted 200 firings with plasma at its research facility in Palmdale, Calif., known as Skunk Works, but it hasn’t yet produced any data on their results. Still, McGuire said, the plasma “looks like it’s doing what it’s supposed to do.”

Astronomers may have detected the first direct evidence of dark matter


Scientists have detected a mysterious X-ray signal that could be caused by dark matter streaming out of our Sun’s core.

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A sketch (not to scale) shows axions (blue) streaming out of the Sun and then converting into X-rays (orange) in the Earth’s magnetic field (red). The X-rays are then detected by the XMM-Newton observatory.

Scientists in the UK may have finally found direct evidence for dark matter pouring out of our Sun.

Dark matter is an invisible mass of unknown origin, that is believed to make up 85 percent of the Universe. But despite that, scientists have never been able to directly detect it – they only know it’s there because of its gravitational effect on regular light and matter.

Now scientists at the University of Leicester have identified a signal on the X-ray spectrum which appears to be a signature of ‘axions’ – a hypothetical dark matter particle that’s never been detected before.

While we can’t get too excited just yet – it will take years to confirm whether this signal really is dark matter – the discovery would completely change our understanding of how the Universe works. After all, dark matter is the force that holds our galaxies together, so learning more about it is pretty important.

The researchers first detected the signal while searching through 15 years of measurements taking by the European Space Agency’s orbiting XMM-Newton space observatory.

Unexpectedly, they noticed that the intensity of X-rays recorded by the spacecraft rose by about 10% whenever XMM-Newton was at the boundary of Earth’s magnetic field facing the Sun – even once they removed all the bright X-ray sources from the sky. Usually, that X-ray background is stable.

“The X-ray background – the sky, after the bright X-ray sources are removed – appears to be unchanged whenever you look at it,” said Andy Read, from the University of Leicester, one of the lead authors on the paper, in a press release. “However, we have discovered a seasonal signal in this X-ray background, which has no conventional explanation, but is consistent with the discovery of axions.”

Researchers predict that axions, if they exist, would be produced invisibly by the Sun, but would convert to X-rays as they hit Earth’s magnetic field. This X-ray signal should in theory be strongest when looking through the sunward side of the magnetic field, as this is where the Earth’s magnetic field is strongest.

And that’s exactly what the scientists found.

The research has now been published in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society. Sadly, the first author of the paper Professor George Fraser died earlier this year.

He writes in the paper: “The direct detection of dark matter has preoccupied physics for over 30 years … It appears plausible that axions – dark matter particle candidates – are indeed produced in the core of the Sun and do indeed convert to X-rays in the magnetic field of the Earth.”

The next step is for the researchers to get a larger dataset from XMM-Newton and confirm the pattern they’ve seen in X-rays. Once they’ve done that, they can begin the long process of proving that they have, in fact, detecting dark matter streaming out of our Sun’s core.

And that will take a lot of work, as physicist Christian Beck, who didn’t work on the project, told Ian Sample from The Guardian. “A true discovery of dark matter that is convincing for most scientists would require consistent results from several different experiments using different detection methods, in addition to what has been observed by the Leicester group,” said Beck.

If confirmed, it’s hard to know just how profound the impact of this discovery could be.

“These exciting discoveries, in George’s final paper, could be truly ground-breaking, potentially opening a window to new physics, and could have huge implications, not only for our understanding of the true X-ray sky, but also for identifying the dark matter that dominates the mass content of the cosmos,” said Read in the press release.