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

What Is Dark Matter? Colliding Galaxy Clusters May Help Find Answer


Dark matter is a hypothetical kind of matter that cannot be seen with telescopes but accounts for most of the matter in the universe.  Dark matter is estimated to constitute 84.5% of the total matter in the universe. It has not been detected directly, making it one of the greatest mysteries in modern astrophysics.

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Hubble Image of Galactic Collision 

A study of 72 large cluster collisions shows how dark matter in galaxy clusters behaves when they collide.

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Image Showing How two Galaxies Collides

Astronomers have used data from NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope and the Chandra X-ray Observatory to find that dark matter interacts with itself less than previously thought. In an effort to learn more about dark matter, astronomers observed how galaxy clusters collide with each other — an event that could hold clues about the mysterious invisible matter that makes up most of the mass of the universe.

As part of a new study, published in the journal Science on Thursday, researchers used the Hubble telescope to map the distribution of stars and dark matter after a collision. They also used the Chandra observatory to detect the X-ray emission from colliding gas clouds.

“Dark matter is an enigma we have long sought to unravel,” John Grunsfeld, assistant administrator of NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington, said in a statement. “With the combined capabilities of these great observatories, both in extended mission, we are ever closer to understanding this cosmic phenomenon.”

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Here are images of six different galaxy clusters taken with NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope (blue) and Chandra X-ray Observatory (pink) in a study of how dark matter in clusters of galaxies behaves when the clusters collide. A total of 72 large cluster collisions were studied.  NASA and ESA

According to scientists, galaxy clusters are made of three main components — galaxies, gas clouds and dark matter. During collisions, the gas clouds bump into each other and gradually slow down. Galaxies, on the other hand, are much less affected by this process, and because of the huge gaps between the stars within them, galaxies do not slow each other down.

“We know how gas and stars react to these cosmic crashes and where they emerge from the wreckage,” David Harvey of the École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne in Switzerland, and the study’s lead author, said in the statement. “Comparing how dark matter behaves can help us to narrow down what it actually is.”

The researchers studied 72 large galaxy cluster collisions and found that, like galaxies, the dark matter continued straight through the collisions without slowing down much, meaning that dark matter do not interact with visible particles.

“There are still several viable candidates for dark matter, so the game is not over. But we are getting nearer to an answer,” Harvey said.

Source : IBT times

Black Hole 12 Billion Times Bigger Than the Sun Discovered


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Scientists say they have discovered a black hole so big that it challenges the theory about how they grow.

The scientists were initially reluctant to classify it as a black hole because it was too bright, its luminosity equal to the brightness of 420 trillion suns. Most of the people do not believe black holes to be bright, though they can be. This is particularly so because black holes suck everything inside them but just before that there is tremendous friction which produces a lot of light.

Scientists said this black hole was formed about 900 million years after the Big Bang.

But with measurements indicating it is 12 billion times the size of the Sun, the black hole challenges a widely accepted hypothesis of growth rates.

“Based on previous research, this is the largest black hole found for that period of time,” Dr Fuyan Bian, Research School of Astronomy and Astrophysics, Australian National University (ANU).

“Current theory is for a limit to how fast a black hole can grow, but this black hole is too large for that theory.”

The creation of supermassive black holes remains an open topic of research. However, many scientists have long believed the growth rate of black holes was limited.

Black holes grow, scientific theory suggests, as they absorb mass. However, as mass is absorbed, it will be heated creating radiation pressure, which pushes the mass away from the black hole.

“Basically, you have two forces balanced together which sets up a limit for growth, which is much smaller than what we found,” said Bian.

The black hole was discovered a team of global scientists led by Xue-Bing Wu at Peking University, China, as part of the Sloan Digital Sky Survey, which provided imagery data of 35 percent of the northern hemisphere sky.

The ANU is leading a comparable project, known as SkyMapper, to carry out observations of the Southern Hemisphere sky.

Bian expects more black holes to be observed as the project advances.

Source : Reuters , ScienceTimes

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

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.