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WHAT IS THE HIGGS BOSON?

discoverynews:

The Higgs is the last missing piece of the Standard Model, the theory that describes the basic building blocks of the universe. The other 11 particles predicted by the model have been found and finding the Higgs would validate the model. Ruling it out or finding something more exotic would force a rethink on how the universe is put together.

Scientists believe that in the first billionth of a second after the Big Bang, the universe was a gigantic soup of particles racing around at the speed of light without any mass to speak of. It was through their interaction with the Higgs field that they gained mass and eventually formed the universe.

The Higgs field is a theoretical and invisible energy field that pervades the whole cosmos. Some particles, like the photons that make up light, are not affected by it and therefore have no mass. Others find it drags on them as porridge drags on a spoon.

Picture George Clooney (the particle) walking down a street with a gaggle of photographers (the Higgs field) clustered around him. An average guy on the same street (a photon) gets no attention from the paparazzi and gets on with his day. The Higgs particle is the signature of the field – an eyelash of one of the photographers.

The particle is theoretical, first posited in 1964 by six physicists, including Briton Peter Higgs.

The search for it only began in earnest in the 1980s, first in Fermilab’s now mothballed Tevatron particle collider near Chicago and later in a similar machine at CERN, but most intensively since 2010 with the start-up of the European centre’s Large Hadron Collider.

WHAT IS THE STANDARD MODEL?

The Standard Model is to physics what the theory of evolution is to biology. It is the best explanation physicists have of how the building blocks of the universe are put together. It describes 12 fundamental particles, governed by four basic forces.

But the universe is a big place and the Standard Model only explains a small part of it. Scientists have spotted a gap between what we can see and what must be out there. That gap must be filled by something we don’t fully understand, which they have dubbed ’dark matter’. Galaxies are also hurtling away from each other faster than the forces we know about suggest they should. This gap is filled by ’dark energy’. This poorly understood pair are believed to make up a whopping 96 percent of the mass and energy of the cosmos.

Confirming the Standard Model, or perhaps modifying it, would be a step towards the holy grail of physics – a ’theory of everything’ that encompasses dark matter, dark energy and the force of gravity, which the Standard Model also does not explain. It could also shed light on even more esoteric ideas, such as the possibility of parallel universes.

CERN spokesman James Gillies has said that just as Albert Einstein’s theories enveloped and built on the work of Isaac Newton, the work being done by the thousands of physicists at CERN has the potential to do the same to Einstein’s work.

WHAT IS THE LARGE HADRON COLLIDER?

The Large Hadron Collider is the world’s biggest and most powerful particle accelerator, a 27-km (17-mile) looped pipe that sits in a tunnel 100 metres underground on the Swiss/French border. It cost 3 billion euros to build.

Two beams of protons are fired in opposite directions around it before smashing into each other to create many millions of particle collisions every second in a recreation of the conditions a fraction of a second after the Big Bang, when the Higgs field is believed to have ’switched on’.

The vast amount of data produced is examined by banks of computers. Of all the trillions of collisions, very few are just right for revealing the Higgs particle. That makes the hunt for the Higgs slow, and progress incremental.

WHAT IS THE THRESHOLD FOR PROOF?

To claim a discovery, scientists have set themselves a target for certainty that they call “5 sigma.” This means that there is a probability of less than one in a million that their conclusions from the data harvested from the particle accelerator are the result of a statistical fluke.

The two teams hunting for the Higgs at CERN, called Atlas and CMS, now have twice the amount of data that allowed them to claim ’tantalising glimpses’ of the Higgs at the end of last year and this could push their results beyond that threshold.

Reuters

watch the video here

Reblogged from DiscoveryNews 

The iPad Mini

Apparently, size matters.

parislemon:

Peter Burrows and Adam Satariano for Bloomberg:

Apple Inc. plans to debut a smaller, cheaper iPad by year-end, two people with knowledge of the plans said, to help maintain dominance of the tablet market as Google Inc. and Microsoft Corp. prepare competing handheld devices.

The new model will have a screen that’s 7 inches to 8 inches diagonally, less than the current 9.7-inch version, said the people, who asked not to be identified because Apple hasn’t made its plans public. The product, which Apple may announce by October, won’t have the high-definition screen featured on the iPad that was released in March, one of the people said.

There’s a lot of smoke now billowing around the “7-inch iPad”. This report is hardly the first, nor will it be the last. My only question is the timing.

Bloomberg drops “October” just as Rene Ritchie of iMore previously did a couple months ago. This would coincide with the new iPhone release, but you have to wonder if Apple wouldn’t rather space them out a bit? The iPhone launch can obviously stand alone as it is by far Apple’s biggest product. And the iPad is already at that level as well. Doing those two launches in one event (or even around the same time) may be overkill. I still wouldn’t be shocked to see Apple wait until early next year (the traditional iPad launch time) to debut an “iPad mini”.

On the other hand, by most accounts, the Nexus 7 is a very good device. Maybe that does force Apple’s hand a bit. They were obviously always going to do a smaller version of the iPad (hence, it possibly being ready to go by October), but again, the timing is the question. Perhaps if the Nexus 7 is selling like gangbusters, Apple does move to launch the iPad mini in the fall.

Then again, Apple typically doesn’t do things reactively. Instead, they seem to prefer to ship things when they’re done. Maybe they’re just done with the product. Again, Apple isn’t doing an iPad mini because of the Nexus 7 or the Kindle Fire or any other “rival” device — they’re doing it because it’s the logical evolution of the line. And because they feel like they’re going to sell a ton of them.

As for Steve Jobs implying Apple could never do a smaller tablet because users would have to whittle down their fingers to use it — welcome to Steve Jobs and Apple. Jobs saying that was just as good of an indication that Apple may eventually move into the space. And now it sure looks like they’re getting ready to.

Reblogged from ParisLemon 

Today we stand at the Information Age’s frontier: the Hybrid Age. The Hybrid Age is a new sociotechnical era that is unfolding as technologies merge with each other and humans merge with technology ⎯ both at the same time. Information technology’s exponentially increasing power is propelling other fields forward at accelerating rates, allowing them to transcend their individual limitations in scale and speed. This applies to DNA sequencing, 3-D printing and manufacturing, and almost every other technological sphere. Other fields are also helping IT to accelerate, even potentially overcoming Moore’s Law, which predicted that integrated-circuit capacity doubles approximately every two years. Microprocessors are now reaching the physical limitation of two-dimensional silicon chips as transistors reach atomic size. Computer scientists are teaming up with physicists to explore subatomic quantum computing, in which electrons could become conduits of unique data; biologists have made breakthroughs in molecular computing, which uses enzymes and DNA strands to replace silicon chips altogether. Silicon Valley might soon be something of a misnomer as ever more companies and universities start investing in research on oxygen, carbon, nitrogen and phosphorus.The cross-pollination of leading-edge sectors such as information technology, biotechnology, pervasive computing, robotics, neuroscience and nanotechnology spells the end of certain turf wars over nomenclature.

It is neither the “Bio Age” nor the “Nano Age” nor the “Neuro Age,” but the hybrid of all of these at the same time. At the same time, our own relationship to technology is moving beyond the instrumental to the existential. There is an accelerating centripetal dance between what technologies are doing outside us and inside us. Externally, technology no longer simply processes our instructions on a one-way street. Instead, it increasingly provides intelligent feedback. Internally, we are moving beyond using technology only to dominate nature toward making ourselves the template for technology, integrating technologies within ourselves physically. We don’t just use technology; we absorb it.

The Hybrid Age – new TED book by technologist futurists Parag Khanna and Ayesha Khanna explores our co-evolution with technology. 

Reblogged from Explore 

Hubble Telescope Sees Celestial Fireworks for Fourth of July
Image: Herbig-Haro 110 is a geyser of hot gas from a newborn star that splashes up against and ricochets off the dense core of a cloud of molecular hydrogen. This image is a composite of data taken with Hubble’s Advanced Camera for Surveys in 2004 and 2005 and the Wide Field Camera 3 in April 2011.  Credit: NASA, ESA, and the Hubble Heritage Team (STScI/AURA) 
A spectacular new picture from the Hubble Space Telescope has captured a cosmic fireworks display in deep space: a geyser of gas fired off from a baby star.
The celestial display is the result of Herbig-Haro 110, a gas jet erupting from a distant star and bouncing off of a nearby dust cloud. NASA scientists likened the impressive celestial jet to the skyrockets launched each year in the United States to mark the Independence Day holiday on July 4.
“Resembling a Fourth of July skyrocket, Herbig-Haro 110 is a geyser of hot gas from a newborn star that splashes up against and ricochets off the dense core of a cloud of molecular hydrogen,” Hubble scientists said in a statement today (July 3). “Although the plumes of gas look like whiffs of smoke, they are actually billions of times less dense than the smoke from a July 4 firework.”

Hubble Telescope Sees Celestial Fireworks for Fourth of July

Image: Herbig-Haro 110 is a geyser of hot gas from a newborn star that splashes up against and ricochets off the dense core of a cloud of molecular hydrogen. This image is a composite of data taken with Hubble’s Advanced Camera for Surveys in 2004 and 2005 and the Wide Field Camera 3 in April 2011. Credit: NASA, ESA, and the Hubble Heritage Team (STScI/AURA)

A spectacular new picture from the Hubble Space Telescope has captured a cosmic fireworks display in deep space: a geyser of gas fired off from a baby star.

The celestial display is the result of Herbig-Haro 110, a gas jet erupting from a distant star and bouncing off of a nearby dust cloud. NASA scientists likened the impressive celestial jet to the skyrockets launched each year in the United States to mark the Independence Day holiday on July 4.

“Resembling a Fourth of July skyrocket, Herbig-Haro 110 is a geyser of hot gas from a newborn star that splashes up against and ricochets off the dense core of a cloud of molecular hydrogen,” Hubble scientists said in a statement today (July 3). “Although the plumes of gas look like whiffs of smoke, they are actually billions of times less dense than the smoke from a July 4 firework.”

Reblogged from CWL 

We, all of us, are what happens when a primordial mixture of hydrogen and helium evolves for so long that it begins to ask where it came from.

Jill Tarter, Director of SETI

Reblogged from perfection for the imperfect 

fastcompany:

The man-made mechanical forest, five years in the making, consists of 18 supertrees that act as vertical gardens, generating solar power, acting as air venting ducts for nearby conservatories, and collecting rainwater. To generate electricity, 11 of the trees are fitted with solar photovoltaic systems that provide lighting and assist with water flow in the conservatories below. 

Singapore’s Supertrees Light Up The Night

Reblogged from Fast Company