Tracks made by atomic particles from a particle accelerator, a device that speeds up the particles. The eye can’t see protons, electrons, and other subatomic particles, but a camera records their frothy wakes in a chamber of liquefied neon and hydrogen at the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory in Batavia, Illinois. Physicists study the tracks to learn about the characteristics of the particles that produced them.” - National Geographic, 1978.

Search for ‘Ghost’ Particles Soon To Be Supercharged

While restarting the Large Hadron Collider in the coming days may be the week’s big theoretical physics story, we’ve also just heard news about another important upgrade on the way. 

The South Pole Telescope, the largest in Antarctica, will be getting a powerful new camera at the end of the year. Researchers at the Department of Energy’s national laboratories and the University of Chicago and University of California, Berkeley are building the super-sensitive instrument right now. 

At almost 33 feet in diameter, the big telescope’s main job is to help scientists learn about the origins and expansion of the universe by reading the cosmic microwave background, the faint thermal radiation left over from the Big Bang. Physicists building the new camera are hoping it will reveal another relic of the universe’s beginning called neutrinos. The tiny subatomic units, called ghost particles because they have no electrical charge and rarely interact with matter, were released in huge quantities during the Big Bang. See pictures and learn more below.

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New tattoo: subatomic particles photographed colliding.

Referenced Image: Computer enhanced photo of sub-atomic particle collision in a linear accelerator’s ‘bubble chamber’.

Why I got it: It’s a part of my wrist tattoo of the Fibonnaci spiral that extends over to the rest of my arm of examples where the Fibonnaci spiral seems to appear. Examples of the intricate beauty and mysterious patterns that reoccur in nature, be it tiny subatomic particles colliding, little sea shells washing up on the shore, or massive galaxies at work, it’s a pattern that appears every where you look in nature.

Double Slit Test - Illustration representing light travelling through two small slits and interfering with itself.

To see this in reality, stand on a bridge and look down at waves of water interfering with itself as the columns supporting the bridge block the water at some points making the wave travel around the columns and the new waves collide. If you have a camera, take a picture of it and compare it to this drawing, and it will be identical.

Light travels as a particle (when it’s being observed) and as a wave (when it’s not being observed). This has been one of the beautiful mysteries of light. Since all energy travels through the quantum, then light does indeed travel all possible paths as quantum mechanics predicts. Light travels through (vibrates through) the lattice (or grid like) structure of space-time vibrating all points connected to it.

Space-time is a fractal. A fractal is a shape that when you decompose into pieces, the pieces are the same to the whole. When you decompose space-time (or light) into its smallest pieces (Planck constants) the pieces are the same as the whole. When light travels, the pathways that it travels is through a lattice structure (which is also a fractal) so it’s is correct to say that light travels through all fractal pathways.

The question is, why does light behave as a particle (when you observe it) and as a wave (when it is not being observed)? Just by looking at it, you observe the point that you are looking at, so it behaves as a particle because you are defining it. Light behaves as a particle when it is being observed and amazingly, just because it’s being observed. But when it is not being observed it behaves as a wave, only because it is not being observed. So it appears that observation literally creates reality, which is another beautiful illusion of relativity. So is light a wave or a particle? It is both, depending on whether it is being observed or not. The quirky, elegant, beautiful strangeness of the universe.

Small stuff is cool to science.

First we were like “hey there’s these small things that make up everything. Let’s call them atoms.”

Then we were like “hey there’s small things in the small things let’s call them electrons.”

Then were were like “oh there’s other small things in the small things, let’s call them protons and neutrons.”

Then we were like “wait a second those second two small things in the small things are made of even smaller things. Let’s call them quarks. Also, there’s other classes of small things the same size as the small things in the small things but that aren’t in the small things, and they’re made of the small things in the small things in the small things.”

Now we’re like “hey the small things in the small things in the small things are actually made of even smaller things called preons, and these small things in small things in small things in small things are probably made of even smaller things we haven’t discovered yet.”

I’m guessing we’re going to just keep finding smaller things until we reach the Planck length.

(That’s very, very, very much smaller. There would probably be around 15 more small things until we got there.)

Icy Observatory Detects Neutrinos From Outside Our Solar System

“At the bottom of the world, an observatory embedded in ice and designed to catch bountiful but elusive subatomic particles could give astronomers a brand-new look at the universe.

An international team of scientists reported on Thursday that over a two-year period they had detected 28 of these particles, known as neutrinos, that arrived from outside the solar system and possibly from across the universe.”

Science: A Field Guide

I often get asked about how to pick a field, so here’s a handy guide for choosing which science is right for you:

Physics: Do you like computers and also hate fun? Physics might be for you! Options in this debatably exciting field include space, subatomic particles, and using math to analyze other people’s data!

Chemistry: Do you not exactly know what you want to do, and enjoy the flexibility of being able to work in almost any other field while at the same time not having a strong intrafield identity? Consider chemistry, the central science.

Biology: If you want to feel superior while also working on model systems with only a passing resemblance to actual relevant systems I urge you to consider biology. Benefits include being able to brag about trying to cure cancer and never having to worry about justifying your work. Drawbacks include premeds and not actually curing cancer. 

Astronomy: Are you really into the aesthetic of science? Were you a space kid? Do you want to do physics but not really? Astronomy might be the field for you! 

Geology: Were you a kid with an oral fixation and a rock collection? Do you like thinking about things that haven’t changed in a billion years? Have you always wanted an excuse to lick your samples? Just go be a geologist already.

Environmental Science: If you enjoy yelling into the void and having no one listen, you should consider a career in environmental science. Benefits include feeling good about trying to save the planet but drawbacks include not actually accomplishing anything.

Paleontology: Do you secretly wish that dinosaurs never went extinct? Was Jurassic Park your favorite movie as a kid? As long as you won’t be too disappointed if you spend your entire career sorting through fish teeth instead of digging up T. rex skulls, paleontology is for you!

Zoology: If you like animals but don’t want to be a vet, consider zoology. You’ll get to travel to exciting and exotic locales to do field work, but you need to be okay getting urinated/pooped on by a variety of animals. You kinky bastard. 

Neuroscience: Do you like working on systems so complex that anything you find will likely be meaningless? Does doing surgery on mouse brains sound like you’re idea of a good time? Do you think putting a dead fish in an fMRI could be a good idea? If you answered yes to any of these questions, I strongly urge you to consider neuroscience.

Psychology: If you’re fascinated by the human brain but don’t want to deal with working on mice, psychology is the field for you! I hope you like math, because you’re going to be spending most of your time from here on out doing statistics. 


Hints of a new particle could change physics as we know it

A fluctuation in the data from the world’s most powerful particle smasher could turn all of physics on its head. In December, two different detectors at the Large Hadron Collider spotted the same strange fluctuation, which physicists say could hint at the existence of a brand-new subatomic particle. There’s just one problem with the “discovery.“

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