Tag Archives: particle accelerator

Credit: CERN.

CERN draws up plans for new particle accelerator four times bigger than the LHC

Credit: CERN.

Credit: CERN.

The Large Hadron Collider (LHC) is, at present, the largest scientific instrument in the world. One hundred meters underground, beneath the border between France and Switzerland, the LHC uses intense magnetic fields generated by superconductivity to accelerate hadrons (i.e. protons) in a circular path 27 kilometers (17 miles) in circumference. The European Organization for Nuclear Research, also known as CERN, has now announced plans for an even bigger particle accelerator — a 100 kilometers (62 miles) circular tunnel set to dwarf the LHC.

The concept for the proposed ‘Future Circular Collider’ appeared in a CERN report released on Tuesday. According to the document, the €20bn mega-science project will ultimately be able to accelerate protons and slam them together with 100 teraelectronvolts of energy, or nearly 10 times that of the Large Hadron Collider.

However, this might not happen until 2050. Until then, the FCC will be built and operated in stages, slowly ramping up its energy. At first, CERN scientists say that the FCC will only collide electrons and positrons (their antimatter counterparts), and slowly progress towards electron collisions with much heavier nuclei of lead atoms.

“It shows the tremendous potential of the FCC to improve our knowledge of fundamental physics and to advance many technologies with a broad impact on society,” said Prof. Fabiola Gianotti, CERN’s Director-General.

Artist impression of the FCC. Credit: CERN.

Artist impression of the FCC. Credit: CERN.

The stupendous energy involved in these collisions will enable scientists to study the Higgs boson with more precision but also generate new particles predicted by the Standard Model of physics. The Higgs is the particle which gives other particles their mass, making it both centrally important and seemingly magical. Its existence was predicted by British physicist Peter Higgs in 1964 and was not discovered until 2012. The following year, Peter Higgs was awarded the much deserved Nobel Prize in Physics.

The FCC should also lead to the discovery of completely new particles that aren’t included yet in the Standard Model. This is our best model that explains the inner workings of the physical world — but it’s far from perfect. For instance, galaxies are spinning faster than the Standard Model predicts, the Universe’s expansion is accelerating rather than slowing down — and, to top it all off, the Standard Model doesn’t even include gravity.

The ambitious conceptual design will be submitted for consideration for the upcoming 2020 European strategy for particle physics. Financing such a behemoth science project won’t be easy, though. In 1993, the United States canceled the Superconducting Super Collider, which was designed to be a bit smaller than the FCC. Last year, Japan put its $7bn Linear Collider on hold because a committee concluded the costs were running too high. FCC’s fate will depend on a complex cost-benefit analysis which will have to determine to what extent such a massive undertaking will benefit humanity.


The LHC is back in business!

The Large Hadron Collider (LHC) has smashed its first particle since it was shut down two years ago. The particle accelerator is heating up with some low energy collisions, CERN said in a statement.

Proton beams collide for a total energy of 900 GeV in the ATLAS detector on the LHC (Image: ATLAS/CERN)

“At about half past nine CET this morning, for the first time since the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) started up after two years of maintenance and repairs, the accelerator delivered proton-proton collisions to the LHC experiments ALICE, ATLAS, CMS and LHCb at an energy of 450 gigaelectronvolts (GeV) per beam,” the press release read.

In case you’re not aware what all the fuss is about, the LHC is the world’s largest and most powerful particle accelerator; it’s also the largest single machine in the world. The aim of the LHC is to allow physicists to test the predictions of different theories of particle physics and high-energy physics like the Standard Model, and in particular to prove or disprove the existence of the Higgs Boson – a theoretical particle which is crucial to modern particle physics, as it is proposed by the Standard Model. So far, LHC has given some tantalizing evidence, but many physicists are still awaiting a confirmation of the boson’s discovery.

“It’s a nice milestone today,” said Dave Charlton, spokesperson for the LHC’s huge multipurpose Atlas detector. “There were a lot of smiling faces in the control room today.”

In 2012, the LHC was shut down for maintenance and to allow rising its power from 8 TeV to 13 TeV, allowing it to smash particles at at higher energies, potentially detecting new particles and particle interactions. So far, the particle accelerator went to “only” 450 gigaelectronvolts (GeV) per beam (0.45 TeV).

Courtesy of: CMS collaboration

“Though the first beam at 6.5 TeV circulated successfully in the LHC last month, there are many more steps before the accelerator will deliver high-energy collisions for physics to the LHC experiments. Well before the full physics programme begins, the LHC operations team will collide beams at 13 TeV to check the beam orbit, quality and stability,” CERN continued in their press release.

The particle accelerator is expected to reach full power in June.


Record breaking energies achieved in a compact particle accelerator 3 million times smaller than the LHC

With the help of the most powerful laser in the world, scientists have achieved the highest energies yet in a compact particle accelerator. The tabletop-sized device accelerates electrons to high speeds by firing high power laser pulses in a controlled manner through a plasma tube only 9 centimeters in size. The accelerator ring at the Large Hadron Collider in CERN is 17 miles long . Admittedly, we’re comparing apples and oranges in a way, since the LHC accelerators hadrons (protons), while the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory accelerator only works for electrons. Nevertheless, it’s a breakthrough achievement one that might help miniaturize bulky medical devices and slash costs.

The most efficient particle accelerator in the world


A 9 cm-long capillary discharge waveguide used in BELLA experiments to generate multi-GeV electron beams. The plasma plume has been made more prominent with the use of HDR photography. Credit: Roy Kaltschmidt

In the laser-plasma accelerator setup, the BELLA (Berkeley Lab Laser Accelerator) was used to fire petawatt pulses (a million billion watts) onto a charged-particle gas called plasma to get the particles up to speed. When the laser pulse ripples through the plasma, it creates a channel in its path followed by waves that trap the free electrons and accelerate them to high energies, akin to how a surfer skims down the face of a wave to gain momentum. Thus, through the nine-centimeter-long plasma tube electrons were accelerated to a speed equivalent to 4.25 giga-electron volts. Considering the short distance, this means an energy gradient 1000 times greater than traditional particle accelerators and marks a world record energy for laser-plasma accelerators.

“This result requires exquisite control over the laser and the plasma,” says Dr. Wim Leemans, director of the Accelerator Technology and Applied Physics Division at Berkeley Lab and lead author on the paper. The results appear in the most recent issue of Physical Review Letters.

Particle accelerators transfer energy so that protons, electrons or positrons (anti-electron) can reach high energies. When these particles are collided at these tremendous speeds, funny things start to happen. If billions of collisions are made, chances have it that all sorts of elementary particles, some lasting only a fraction of a second, can be seen. This is how the famed Higgs boson was confirmed at CERN only a few years ago. In a way, a high-energy particle accelerator like the LHC at CERN is a time machine, because it replicates conditions similar to those in place mere moments following the Big Bang.

Because of the tremendous energies involved, Leemans and colleagues first made a computer simulation using gear available at the National Energy Research Scientific Computing Center (NERSC) to test the setup before any shots were fired. This way, the researchers selected the optimal region of operation and the best way to control the accelerator. BELLA’s pin-point accuracy sure helped, too.

Computer simulation of the plasma wakefield as it evolves over the length of the 9-cm long channel. Credit: Berkeley Lab

Computer simulation of the plasma wakefield as it evolves over the length of the 9-cm long channel. Credit: Berkeley Lab

“We’re forcing this laser beam into a 500 micron hole about 14 meters away, “ Leemans says. “The BELLA laser beam has sufficiently high pointing stability to allow us to use it.” Moreover, Leemans says, the laser pulse, which fires once a second, is stable to within a fraction of a percent. “With a lot of lasers, this never could have happened,” he adds.

The plan is to accelerate electrons to even greater energies, with a near-future goal set to 10 giga-electron volts. Tweaking the plasma channel’s density through which the laser light flows is the first obvious step – they need to make the channel’s shape just in the right way to handle more-energetic electrons.

Image: SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory

Particle accelerator only 30cm in size is hundred times faster than LHC

Researchers at the SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory have devised a particle accelerator that can increase the kinetic energy of particles passing through it hundreds of times faster than the LHC. While the latter is comprised of a 27km ring, the device made by the US scientists is only 30cm in size. This massive leap in miniaturization could drastically reduce the cost of bulky and expensive medical devices like X-rays, lasers or radiotherapy. Some of these sell for more than a million dollars, and a big chunk of the cost and storage size is reserved to the particle accelerators.

Cheaper, faster particle accelerators

Image: SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory

Image: SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory

Particle accelerators transfer energy so that protons, electrons or positrons (anti-electron) can reach ever higher energies. When these particles are collided at these tremendous speeds, funny things start to happen. If billions of collisions are made, chances have it that all sorts of elementary particles, some lasting only a fraction of a second, can be seen. This is how the famed Higgs boson was confirmed at CERN only a few years ago. In a way, a high-energy particle accelerator like the LHC at CERN is a time machine, because it replicates conditions similar to those in place mere moments following the Big Bang.

[RELATED] Large Hadron Collider creates mini big bangs and incredible heat

Now, the LHC is a lot different than smaller particle accelerators like those used in medicine. For one, the LHC accelerates hadrons (protons, neutrons and subatomic particles) in a huge energy flux (luminosity) by “rf cavities” – a sort of black box that  transfers electromagnetic energy into the kinetic energy of particles, accelerating them. Multiple such cavities are used, but they have to be carefully placed to avoid lightning-like discharges of energy.This is mainly why the LHC needs such a large accelerating ring.

Other applications, however, don’t require a high luminosity. In medicine, particle accelerators use electrons (instead of hadrons) and don’t require high luminosity, which is helpful to generate multiple collisions. Instead of rf cavities, the accelerator made SLAC uses  a short column of lithium vapour “plasma” in rapid succession, whose electric field is able to transport energy to electrons hundreds of times faster than the LHC – all with a device 30cm in size.

[INTERESTING] Particle accelerator on a chip

Plasma is considered the fourth state of matter.  Plasma is a cloud of protons, neutrons and electrons where all the electrons have come loose from their respective molecules and atoms, giving the plasma the ability to act as a whole rather than as a bunch of atoms. A plasma is more like a gas than any of the other states of matter because the atoms are not in constant contact with each other, but it behaves differently from a gas. Between particles in plasma, the electric field can be very high and as electrons pass through the plasma in the SLAC experiment, they acquire energy.

So, how could this translate into practical applications? Well, the prime candidate, as already mentioned, is the field of medicine. Handheld particle weapons might also be possible. Whatever we’ll see happening, the LHC won’t become obsolete any time soon. On the contrary, ever bigger hadron accelerators are being considered, like the 100 TeV machine in China.

Findings appeared in the journal Nature. The paper’s abstract:

“High-efficiency acceleration of charged particle beams at high gradients of energy gain per unit length is necessary to achieve an affordable and compact high-energy collider. The plasma wakefield accelerator is one concept1, 2, 3 being developed for this purpose. In plasma wakefield acceleration, a charge-density wake with high accelerating fields is driven by the passage of an ultra-relativistic bunch of charged particles (the drive bunch) through a plasma4, 5, 6. If a second bunch of relativistic electrons (the trailing bunch) with sufficient charge follows in the wake of the drive bunch at an appropriate distance, it can be efficiently accelerated to high energy. Previous experiments using just a single 42-gigaelectronvolt drive bunch have accelerated electrons with a continuous energy spectrum and a maximum energy of up to 85 gigaelectronvolts from the tail of the same bunch in less than a metre of plasma7. However, the total charge of these accelerated electrons was insufficient to extract a substantial amount of energy from the wake. Here we report high-efficiency acceleration of a discrete trailing bunch of electrons that contains sufficient charge to extract a substantial amount of energy from the high-gradient, nonlinear plasma wakefield accelerator. Specifically, we show the acceleration of about 74 picocoulombs of charge contained in the core of the trailing bunch in an accelerating gradient of about 4.4 gigavolts per metre. These core particles gain about 1.6 gigaelectronvolts of energy per particle, with a final energy spread as low as 0.7 per cent (2.0 per cent on average), and an energy-transfer efficiency from the wake to the bunch that can exceed 30 per cent (17.7 per cent on average). This acceleration of a distinct bunch of electrons containing a substantial charge and having a small energy spread with both a high accelerating gradient and a high energy-transfer efficiency represents a milestone in the development of plasma wakefield acceleration into a compact and affordable accelerator technology.”

Nanofabricated chips of fused silica just 3 millimeters long were used to accelerate electrons at a rate 10 times higher than conventional particle accelerator technology. (Brad Plummer/SLAC)

Particle accelerator on a chip demonstrated

Nanofabricated chips of fused silica just 3 millimeters long were used to accelerate electrons at a rate 10 times higher than conventional particle accelerator technology. (Brad Plummer/SLAC)

Nanofabricated chips of fused silica just 3 millimeters long were used to accelerate electrons at a rate 10 times higher than conventional particle accelerator technology. (Brad Plummer/SLAC)

A team of brilliant researchers at  the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory and Stanford University have demonstrated a working particle accelerator, used to accelerate particles like electrons or protons to extremely high energies and probe the Universe’s secrets, which is the size of a typical silicon chip. Typically, particle accelerators range from a few kilometers in length to 27 kilometers – the length of the Large Hadron Collider at CERN, the largest particle accelerator in the world.

The researchers liken their work to the pioneering research in electronics from the early ’50s when the transistor replaced huge vacuum tubes and scaled down computers from room-size to tabletop-size. Bring the particle accelerator to the researchers, instead of the researchers having to come to the particle accelerator. As fascinating and useful the idea is, so were the challenges the SLAC team had to overcome.

A tiny particle accelerator

Accelerators today work by using microwaves to boost the energy of electrons, in a two-phase process. In the first part, particles are accelerated near the speed of light. In the second phase, the particles stop gaining velocity, instead the acceleration increases their energy, not the speed – a highly tricky process.

The key to the accelerator chips is tiny, precisely spaced ridges, which cause the iridescence seen in this close-up photo. (Brad Plummer/SLAC)

The key to the accelerator chips is tiny, precisely spaced ridges, which cause the iridescence seen in this close-up photo. (Brad Plummer/SLAC)

The SLAC and Stanford team went on an alternate route and used high-precision lasers instead of microwaves, which allowed them to scale down their accelerators to the size of a typical chip. In the accelerator-on-a-chip experiment, electrons are accelerated near the speed of light just like in a conventional accelerator. Then comes the novel part: the near light-speed electrons are then focused through a tiny, half-micron channel (millionth of a meter) within a fused silica glass chip just half a millimeter long. The channel is patterned with precisely spaced nanoscale ridges, which when hit by infrared laser light  generates electrical fields that interact with the electrons in the channel to boost their energy.

This initial demonstration achieved an acceleration gradient, or amount of energy gained per length, of 300 million electronvolts per meter. That’s roughly 10 times the acceleration provided by the current SLAC linear accelerator. Using such a system, theoretically, you could match the accelerating power of the 2 mile-long SLAC accelerator with just 100 feet, and deliver a million more electron pulses per second. The researchers say the could scale it down even further.

“Our ultimate goal for this structure is 1 billion electronvolts per meter, and we’re already one-third of the way in our first experiment,” said Stanford Professor Robert Byer, the principal investigator for this research.

The nanoscale patterns of SLAC and Stanford's accelerator on a chip gleam in rainbow colors prior to being assembled and cut into their final forms. (Matt Beardsley/SLAC)

The nanoscale patterns of SLAC and Stanford’s accelerator on a chip gleam in rainbow colors prior to being assembled and cut into their final forms. (Matt Beardsley/SLAC)

New generations of smaller, less expensive devices for science, medicine

The demonstration proves that the system may be employed into powerful, yet compact particle accelerator as discussed. However, applications could go well beyond particle physics research. Laser accelerators could drive compact X-ray free-electron lasers, comparable to SLAC’s Linac Coherent Light Source, that are all-purpose tools for a wide range of research.

“It could also help enable compact accelerators and X-ray devices for security scanning, medical therapy and imaging, and research in biology and materials science,” said Joel England, the SLAC physicist who led the experiments.

This doesn’t mean, pocket-sized particle accelerator will start rolling in. Turning the accelerator on a chip into a full-fledged tabletop accelerator will require a more compact way to get the electrons up to speed before they enter the device.

“We still have a number of challenges before this technology becomes practical for real-world use, but eventually it would substantially reduce the size and cost of future high-energy particle colliders for exploring the world of fundamental particles and forces,” said Joel England.

The achievement was reported in the journal Nature. Find out more how the mini-particle accelerator works by watching the video below.

NASA discovers surprise energy belt surrounding Earth

A ring of radiation that scientists knew nothing about fleetingly surrounded our planet last year, before being blown away by a powerful interplanetary shock, researchers say.

Astronomic intuition

van belt

Usually, whenever NASA launches a spacecraft, they wait weeks or even months to finely tune all its instruments. It’s a rite of passage that all shuttles (and rovers) have to pass through; however, when the Van Allen Probes were launched, a group of scientists on the mission made a surprise decision and changed the plan – and man were they inspired!

They asked that the Relativistic Electron Proton Telescope (REPT) be turned on really early – just three days after the launch, in order for its observations to overlap those of SAMPEX (Solar, Anomalous, and Magnetospheric Particle Explorer), that was soon going to de-orbit and re-enter Earth’s atmosphere. Some would say it was a lucky decision, but I call it a case of the intuition – shortly before REPT turned on, solar activity on the sun had sent energy toward Earth that caused the radiation belts to swell.

Then, something that nobody had ever seen before happened: the particles settled into a new configuration, showing an extra, third belt extending out into space. Within mere days of its launch, the Van Allen Probes were rewriting textbooks.

“By the fifth day REPT was on, we could plot out our observations and watch the formation of a third radiation belt,” says Shri Kanekal, the deputy mission scientist for the Van Allen Probes at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md. and a coauthor of a paper on these results. “We started wondering if there was something wrong with our instruments. We checked everything, but there was nothing wrong with them. The third belt persisted beautifully, day after day, week after week, for four weeks.”

The results were published on Feb 28 in Science, and took everybody by surprise.

NASA discovers extra radiation ring around Earth by Van Allen Probes.
[Pin It] Two giant swaths of radiation, known as the Van Allen Belts, surrounding Earth were discovered in 1958. In 2012, observations from the Van Allen Probes showed that a third belt can sometimes appear. The radiation is shown here in yellow, with green representing the spaces between the belts.
CREDIT: NASA/Van Allen Probes/Goddard Space Flight Center
View full size image

A ring of radiation previously unknown to science fleetingly surrounded Earth last year before being virtually annihilated by a powerful interplanetary shock wave, scientists say.

van belt2

NASA’s twin Van Allen space probes, which are studying the Earth’s radiation belts, made the cosmic find. The surprising discovery — a new, albeit temporary, radiation belt around Earth — reveals how much remains unknown about outer space, even those regions closest to the planet, researchers added.

The Van Allen belts

After humanity began exploring space, the first major find made there were the Van Allen radiation belts, zones of magnetically trapped, highly energetic charged particles first discovered in 1958.

“They were something we thought we mostly understood by now, the first discovery of the Space Age,” said lead study author Daniel Baker, a space scientist at the University of Colorado.

Spotting such a previously unknown belt has more implications than merely its presence – it implies there’s something more we don’t know about this kind of phenomena. In a region of space that remains so mysterious, any observations that link certain causes to certain effects adds another piece of information to the puzzle.

Baker compares this to a particle accelerator: in accelerators, physicists use magnetic fields to make the particles orbit in a circle, while energy waves are used to accelerate the particles more and more; everything must be perfectly tuned to the size and shape of that ring, and the characteristics of those particle. The Van Allen radiation belts are similar from that point of view – they depend on such fine tuning. If researchers understand the geometry of the belt, they can understand the particles.

“We can offer these new observations to the theorists who model what’s going on in the belts,” says Kanekal. “Nature presents us with this event – it’s there, it’s a fact, you can’t argue with it — and now we have to explain why it’s the case. Why did the third belt persist for four weeks? Why does it change? All of this information teaches us more about space.”

Astronomers already had several theories, but this discovery of the third belt pretty much blows everything open – but it can only add to our knowledge.

“I consider ourselves very fortunate,” says Baker. “By turning on our instruments when we did, taking great pride in our engineers and having confidence that the instruments would work immediately and having the cooperation of the sun to drive the system the way it did – it was an extraordinary opportunity. It validates the importance of this mission and how important it is to revisit the Van Allen Belts with new eyes.”

LHC reaches highest energy yet

It’s been pretty quiet lately at the LHC, despite the fact that things seemed to be getting pretty hot, as the elusive Higgs boson appeared to be cornered. However, CERN cracked up the volume, announcing they achieved a record collision energy of 8 TeV.

LHC recap

The Large Hadron Collider is the world’s largest and highest energy particle accelerator, built by the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN). Through it, particle physicists hope to answer some of the most challenging questions in science, finding the fundamental laws which govern our world – particularly the Higgs boson, the particle which lies at the base of the Standard Model. The Standard Model is a theory concerning the electromagnetic, weak, and strong nuclear interactions, which practically seeks to explain how particles interact with each other at the most basic levels. Finding the Higgs boson will prove it, showing that it doesn’t exist will disprove it – either way, it will be a tremendous leap for particle physics and science overall.

In order to do this, they accelerate particles more and more until they reach dazzling energies of up to a few TeV (Terra-electron Volts). By definition, an electron Volt is the amount of energy gained by the charge of a single electron moved across an electric potential difference of one volt – and a few TeVs is a lot.

Highest energy yet

“The experience of two good years of running at 3.5 TeV per beam [7 per collision] gave us the confidence to increase the energy for this year without any significant risk to the machine,says CERN’s director for accelerators and technology, Steve Myers. “Now it’s over to the experiments to make the best of the increased discovery potential we’re delivering them!”

While it may not be a huge growth, it will almost certainly be enough to take the LHC up to a level where certain particles would be produced much more copiously, including those predicted by supersymmetry. This is extremely exciting news, especially after last year, CERN produced what can only be described as ‘tantalizing hints’ of the Higgs boson, which would show why everything in the universe has mass.

The new, higher levels of energy, will increase the chances of producing such particles, if they exist, but it will also increase the amount of background noise, so the researchers need to run tests at these energies until the rest of the year to get a clear enough picture of what is really happening. But that being said, the LHC is truly beginning to unlock its full potential, and this year promises to be just fantastic for physics.

“The increase in energy is all about maximising the discovery potential of the LHC,” says CERN research director Sergio Bertolucci. “And in that respect, 2012 looks set to be a vintage year for particle physics.”

Their ultimate goal is to get to 7 TeV per beam, which will probably happen some time at the end of 2014.

Via TG Daily

Panorama of the Daya Bay Nuclear Power Plant Complex

Key neutrino discovery helps understand how their oscillation occurs

In what’s arguable the most important physics discovery ever to come out of China, and a perfect example of “by the book” international collaborative effort, researchers report they’ve successfully identified the last piece of missing information needed to describe the mysterious neutrino oscillation. For a long time, scientists have been trying to discover how neutrinos apparently simply vanish as they travel. Armed with this new discovery, scientists are just a step closer to understanding the neutrino/anti-neutrino dance. Ultimately, it might spring the long sought answer to the riddle which has been puzzling physicists – why is there far more matter than antimatter in the Universe? Maybe more importantly, why is there any matter at all?

As they travel at razor close light speed, neutrinos morph into different types. So far, three “flavors” have been identified:  electron neutrinos, born in nuclear reactions; muon neutrinos, sprung from the decay of particles called pions; and tau neutrinos, only generated in particle collisions at accelerator labs. When traveling, neutrinos mix together and transform – a very difficult activity to detect. For instance, electron neutrinos, naturally ejected by the sun, morph into a different flavor on their route towards Earth, as much fewer of them eventually arrive than otherwise expect. Muon neutrinos, which are brought in by cosmic rays, similarly transform when they reach Earth’s atmosphere.

Panorama of the Daya Bay Nuclear Power Plant Complex

Panorama of the Daya Bay Nuclear Power Plant Complex

To describe the oscillation or transformation, researchers  working with the Daya Bay Reactor Neutrino Experiment at the Daya Bay Nuclear Power Plant and two neighboring plants in Da Peng, China, measured all but one parameter in a theoretical scheme that describes this peculiar activity. This last parameter, a “mixing angle” named theta one-three, was finally measured with unmatched precision.  The team presented its results today at a seminar at the Institute of High Energy Physics of the Chinese Academy of Sciences in Beijing.

The final piece of the puzzle

Scientists in the Daya Bay collaboration observed tens of thousands of interactions of electron antineutrinos, caught by six massive detectors buried in the mountains adjacent to the powerful nuclear reactors of the China Guangdong Nuclear Power Group. What they looked for was the rate which these electron antineutrinos signaled the oscillation into a different flavor, and eventually found that  θ13

equals 8.8 degrees.  The Daya Bay team started taking data on 24 December and needed only 55 days of running the detectors to make a definite measurement.

“This is a new type of neutrino oscillation, and it is surprisingly large,” says Yifang Wang of China’s Institute of High Energy Physics (IHEP), co-spokesperson and Chinese project manager of the Daya Bay experiment. “Our precise measurement will complete the understanding of the neutrino oscillation and pave the way for the future understanding of matter-antimatter asymmetry in the universe.”

Curiously enough, θ13 was once consider to be zero. Far from it, the new found, accurately measured value can only be considered colossal. Eventual systematic and statistical errors will be reduced from the initial result in the coming months.

“It has been very gratifying to be able to work with such an outstanding international collaboration at the world’s most sensitive reactor neutrino experiment,” says Steve Kettell of Brookhaven National Laboratory, the chief scientist for the U.S. effort. “This moment is exciting because we have finally observed all three mixing angles, and now the way is cleared to explore the remaining parameters of neutrino oscillation.”

“This is really remarkable,” says Wenlong Zhan, vice president of the Chinese Academy of Sciences and president of the Chinese Physical Society. “We hoped for a positive result when we decided to fund the project, but we never imagined it could come so quickly!”

“Exemplary teamwork among the partners has led to this outstanding performance,” says James Siegrist, DOE Associate Director of Science for High Energy Physics. “These notable first results are just the beginning for the world’s foremost reactor neutrino experiment.”


The CDF detector, about the size of a three-story house, weighs about 6,000 tons. (c) Fermilab

New subatomic particle observed for first time at Fermilab

Scientists at Fermilab’s Tevatron particle collider on Wednesday voiced excitement about the observation of a new particle.

The CDF detector, about the size of a three-story house, weighs about 6,000 tons. (c) Fermilab

The CDF detector, about the size of a three-story house, weighs about 6,000 tons. (c) Fermilab

The new particle, called Xi-sub-b, was first theorized by the Standard Model which predicted that the neutral particle should exist. Now, through a process which involved high-speed collisions in the Fermilab Tevatron particle accelerator in Batavi, a three-story house-sized, 6000 tone behemoth, scientists have managed to re-create the particle – just for an instance, though.

The particle could only be maintained for a mere instant before decaying into lighter particles. Scientists at Fermilab uncover these ephemeral particles by racing protons and antiprotons close to the speed of light around a 4-mile (6.3 km) ring. When the particles collide, the outpouring of energy disintegrates them into other

“It’s a little like looking at the periodic table of elements and finding a missing element,” said Fermilab physicist Pat Lukens, who gave a lecture Wednesday on the discovery. “It’s a particle that we expected to exist so it’s not a surprise, but it is the first observation of its type.”

Fermilab physicists claim the Xi-sub-b particle is a byron, meaning it consists of three fundamental particles called quarks – one of the fundamental building blocks of matter in the universe.. Specifically, the particle has a strange quark, an up quark and a bottom quark. The bottom quark is called a heavy bottom quark, making the neutral Xi-sub-b about six times heavier than a proton or neutron.

“It’s a baryon,” Lukens said. “A common example of baryons are protons and neutrons.”

He said the discovery marks just another accomplishment for the Tevatron, which is set to shut down this year after losing out on additional federal funds to continue its operation. The top quark was discovered at the Tevatron in 1995, which is the heaviest known elementary particle observed in nature.

RELATED: Antimatter mystery gets a hint

Fermilab’s Tevatron particle collider has been used to discovered and studied almost all the known bottom baryons. It was responsible for finding the Sigma-sub-b baryons (Σb and Σb*) in 2006, observed the Xi-b-minus baryon (Ξb-) in 2007, and found the Omega-sub-b (Ωb-) in 2009. The lightest bottom baryon, the Lambda-sub-b (Λb), was discovered at CERN.

Antimatter mystery gets a hint

Physics is still not sure what to make of antimatter; theoretically speaking, after the Big Bang, matter and antimatter were created in equal amounts. But if this is the case, then where is all the antimatter ?

Matter vs antimatter

An antiparticle has exactly the same mass as a particle, but a opposite electrical charge,  and thus, if you would take an electron, for example, it is negatively charged. But if you take its counterpart, the antielectron (or positron), it would have the same properties, but a positive charge.

Given that pretty much everything we can see today is made out of matter, one can only ask where all the antimatter is. This is one of the biggest mysteries physics has to solve.

In 2010, researchers at the Tevatron accelerator claimed some extremely interesting results, reporting a small excess of matter over antimatter as particles decayed. Given the fact that each particle has a cousin antiparticle, and when the two meet, they annihilate each other with a blast, this small excess could prove crucial in the understanding of the situation.

New physics?

The results at Tevatron come as a result of collision between protons and antiprotons. The created shower also produced a number of different particles, and the team operating the Tevatron’s DZero detector first noticed a discrepancy in the decay of particles called B mesons. When they drew the line, they noticed a 1% excess of matter particles.

However, the thing is that there is always a certain level of uncertainty when conducting this kind of measurements, so it’s still too early to say that they were dealing with revolutionary results back then. However, this time they have much more data to work with, and they reduced the uncertainty to level of 3.9 sigma – equivalent to a 0.005%. But even so, this is not enough. Particle physics is extremely strict when it comes to what can be called a discovery – the “five sigma” level of certainty, or about a 0.00003% level of uncertainty.

Still, the results are quite convincing, and they will probably pass that margin of error pretty sure, thus giving one of today’s most desired scientific answers.

Antimatter trapped for 15 minutes at CERN

The team operating the Antihydrogen Laser Physics Apparatus (ALPHA) at the CERN laboratory in Geneva, Switzerland reported storing antimatter for approximately 1000 seconds, which might not seem like much of a big deal, but it is about 10.000 times longer than the previous record !

A cloud of antihydrogen

This study will hopefully reveal more about the elusive antimatter, and whether this is in fact the true mirror image of matter. With this thought in mind, the ALPHA team set out to find a way to capture antimatter for as long as possible; they devised an antimagnetic trap to help them capture a cloud of antihydrogen. The thing about antimatter is that it creates a bang whenever it comes in contact with matter, thus making it almost impossible to store for a long time.

In previous experiments, researchers would open the trap and observe the collisions between antimatter and the trace gases; the collisions either annihilated the antimatter or gave it enough energy to escape the trap. But this time, the people at CERN did things a little differently.

They waited much longer before opening the trap, and they cooled the antiprotons, which lowered the energy of antimatter, allowed more to be captured, thus raising the chance that some of it will be captured for a longer period of time.

Capturing antimatter for a longer time will allow further experiments to be conducted on it, such as checking if the energy levels of the antihydrogen and hydrogen are the same.

Elusive Antimatter

When introduced, antimatter was a revolutionary concept, and rejected by many physicists at the moment. In recent years, it has been shown that with the right process, it can be captured for a limited amount of time, which was generally restricted to a fraction of a second. CERN particle physicists shattered that ‘record’, capturing it for a much longer period, almost enough to perform some experiments on it.

In particle physics, antimatter is an extension of antiparticles to matter. If you have, say a hydrogen atom, which is made out of 1 proton (positively charged) and 1 electron (negatively charged), an antihydrogen atom will be made out of 1 antiproton and one positron.

It is theoretized that when the Universe was formed, matter and antimatter were created in equal amounts, but the question remains: where is all the antimatter ? We are all made out of matter (you, me, trees, planets, etc), but it is almost impossible to even get a glimpse of antimatter. This is why researchers hope to capture it for longer periods of time, thus allowing the possibility of experiments which would shed some light on some of the most important questions in physics at the moment.

For one tiny instant, physicists break a law of nature

The LHC isn’t the only particle accelerator doing serious business these days; scientists at Brook­haven National Laboratory on Long Island working at the Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider (RHIC) have managed to achieve something that was previously thought to be impossible. In that way, the title is a bit misleading – you cannot really break a law of nature, because that isn’t possible by definition, but you can expand our knowledge and understanding of the world by doing something that was believed to be impossible – and that’s what they did.

The general belief is that you cannot break parity, which means that the Universe is neither right or left handed, if you take a system and inverse its coordinates, you will get exactly the same thing, but inversed. But the so-called weak force, which is responsible for radioactivity breaks the parity law, at least according to research performed by a dozen particle physicists, including Jack Sandweiss, Yale’s Donner Professor of Physics.

The team created a “quark-gluon plasma”, which has a temperature of over four trillion degrees Celsius (!), and is believed to have existed just after the Big Bang. They smashed together nuclei traveling at 99.999% the speed of light, and the plasma that resulted was so incredibly powerful that a tiny cube of it with sides measuring about a quarter of the width of a human hair has enough energy to power the whole United States for an entire year.

“A very interesting thing happened in these extreme conditions,” Sandweiss says. “Parity violation is very difficult to detect, but the magnetic field in conjunction with parity violation gave rise to a secondary effect that we could detect.”

The results were so unexpected, that they took an entire year to study them before publishing; even so, the results only suggest a break of parity, they don’t prove it beyond the point of doubt.

“I think it’s a real effect, but we’ll know more in the upcoming years,” Sandweiss says.

Hopefully, understanding this will increase our understanding of the Universe even further, as well as answer some questions that have been puzzling scientists for years, including why we don’t see any antimatter.

The Russian forgotten twin of the LHC.

Pretty much everyone, at least everyone who gives a damn about science, knows about the Large Hadron Collider built in Switzerland; basically, it’s a particle accelerator, a device that uses electromagnetic fields to propel charged particles to high speeds and to contain them in well-defined beams, according to wikipedia. But not so many people know about another particle accelerator, built way back east…

The one in case was built in a small town near Moscow, and at that time, it was the largest particle accelerator in all the world.

Today, it looks nothing like a hi-tech facility, but rather like an old post apocaliptic war site, or some post-nuclear science fiction image.

I honestly wouldn’t recommend visiting this place to anybody, but if you were to go there, you would find a whole lot of equipment, few of which is actually in decent shape.

Just a single mine shaft is still in good state, and almost everything that could be stolen, was already stolen – the truck traces give a pretty good indication of that.

The nature thrives there however, occupying most of the now deserted huge area.

Inside the particle accelerator, a whole new world opens.

The length of the tunnel is about as big as an average subway line in Moscow – a city which has the longest subway lines in the world.

The interesting thing is that there was actually no need for it to be so huge, but the workers only had metro-building equipment, so they worked with what they have – which is why it looks so much like a subway.

Honestly, I don’t know about you, but these pictures make me thing of the Roadside Picnic or computer games, never would it cross my mind that this place could have been a particle accelerator.

However, this one never went active, due to the collapse of the Soviet Union and the problems that came along with it.

As with most Russian scientific projects, there isn’t really muh information available, so little is known about what could have been if this half finished particle accelerator would have ever “seen the light of day”.

Mystery lurks throughout the huge corridors, and you can find even the most amazing things inside, such as a table with chairs, newspapers, and even cups – probably somebody had fun there not so long ago.

What will happen now to this giant structure is not really clear, but it is a pity for something this imposing to be left unfinished.

Sorry for the photoshopping of some pictures, I couldn’t find them without it.

Physicists create a supernova in a jar

A supernova is a stellar explosion of cosmic proportions, that often can outshine the entire galaxy it is located in, before fading away in a matter of weeks or months. During this short period however, supernovae emit as much energy as the Sun emits during its entire life span – it’s the same kind of phenomena that researchers from the university of Toronto and Rutgers managed to mimic at scale.

In a certain (quite common) type of supernova the detonation starts with a flame ball that is buried deep in a white dwarf; the flame ball is much hotter and brighter than the environment surrounding it, so it rises rapidly making a plume topped with an accelerating smoke ring.

The autocatalytic reactions mainly do two things: they release heat and change the chemical composition of the liquid, which causes some forces that stir it, further progressively amplifying the effects.

“A supernova is a dramatic example of this kind of self-sustaining explosion in which gravity and buoyancy forces are important effects. We wanted to see what the liquid motion would look like in such a self-stirred chemical reaction,” says Michael Rogers, who led the experiment as part of his PhD research, under the supervision of Morris.

“It is extremely difficult to observe the inside of a real exploding star light years away so this experiment is an important window into the complex fluid motions that accompany such an event,” Morris explains. “The study of such explosions in stars is crucial to understanding the size and evolution of the universe.”

“We created a smaller version of this process by triggering a special chemical reaction in a closed container that generates similar plumes and vortex rings,” says Stephen Morris, a University of Toronto physics professor.

The man who got his head into a particle accelerator


We’ve all heard stories about soviet scientists, and Hollywood played quite an important role in that. Really few of those stories are actually true, but here’s one that will probably baffle you; it did this to Russian physicists and doctors. First of all, it has to be said that by the time the USSR divided, they had created more than 50 science towns, that lost their funding after it collapsed, quitting research.

A thing that they were really interested about was particle accelerators, because the sum of the parts is very different than the total. Actually, a soviet scientists used a very interesting analogy.
it’s like two Soviet Fiats colliding to produce a bus and a Mercedes Benz 600. The story of Anatoli Bugorski is definitely a very interesting one. When he looked into a particle accelerator to check a piece of the equipment (yeah, they’re not really into safety at work) a particle entered his head. In 1978 the proton beam entered his head measuring about 200,000 rads, collided with the inside of his head, and exited measuring about 300,000 rads.

He was blinded by the light of more than a thousand suns, but felt no pain. His face was really swollen and the doctors he was taken too were expecting to see him die in a few days. He didn’t. After that, they expected to see paralysis and other really bad symptoms. These didn’t appeared. As a matter of fact he continues to live a normal life and actually works in scientific fields.

Despite the fact that he would want to help other western scientists, he doesn’t want to leave the science city of Protvino; these towns are half dead, half hopeful, and half brilliant. The unglamorous miracle of their survival is not really that amazing, especially when a particle moving at the speed of sound or faster goes throught your head.