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Posts Tagged ‘fermilab’

Fermilab Double-Checking CERN’s (and their own) Math

September 27, 2011 1 comment
Detector used in the MINOS experiment at Fermilab.

Of course the big news of the past week is the OPERA experiment’s measurement of neutrino’s travelling faster than light.

The paper is up on arXiv. I’ve gone through it and nothing jumps out as to what they could have possibly done wrong. Chad Orzel on his blog Uncertain Principles has written a really nice summary of the paper and what the group actually did.

(Aside: I just read How to Teach Physics To Your Dog by Orzel, and I would definitely recommend it to a reader with a budding interest in quantum mechanics.)

Now it looks like the US based Fermilab is going to go over some old data to see if they can support (or contradict) the results of the OPERA experiment.

It was back in 2007 that Fermilab announced the results of their MINOS (Main Injector Neutrino Oscillation Search) experiment. They also found neutrinos travelling faster than the speed of light, however they had a much larger margin of error than the OPERA experiment, so they did not receive much attention.

Now, they are going to go back over their old data, as well as add some new data, to see what they find.

“The MINOS experiment has plans to update their original 2007 measurement with a number of improvements, including 10x more data,” wrote MINOS spokesperson Jenny Thomas, a professor of particle physics at University College London in an email to TPM’s Idea Lab.

“We should have a result in 4-6 months as the data is already taken. We just have to measure some of our delays more carefully,” she added. [TPM]

So in 6 months (I know, science is slow!) we will hopefully add another chapter to this fascinating story.

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Physicists Discover New Particle!

July 21, 2011 Leave a comment

Researchers at the soon-to-be-closed-but-won’t-go-quietly Fermilab, have confirmed the existence of the neutral Xi-sub-b baryon.

Baryons are particles composed of three quarks; quarks being elementary of particles. Other baryons include protons and neutrons. The newly discovered Xi-sub-b baryon is about six times more massive than the proton.

The Baryon Family. The Xi-sub-b baryon is the one highlighted in yellow. Image courtesy of Fermilab

The Fermilab press release states:

Combing through almost 500 trillion proton-antiproton collisions produced by Fermilab’s Tevatron particle collider, the CDF collaboration isolated 25 examples in which the particles emerging from a collision revealed the distinctive signature of the neutral Xi-sub-b. The analysis established the discovery at a level of 7 sigma. Scientists consider 5 sigma the threshold for discoveries.

Wow, 7-sigma! That’s a pretty high level of certainty.

Unfortunately, due to a lack of funding, the Tevatron particle accelerator at Fermilab will close operations in October of 2011. Way to go out with a bang guys!

One Step Closer to Finding the God Particle

July 28, 2010 1 comment

The God Particle, or the Higgs Boson as its known in the Physics world, is coming closer and closer to being found. (I recently wrote an article  about the Higgs, you can check it out here for a bit of background info)

Experimenters at Fermilab, which is a particle accelerator laboratory in the United States, are competing with Europeans at the new-fangled Large Hadron Collider (LHC) in Geneva, Switzerland.

They are competing for the ultimate prize: finding the Higgs Boson, and experimenters at Fermilab just narrowed the search a bit.

I see this competition like a nerdy version of Rocky IV. Fermilab is Rocky, the hard-nosed American underdog (Fermilab is much less powerful than the LHC) and the LHC is the engineered Russian super-athlete.

Fermilab vs. LHC

One of the biggest problems with finding the Higgs is that no one knows exactly what its mass is (i.e. how heavy it is). But we do know that the mass should be between 114 and 185 GeV/c2

Oh, and  GeV/c2 is a unit of mass that particle physicists use. I’m not gonna go into a whole lot of detail, but for comparisons sake the proton is roughly 1 GeV/c2

So the Higgs boson is supposed be roughly between 114 and 185 times larger than the proton.

But Fermilab just released some results which showed that the Higgs is NOT between the masses of 158 and 175 GeV/c2

So this narrows the search parameters a little bit, and hopefully it results in finding the Higgs a bit sooner.

Of course, NOT finding the Higgs boson would just as huge a result. It would mean the Universe is a whole lot weirder than we already thought, and there are those who think we won’t find it.

So exciting times in physics world. But of course its ALWAYS exciting in the physics world! You can try and keep up with all the excitement by following me on Twitter