Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Particle Physics Antics and Broken Parity

Hey again! This is going to be a short one because I’m lazy. :D

I’ve been meaning to put an astronomy post but it’s been almost a year since I’ve been here and I’ve been neglecting to actually put any relevant information on here, with most of my blog posts talking about me and my problems. Well, I guess they serve as a good introduction. Anyway, today I got into my stumbleupon groove and found a nice little article about particle physics (it’s not astronomy, but close enough, right???).

For One Tiny Instant, Physicists May Have Broken a Law of Nature (http://opa.yale.edu/news/article.aspx?id=7358)

With a title like that, it has to be ridiculous, right? Well, it is pretty crazy but it’s not “WHOAMG SCIENCE”. Well, at least not to me, because I know a bit or two about what the article’s describing. Basically, these scientist guys in Long Island (hey, that’s right where I live!!!) smashed gold atoms together in order to study parity under extreme conditions. In simple words, parity is the property that the laws of physics do not change when your coordinates are inverted. For a different way to look at it, think of a mirror. When you look in the mirror, parity is conserved. The positioning of yourself is opposite in the mirror; your left hand is inverted, etc. The weak force, which causes radioactivity in atoms, breaks parity law, and this was discovered in the 50’s. However, the strong force, which keeps nuclei together, has conserved parity until now.

The collision of the gold nuclei made a quark-gluon plasma, which is theorized to be what the early universe consisted of in its earliest seconds. The plasma created a very strong magnetic field, and this is what alerted the scientists about the parity breaking, since parity breaking on its own is difficult to detect. A quote on how they saw this happen: the scientists “found that quarks of a like sign moved together: Up quarks moved along the magnetic field lines, while down quarks traveled against them. That the quarks could tell the difference in directions suggested to the researchers that symmetry had been broken.” That is, the quarks knew what direction they were going, as opposed to equal amounts of each going up and down. The scientists, of course, remained a bit skeptical, and want to make sure that it might not be anything else. However, they have hope that this can lead to more discoveries, and maybe some answers into another question, that of the dominance of matter over antimatter in the universe.

To me, this sounds like good news for science in general. It would be nice if more programs like this were around to do more sciency things and find more answers. With the LHC, the possibilities for even more discoveries like this seem likely. So remember- contribute! Become a scientist or lobby for more money given to science, or something!

This is all very interesting, and I probably will update the blog with more science news to get some buzz for these things. Till then, see ya and take care!

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