Sunday, August 14, 2016

Updated - Short items - new physics or the lack thereof, planets and scale, and professional interactions

Before the start of the new semester takes over, some interesting, fun, and useful items:
Update:. This is awesome.  Watch it.
  • The lack of any obvious exotic physics at the LHC has some people (prematurely, I suspect) throwing around phrases like "nightmare scenario" and "desert" - shorthand for the possibility that any major beyond-standard-model particles may be many orders of magnitude above present accelerator energies.  For interesting discussions of this, see here, herehere, and here.  
  • On the upside, a recent new result has been published that may hint at something weird.  Because protons are built from quarks (and gluons and all sorts of fluctuating ephemeral stuff like pions), their positive charge has some spatial extent, on the order of 10-15 m in radius.  High precision optical spectroscopy of hydrogen-like atoms provides a way to look at this, because the 1s orbital of the electron in hydrogen actually overlaps with the proton a fair bit.  Muons are supposed to be just like electrons in many ways, but 200 times more massive - as a result, a bound muon's 1s orbital overlaps more with the proton and is more sensitive to the proton's charge distribution.  The weird thing is, the muonic hydrogen measurements yield a different size for the proton than the electronic hydrogen ones.  The new measurements are on muonic deuterium, and they, too, show a surprisingly smaller proton than in the ordinary hydrogen case.  Natalie Wolchover's piece in Quanta gives a great discussion of all this, and is a bit less hyperbolic than the piece in ars technica.
  • Rumors abound that the European Southern Observatory is going to announce the discovery of an earthlike planet orbiting in the putative habitable zone around Proxima Centauri, the nearest star to the sun.  However, those rumors all go back to an anonymously sourced article in Der Spiegel.  I'm not holding my breath, but it sure would be cool.
  • If you want a great sense of scale regarding how far it is even to some place as close as Proxima Centauri, check out this page, If the Moon were One Pixel.
  • For new college students:  How to email your professor without being annoying.
  • Hopefully in our discipline, despite the dire pronouncements in the top bullet point, we are not yet at the point of having to offer the physics analog of this psych course.
  • The US Department of Energy helpfully put out this official response to the Netflix series Stranger Things, in which (spoilers!) a fictitious DOE national lab is up to no good.  Just in case you thought the DOE really was in the business of ripping holes to alternate dimensions and creating telekinetic children.

1 comment:

gilroy0 said...

But isn't that exactly what the DOE /would/ say?