Tuesday, May 18, 2010

The Toe of Physics

The universe tends slightly toward matter---instead of matter and anti-matter in equal proportions--which is why we’re here to talk about such, er, matters.
Sifting data from collisions of protons and antiprotons at Fermilab’s Tevatron, which until last winter was the most powerful particle accelerator in the world, the team, known as the DZero collaboration, found that the fireballs produced pairs of the particles known as muons, which are sort of fat electrons, slightly more often than they produced pairs of anti-muons. So the miniature universe inside the accelerator went from being neutral to being about 1 percent more matter than antimatter. [snip]

The new effect hinges on the behavior of particularly strange particles called neutral B-mesons, which are famous for not being able to make up their minds. They oscillate back and forth trillions of times a second between their regular state and their antimatter state. As it happens, the mesons, created in the proton-antiproton collisions, seem to go from their antimatter state to their matter state more rapidly than they go the other way around, leading to an eventual preponderance of matter over antimatter of about 1 percent, when they decay to muons.

Whether this is enough to explain our existence is a question that cannot be answered until the cause of the still-mysterious behavior of the B-mesons is directly observed, said Dr. Brooijmans, who called the situation “fairly encouraging.” [snip]

Joe Lykken, a theorist at Fermilab, said, “So I would not say that this announcement is the equivalent of seeing the face of God, but it might turn out to be the toe of God.”
I have the same perplexed look that non-specialists get when they listen to financiers talk about credit default swaps and collateralized debt obligations. I hope these scientists know what they’re doing and don’t blow up anything that they didn't mean to.
The Big Bang is passé, string theory’s played out,
Now Fermilab wears the cosmological crown
Until they explain what Lost's really about
It’s turtles all the way down.

© 2010 Stephen Yuen

No comments: