Dream of the Dragon

Category: Physics

The summit of Bragg Peak.

by Justin

A particle physicist, when asked by me to explain the genesis of a particular innovation in radiation therapy, decided it was best to start at the beginning. In this instance, said beginning took place on a very busy chalkboard, filled with inscrutable equations and half-erased diagrams. Layer upon layer competed for attention. With a full and slightly unkempt head of gray hair, the man sketched a basic line graph, illustrating depth v. dose level.

The point isn’t this venerable man of science’s patience or enthusiasm, it was his immediate instinct to provide a visual and go to the board. Back in school already.

He walked me through a Bragg peak, the extraordinary phenomenon that renders proton therapy (as one example) so vastly superior to x-ray therapy. This is the basic drawing, though lacking the charm of a chalkboard where each inch of real estate is won by haphazardly erasing with the palm of one’s hand.

Rain nothing to Hulk.

by Justin

Welcome to dreamland. It’s all about that aged sign in the bottom corner, Banner.

On an unrelated note (really, truly unrelated), my barber warned me about ever taking a boat out past the edge of Long Island to the area surrounding Plum Island. You know, in case I had plans to investigate nightmares.

Dimensional Burrowing

by Justin

Don’t bet against Einstein. Smarter people and actual scientists have said as much in response to the flurry of news about neutrinos breaking light speed. I believe the CERN results are accurate, but I also believe that three or four dimensional space restricts its residents to 186,000 miles per second. The neutrino news has raced across headlines and blogs; I only weigh in because it is a) fabulous, and b) musical.

A century of physics supports Relativity’s postulation that nothing can exceed the speed of light, and I am stupidly devoted to the idea that Einstein had special access to the thoughts of the ‘Old One.’ That said, these new results may echo more accurately old Albert’s reaction to quantum uncertainty: Yes, the results are accurate; No, this cannot be the final word. He was a bit of a curmudgeon when faced with quantum theory, but he earned it.

The curious, ghostly neutrino is also a notorious troublemaker. It sets the bar for weak interaction (exceeded, maybe, only by WIMPS?), guards its signature against all detection, and suggests its existence more often than not as nothing more than a bit of missing energy.

To top all that, the barely-there rapscallion has its own unique symmetry breaking qualities. Most particles exhibit both clockwise and counter-clockwise spins. The neutrino, however, spins counter-clockwise exclusively. So what’s that about? Read the rest of this entry »