Dream of the Dragon


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 »

Broad strokes and big dreams.

by Justin

It’s been days of dense, often incomprehensible science. Thrilling, magical, and unlikely. The theoretical madness of particle physics becomes so much more real when you’re face to face with the machinery designed to unravel the universe into its fundamental components. The LHC detectors are more swoon-worthy than you can imagine.

Much, much more on that to come. Complete with photos and videos and all that goodness. But when I sat down to write this evening, I was more interested in communicating the value of the work here at CERN. That puzzle is the reason physicists here will find time to talk to a budding journalist. They want to sell the product that fills them with passion and pleasure. A pursuit that inspired a 27 kilometer underground tunnel that collides hadrons.

Into a stream of consciousness, saving the physics for another day: Read the rest of this entry »

Theoretical dreams

by Justin

After an over-long hiatus from blogging and my particular brand of unsubstantiated opinion slinging, I’ve decided to bring this beast back into action.

The gap in writing was filled with local reporting in Chicago and the (attempted) cultivation of “hard news” skills. This involves direct acquisition of information, attribution of anything resembling fact or opinion, and the precise excision of bias. Bias was my angle on this blog in the past and reckless opinion was my style. The reporting of my first quarter in grad school built some new fundamental skills while personal style starved on the sidelines. C’est la guerre.

But now I’m a full time science reporter (student, mostly), covering theoretical physics during most of the week. This is too dreamy. This is the stuff of atom-smashing and event horizons, of antimatter and dark energy. And Chicagoland hosts some of the world’s preeminent experts in these fields. For a few more months at least, the second most powerful particle accelerator in the world, Fermilab’s Tevatron, will operate in Batavia, Ill. – that’s right around the corner. Read the rest of this entry »