Dream of the Dragon

Tag: physics

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 »

Atomic Speak (Kimota)

by Justin

This made every meal an ordeal for Dirac: he had no talent for languages, and his father was an unforgiving teacher. Whenever Dirac made a slip – a mispronunciation, a wrongly gendered noun, a botched subjunctive – his father made it a rule to refuse his next request. This caused the young Dirac terrible distress. Even at that time, he had digestive problems and often felt sick when he was eating, but his father would refuse him permission to leave the table if he made a linguistic error. Dirac would then have no option but to sit still and vomit. This did not happen just occasionally, but over and over again, for years.

-from The Strangest Man: The Secret Life of Paul Dirac, Mystic of the Atom

I was/am working on a piece about the final collisions at the Tevatron, the premiere atom smasher in this country. That sprawling beast of a story, about the history and legacy of the sprawling underground beast that is the Tevatron, dominated the past three months. Particle physics is a lovely and dangerous subject for writers. 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 »