LHC Disproves One Form of String Theory

LHC CMS Experiment graph

The results continue to pour out of the LHC’s first production run. This week, the folks behind the CMS detector have announced the submission of a paper to Physics Letters that describes a test of some forms of string theory. If this form of the theory were right, the LHC should have been able to produce small black holes that would instantly decay (and not, as some had feared, devour the Earth). But a look at the data obtained by CMS shows that a signature of the black holes’ decay is notably absent. […]

Contrary to some reports, this result doesn’t mean the death of string theory, only the particular flavor that predicted black holes at these energies. Eliminating some models is a critical process of narrowing down what’s possible, but most theoretical constructs have a range of possible models, and string theory is no different. In fact, it’s entirely possible that the ADD model was generated simply because physicists were looking for something they could possibly test in the LHC.

Ars Technica: LHC spots no black holes, eliminates some versions of string theory

Rampant Speculation About NASA’s Forthcoming Astrobiology Announcement


I don’t generally like to talk about NASA press conferences before they happen because I don’t want to promote baseless rumor-mongering. In this case, though, I feel I have to write something to prevent speculation! Here’s the scoop: NASA released the news that a press conference will be held on Thursday at 14:00 ET, saying that the conference will “discuss an astrobiology finding that will impact the search for evidence of extraterrestrial life.”
That, of course, set everyone speculating. The very popular news site Kottke.org actually has a decent line of evidence on the topic of the conference, though a sensational headline of “Has NASA discovered extraterrestrial life?” Gawker has a post up about this as well, and social networks like reddit have a lot of people talking, too. Other examples abound.
So what’s the press conference about? I don’t know, to be honest, beyond what’s in the announcement. The scientists on the panel are interesting, including noted astrobiologists and geologists who work on solar system objects like Mars and Titan. So this is most likely going to be something about conditions on another moon or planet conducive for life.
Of course, the speculation is that NASA will announce the discovery for life. Maybe. I can’t rule that out, but it seems really unlikely; I don’t think they would announce it in this way. It would’ve been under tighter wraps, or one thing. It’s more likely they’ve found a new way life can exist and that evidence for these conditions exists on other worlds. But without more info, I won’t speculate any farther than that.

Discover: Snowballing speculation over a NASA press conference

All Life on Earth Could Have Come From Alien Zombies

Flu virus

Scientists have speculated that life could have come to Earth from space — a notion called panspermia — since the 1870s, when Lord Kelvin suggested microbes could have ridden here on a comet or meteor. Others have suggested tiny organisms could cross the galaxy embedded in dust grains, which could be nudged from one planetary system to another by the slight pressure of stars’ radiation.

However, most astrobiologists think that same radiation spells a death sentence for delicate microbes.

“That essentially kills panspermia in the classical sense,” said astrobiologist Rocco Mancinelli of the SETI Institute in Mountain View, California.

But maybe not, says astronomer Paul Wesson, a visiting researcher at the Herzberg Institute of Astrophysics in Canada. In an upcoming paper in Space Science Reviews, Wesson argues that even if the actual microbes are dead on arrival, the information they carry could allow life to rise from the charred remains, an idea he calls necropanspermia.

Wired Science: All Life on Earth Could Have Come From Alien Zombies

What the article doesn’t mention is that a bacteria sample recently survived a year and a half in space, without oxygen.

NASA May Have Found Remnants of a Black Hole at the Center of the Galaxy

Blackhole in the center of the galaxy

NASA’s Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope has unveiled a previously unseen structure centered in the Milky Way. The feature spans 50,000 light-years and may be the remnant of an eruption from a supersized black hole at the center of our galaxy. […]

One possibility includes a particle jet from the supermassive black hole at the galactic center. In many other galaxies, astronomers see fast particle jets powered by matter falling toward a central black hole. While there is no evidence the Milky Way’s black hole has such a jet today, it may have in the past. The bubbles also may have formed as a result of gas outflows from a burst of star formation, perhaps the one that produced many massive star clusters in the Milky Way’s center several million years ago.

NASA: NASA’s Fermi Telescope Finds Giant Structure in our Galaxy

Large Hadron Collider (LHC) generates a ‘mini-Big Bang’

Black Hole in front of the Milky Way by Ute Kraus

The Large Hadron Collider has successfully created a “mini-Big Bang” by smashing together lead ions instead of protons. […]

Up until now, the world’s highest-energy particle accelerator – which is run by the European Organization for Nuclear Research (Cern) – has been colliding protons, in a bid to uncover mysteries of the Universe’s formation.

Proton collisions could help spot the elusive Higgs boson particle and signs of new physical laws, such as a framework called supersymmetry.

But for the next four weeks, scientists at the LHC will concentrate on analysing the data obtained from the lead ion collisions.

BBC: Large Hadron Collider (LHC) generates a ‘mini-Big Bang’

You might want to bookmark hasthelargehadroncolliderdestroyedtheworldyet.com

See also: The First New Discovery by the Large Hadron Collider?

Image by Ute Kraus / CC

DARPA and NASA Funding Space Colonization Program

Microwave thermal propulsion

NASA Ames Director Simon “Pete” Worden revealed Saturday that NASA Ames has “just started a project with DARPA called the Hundred Year Starship,” with $1 million funding from DARPA and $100K from NASA. […]

“The human space program is now really aimed at settling other worlds,” he explained. “Twenty years ago you had to whisper that in dark bars and get fired.” (Worden was in fact fired by President George W. Bush, he also revealed.) […]

Wordon also thinks we should go to the moons of Mars first, where we can do extensive telerobotics exploration of the planet. “I think we’ll be on the moons of Mars by 2030 or so. Larry [Page] asked me a couple weeks ago how much it would cost to send people one way to Mars and I told him $10 billion, and his response was, ‘Can you get it down to 1 or 2 billion?’ So now we’re starting to get a little argument over the price.”

KurzweilAI: NASA Ames’ Worden reveals DARPA-funded ‘Hundred Year Starship’ program

(via Richard Yonck)

See also:

Charlie Stross on why space colonisation is impractical

The First New Discovery by the Large Hadron Collider?

Tracks from CMS collisions

Interesting stuff from the CMS Experiment:

After nearly 6 months of smashing particles, the Large Hadron Collider has seen signs of something entirely new. Pairs of charged particles produced when two beams of protons collide seem to be associated with each other even after they fly apart. […]

It’s as if two particles somehow talked to each other when they were produced, the physicists said. This phenomenon has never been seen before in proton-proton collisions, though it resembles something seen at RHIC (the Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider) at Brookhaven National Laboratory in New York. That effect was interpreted to be from the creation of hot dense matter shortly after the collisions.

The CMS team collected the data in mid-July, and spent the rest of the summer trying to blame it on an error or artifact of the data.

Wired Science: LHC Detects Evidence of New Physics

See also:

A photo tour of the Large Hadron Collider

Budget cuts force CERN to shut accelerators for year



CERN had previously announced that the LHC would not run in 2012 “for purely technical reasons.” It said it would now also shut down all of its other accelerators in 2012 as it focuses its resources on the most critical research.

“The whole CERN accelerator complex will now join the LHC in a year-long shutdown,” the institute said in a statement. “CERN management considers this a good result for the laboratory given the current financial environment.”

Reuters: Budget cuts force CERN to shut accelerators for year

Is Cosmology a Form of Theology for a Secular Age?


Why is cosmology so popular? Books by writers such as Paul Davies and Stephen Hawking on fine-tuning or the multiverse routinely become bestsellers. They’re good writers, of course. And there’s the aesthetic appeal of cosmology too, offering a ceaseless stream of heavenly images at which to wonder and gaze. But I suspect there’s more to it than that.

After all, many other branches of physics are progressing as fast, and arguably have a bigger impact upon our daily lives. But when did you last pick up a paperback on solid state physics, one of the largest contemporary research fields? Or who would choose a book about optics over one about the Big Bang? Chaos theory gets a look in, as does quantum theory — though that’s very close to cosmology, as the history of universe turns on the physics of the very small.

So here’s a possibility. Cosmology is so popular, not just because of the science, but because it allows us to ask the big questions — where we come from, who we are, where we’re going. It’s metaphysics by other means. If the Scholastic theologians of the Middle Ages liked to speculate about the number of angels on the heads of pins, we today like to speculate about the number of dimensions wrapped up in string theory. The activities are similar insofar as they feed the delight we find in awe-inspiring wonder.

Big Questions: The Mirror of the Cosmos

(Thanks Paul Bingman)

Russia Building Its Own Particle Accelerator


Russia is building its own particle accelerator:

The project, nicknamed NIKA and due to be launched in 2016, may reproduce “Big Bang” conditions that gave birth to our Universe and provide ideas of how the Solar system formed.

While Geneva is seeking to discover the smallest known particles, NIKA scientists aim to study the process of these particles’ appearance several billion years ago, which will probably help the mankind unlock some riddles of the Universe.

The Voice of Russia: Russia to build its own collider

(via VBS)

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