Physicists working at the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) in Switzerland have observed evidence of a new subatomic particle. Further research will try to determine if it is the elusive Higgs boson, thought to be responsible for giving matter its property of mass.
In the Standard Model of physics, matter is made up of small particles called fermions (including quarks and leptons). Forces such as electromagnetism are carried by bosons.
Physicists use electromagnetic ﬁelds to whip beams of protons around and around, accelerating them to nearly the speed of light. This gives the protons enormous kinetic energy. Finally the beams are allowed to intersect, and where protons collide, their energy is released. New particles – some of them very short-lived – are formed from this energy.
As Albert Einstein discovered, mass can be deﬁned as a quantity of energy. Subatomic particle masses are given as amounts of electron volts (the energy of a single electron accelerated by a potential difference of one volt). The newly discovered particle - possibly the Higgs boson – is found to have a mass of about 125 billion electron volts. Other particles, such as photons, have no mass at all.
Figure: Galactic Cannibalism of two galaxies that wandered too close to each other’s orbit.
NASA will reveal new discoveries about the violent fate of our Milky Way galaxy on Thursday (May 31), the space agency has announced.
NASA will hold a press conference at 1 p.m. EDT (1700 GMT) Thursday at the agency’s headquarters in Washington, D.C. Scientists will discuss new Hubble Space Telescope findings about the inevitable crash of the Milky Way and Andromeda galaxies, which will occur billions of years from now.
“Because of uncertainties in Andromeda’s motion, it has not been possible to determine whether the Milky Way will have a head-on collision or glancing blow with the neighboring galaxy billions of years in the future,” NASA officials said in a media alert Friday (May 25). “Hubble’s precise observations will settle this question.”
Side Note: For those of you whom like myself, can’t get enough exoplanet news. Here’s a wonderfully informative SciAm news article getting into how some of these extremely hot exoplanets become so heated. The implications state that it may not just be the proximity of the planet to their star, but also electromagnetism playing a part:
Astrophysicists have a funny attitude toward magnetic fields. You might say they feel both repelled and attracted. Gravitation is assumed to rule the cosmos, so models typically neglect magnetism, which for most researchers is just as well, because the theory of magnetism has a forbidding reputation. The basic equations are simple enough, solving them less so.
Electromagnetism is a standard weeder course in graduate school, and magnetohydrodynamics ranks up there with quantum field theory as the hardest subject known to mortal minds.
That said, when astrophysicists don’t understand something, they often invoke the m-word. “When all else fails, introduce a magnetic field,” exoplanet theorist Dimitar Sasselov of Harvard University told an audience at the American Astronomical Society meeting this week.
Judging from his and others’ talks, all else has been failing a lot lately. One of the many mysteries about the Jupiter-like planets being found around other stars is why their density is so low—some are as fluffy as styrofoam or balsa wood. Orbiting so close to their stars, these planets are baked by stellar radiation, but even that’s not enough to puff them up, at least not directly.
Sasselov described a new model by Konstantin Batygin of Caltech and his colleagues in which the planet acts like a giant induction stove. Magnetic fields set up electric currents in the ionized gases of the planet, further heating and bloating it (see above diagram).