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Scientists built the most powerful physics machine on earth to study the fate of our universe — and it may break the laws of physics

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Right now, the most powerful physics machine ever constructed by man is running at maximum power after a major upgrade that took two years to complete.

And recently, two different experiments reported that they may have discovered a particle that behaves in ways that cannot be explained with any existing physical laws, as Scientific American reports.

Shown below is one of four major detectors that are crucial to the machine's purpose:

CERN large hadron colliderThe Large Hadron Collider slams beams of subatomic particles — traveling at more than 99.999999% the speed of light — together in the most energetic head-on hits you can imagine.

The heaping piles of scientific data generated from these powerful mashups, and seen by giant detectors like the one above, is enough to fill 100,000 dual-layer, single-sided DVDs each year. And this data is fueling countless science projects across the globe conducted by more than 10,000 researchers, engineers, and students.

These projects probe and test the fundamental laws of physics that govern our understanding of the universe.

And given the latest discoveries, could it be that with its tremendous power and mind-boggling technology the LHC has broken the laws of physics and given us material with which to expand on new theories? The results still need to be confirmed first, though.

In the meantime, here's an amazing graphic by the producers at Column Five— an agency that specializes in informative graphics — about the LHC, what it does, how it operates, and what physicists are hunting inside of its giant, empty, and freezing tunnels:

lhc

READ MORE: You can buy the only sunglasses made with NASA-certified technology for less than $80

UP NEXT: 900 million Wi-Fi networks are revealed in this dazzling map of electronic life around the world

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NOW WATCH: How scientists uncovered a completely new world inside the tunnels of the most powerful physics machine on Earth

15 Stephen Hawking quotes that reveal how a genius thinks

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stephen hawking

Stephen Hawking was 21 years old when he was diagnosed with motor neuron disease, a rare form of ALS.

Doctors told him he would only live for a few years.

More than 50 years later, he's now 73 and one of the foremost physicists alive — a professor at the University of Cambridge, an investigator of black holes, and the author of the bestselling book "A Brief History of Time." 

Here are 15 quotes showing Hawking's approach to science and to life in general.

SEE ALSO: 25 quotes that take you inside Albert Einstein's revolutionary mind

On disability

"My advice to other disabled people would be, concentrate on things your disability doesn’t prevent you doing well, and don't regret the things it interferes with. Don’t be disabled in spirit, as well as physically."

[The New York Times, 2011]



On priorities

"My goal is simple. It is a complete understanding of the universe, why it is as it is and why it exists at all."

["Stephen Hawking's Universe," 1985]



On free will

"I have noticed that even people who claim everything is predetermined and that we can do nothing to change it, look before they cross the road."

["Black Holes and Baby Universes and Other Essays," 1994] 



See the rest of the story at Business Insider

These are the most absurd academic studies this year

Use this cool phone trick to 'see' a color of light humans eyes can't detect

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rainbow rainbows light spectrum

There is a lot more to light than what mere human eyes can detect, but a device in your pocket can help you see beyond your biological limits.

Our eyes can only detect colors of light that we see as a rainbow, primarily shades of red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, and violet.

These are the specific wavelengths of light that the receptors in our eyes are tuned to. Light of shorter or longer wavelengths doesn't excite our eyes' receptors — so we can't see anything beyond red (infrared) or violet (ultraviolet) on the electromagnetic spectrum of light.

You can see how the electromagnetic spectrum works in the handy graphic below. Shorter wavelengths are on the left and longer wavelengths are on the right.

skitchIR

It is possible for other animals to see wavelengths outside of our rainbow: Bees can see ultraviolet light, which is just past violet light on the electromagnetic spectrum. And on the other end of the spectrum, snakes can see infrared light, which is just past red light.

These different invisible lights are useful in technology, too. Household items like TV remotes also use infrared light to communicate without wires.

And while our naked eyes can't pick up on infrared light, the sensors in your phones and digital cameras can — essentially making the invisible visible. To see the infrared light that your TV remote transmits, shine the remote at your phone camera and press a button, as seen in the video below by Robert Krampf, the Happy Scientist.

The cell phone camera is more sensitive to light than human eyes are, so it "sees" the infrared light that is invisible to us.

A_Color_You_Can_t_See_ _YouTubeEach button sends different pulses of infrared light, Krampf explains, which tell your TV what you want it to do, though these pulses are too fast for human eyes to pick up on.

Grab a remote and your smartphone and try it yourself!

Check out the full video, uploaded to YouTube by Robert Krampf:

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NOW WATCH: Only 6% of Americans surveyed can answer these basic science questions — how would you do?

Something amazing happens when you drop a stretched-out Slinky

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slinky

When you drop a Slinky, what falls to the ground first: the top, the bottom, or everything all at once?

Derek Muller, who created the popular YouTube channel Veritasium, first took on this puzzling physics question in a 2011 video.

At the Google Science Fair on Monday, which Muller hosted, he repeated this demonstration on stage — and also with a giant, rainbow-colored Slinky he dropped from the top of the Googleplex.

So which is it? The result may surprise you.

First, make your bets on what you think will happen.

Now, watch the physics unfold in the GIF below:

paperslinkyRod Cross, a physics professor at the University of Sydney, starred in a scientific paper on modeling a falling Slinky in 2012 (PDF).

A Slinky is a loose tension spring. If you let the whole thing uncoil and hang down, the tension is enough to hold up the bottom against the pull of gravity.

Because the Slinky is dropped from the top, Cross explained in his study, it takes time for the motion wave to travel down the spiral and "communicate" to the bottom part that the top part fell — and that the tension is no longer there.

The time required for normal Slinkies to collapse, he calculated, is about 0.3 seconds. During that time the bottom basically floats in air.

Muller further explained what's happening in the video:

"What's interesting to note about this phenomenon is it's not just a property of Slinkies. It's a property of all objects. You can have a really long steel rod and when you let go of the top, the top really starts accelerating down first, and the bottom second. It takes time for that relaxation to travel through any material. You need that compression wave to basically pass through the entire object. A slinky just makes that nice and visible for us."

Here it is again, from the top of the Googleplex:

See full coverage of the Fair in the video below. Muller's segment starts at about 11:30.

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NOW WATCH: Here’s what really makes someone a genius

These are the scientists who could win a Nobel Prize

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Emmanuelle Charpentier and Jennifer Doudna

Few honors attract as much excitement in the world of science as the Nobel Prizes.

Each year, media company Thomson Reuters releases its annual list of the researchers it thinks are most likely to win the prize in physiology or medicine, chemistry, physics, and economics.

So far, they've been pretty spot on: Since 2002, they've accurately forecast 37 Nobel Prize winners. The 2015 Nobel Laureates will be announced between October 5 and 12.

And this year, a higher-than-usual number of the potential laureates are women.

Thomson Reuters bases its predictions on which scientific studies had the greatest number of citations, or mentions by other studies.

Here are the scientists they've named as being in the running this year.

Chemistry

CRISPR

  • Emmanuelle Charpentier and Jennifer A. Doudna were selected as potential chemistry winners for developing a method to edit genes known as CRISPR/Cas9 (illustrated above). The technique holds potential to cure deadly genetic diseases, but it's also raised some major ethical concerns.
  • John B. Goodenough and M. Stanley Whittingham were highlighted as possible chemistry winners for laying the foundations for the development of the lithium-ion battery, the same battery that powers your laptop.
  • Carolyn R. Bertozzi was selected for a possible Nobel in chemistry for making major contributions to bioorthogonal chemistry — the study of chemical reactions that can happen inside cells without disturbing what goes on naturally inside them.

Physics

Liquid_helium_Rollin_film

  • Deborah S. Jin might win a physics Nobel for pioneering work on atomic gases at super-cold temperatures. They created the first zero-viscosity fluid, or superfluid (like the helium superfluid above), formed by subatomic particles called fermions at low temperatures.
  • Paul B. Corkum and Ferenc Krausz might win a physics Nobel for helping us understand the physics that happens at the scale of one quintillionth of a second, known as attosecond physics.
  • Zhong Lin Wang was chosen as a potential Nobel winner in physics for inventing tiny generators that produce electricity from pressure (known as piezotronic generators). These nanogenerators could be used to power sensors, or wearable devices powered by the human body.

Physiology or medicine

electron micrograph of cluster E. coli bacteria

  • Jeffrey I. Gordon was selected as a possible Nobel winner for medicine for demonstrating how the microbes that live in our gut (such as the E. coli shown above) have major impacts on our overall health, from our metabolisms to our physiology.
  • Kazutoshi Mori and Peter Walter were selected as potential medicine Nobel winners for independently figuring out how our cells find and fix "unfolded" proteins in a part of the cell called the endoplasmic reticulum, a network of membranes that can be found throughout the cell and are connected to its powerhouse, the nucleus.
  • Alexander Y. Rudensky, Shimon Sakaguchi, and Ethan M. Shevach could win Nobels in medicine for discovering how immune cells called regulatory T cells and a protein called Foxp3 work.

CHECK OUT: These are the scientific innovations likely to win this year's Nobel Prizes

SEE ALSO: Here are the breakthroughs that could win a Nobel Prize for medicine

Join the conversation about this story »

NOW WATCH: This Discovery Of The Brain's 'Inner GPS' Just Won A Nobel Prize

A teaspoon of the universe is shockingly lightweight

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Some of the most extreme objects in the universe are also the densest. Just a teaspoon of a neutron star on Earth, for example, would weigh four times more than the entire human population.

Yet, the universe itself weighs practically nothing. That's because density depends not only on mass but also size, and the universe is, well, the largest thing known to humans.

Moreover, the universe is mostly empty space, so, despite the tremendously dense, heavy objects within it, the universe overall is extremely light. Just how much would a teaspoon of the universe weigh on Earth?

Here's how the answer compares with other common objects in space and on Earth:

BI_Graphics_Here's how much a spoonful of the universe weighs_02

DON'T MISS: 9 tripped-out sci-fi technologies in 'The Martian' that NASA really uses

UP NEXT: The sharpest Pluto photos ever released are in stunning color and changing how we see this perplexing world

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NOW WATCH: This 3-minute animation will change the way you see the universe

Make a bottle disappear in this science experiment you can try at home

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glycerin experiment materials

Knowing a few physics principles may be the most surefire way to impress your friends.

We dug up this simple trick from brusspup's YouTube channel that you can use to make a bottle disappear — using supplies from your local drug store.

It uses properties of light to trick our eyes into thinking there's only liquid in a glass that's actually holding a bottle.

When you place a mini bottle in a glass of water, it looks pretty normal.

Light travels through air (green arrows) at a faster rate than it travels through the glass walls of the glass and bottle (red dots) or water (blue arrows).

Our eyes are able to see the bottle inside the glass because our eyes can perceive that the light is traveling at a different speed and angle at each of the four intersections of glass and water.

This distorts the image of the pencil behind the glass.



But when you put fill the bottle and glass with glycerin, it looks like the mini bottle isn't even there — you can see the pencil behind the glass set up isn't distorted at all.



This is because light travels through glass and glycerin at the same speed, so your eyes don't see a boundary where the bottle is, rendering it invisible.

Glycerin is a liquid that is sold at most drugstores as a skin softener and protectant. It used to be made out of animal fats, and was typically recovered as a byproduct of soap. But today it's normally made out of palm kernel oil.

The colorless, sweet liquid can also be used to make nitroglycerin, the explosive ingredient in dynamite.



See the rest of the story at Business Insider

NOW WATCH: We tried the 'crazy wrap thing' everyone is talking about

We used physics to show what it’s like to take Tesla's newest car for a spin

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Tesla Model X

From 0 to 60 mph in just 3.2 seconds, Tesla's new Model X has what they're called a "Ludicrous Mode" that can accelerate you faster than most roller coasters. But that's not the most exciting thing about this car.

We've broken this car down with science to show you what's cool and what's downright awesome about it.

Tesla Model X vs. Enzo Ferrari

Tesla Motors launched the Model X, the company's first SUV, on Tuesday. You can now order one for $132,000.

To be fair, the Model X is only the third-fastest accelerating Tesla vehicle available, but it has accelerations that rival this Enzo Ferrari (below), which can get you from 0 to 60 mph in 3.14 seconds — just 0.06 seconds faster than the Model X.

Let's use basic physics to see the difference you would actually feel if you were in a Model X vs. the Farrari after punching the gas.

enzo ferrari

The force (F) that you feel pushing you back in your seat in any accelerating vehicle can be calculated using the equation in Newton's second law: F=ma where:

  • "F" is the force you feel
  • "m" is your mass
  • and "a" is acceleration, which is your change in velocity per unite time expressed as vf - vi/t

In the Model X an average 150-lb. person would feel:

  • m=150 lbs (68 kg) ; a=(26.8 meters per second - 0)/(3.2 sec) = 8.4 m/s2
  • F=(68 kg)(8.4 m/s2) = 569.5 Newtons or 128 pounds

For the Ferrari you've got the same calculation except the acceleration is slightly faster, which gives you a force of about 130.5 pounds.

What this means is that you would feel like someone had placed an extra 128 lbs on top of you in the Model X and an extra 130.5 lbs in the Ferrari.

This is a relatively insignificant difference; if you were blind-folded, you couldn't tell if you were in the Tesla Model X or the Ferrari. Pretty impressive!

For comparison, astronauts thundering through the atmosphere on an exploding rocket feel about three times their body weight, or on average 700 pounds of force, which makes it difficult to move and even breathe.

Super fast

When it comes to speed, one of the main obstacles working against you is air resistance. If you've ever ridden a bike against a strong head wind, you've experienced this.

tesla model XAir resistance, also called drag, becomes more of a problem the faster your speed. But you can counteract drag with shape and materials that are especially drag resistant. Tesla's Model X is especially aerodynamic, meaning that Tesla has engineered the vehicle with a shape that cuts through the air like a hot knife through butter.

"At 0.24, Model X's drag coefficient is 20% lower than the next best SUV," Tesla states on their website.

This is important because the faster you go, the greater drag your vehicle must fight, and the more power you have to spend to maintain your speed. In fact, the amount of power you need is the cube of your speed, so if you double your speed, then you have to use eight times more power to maintain that speed.

For example, if it costs you 20 horsepower to go 50 mph, then it will take 160 horsepower to go 100 mph.

With its super-sleek design, Tesla's all-electric SUV can travel at top speeds of 155 mph for 250 miles at a time — longer than the length of the entire state of Ohio!

Safety first

About 30% of all car accident deaths are from rollovers — when the vehicle overturns onto its roof. Tall, narrow vehicle, like SUVs, vans, and trucks have a higher risk of rolling over than cars because their center of gravity is farther from the ground.

Volvo XC90 rollover crash test

The center of gravity refers to a single location on any object that acts as a balancing point, and the closer an object's center of gravity is to the ground, the less likely it is to rotate, or in the case of vehicles roll.

Tesla's Model X has the lowest center-of-gravity of any vehicle in its class, according to Popular Science, and therefore "the risk of rollover is about half that of any vehicle in its class,"Tesla states on their website. After government testing is complete, Tesla expects their Model X to be the safest SUV on the market, Popular Science reports.

CHECK OUT: 9 tripped-out sci-fi technologies in 'The Martian' that NASA really uses

SEE ALSO: The 12 most compelling scientific findings that suggest aliens are real

Join the conversation about this story »

NOW WATCH: The best moment from Elon Musk's Model X launch Tuesday night

Start a fire with water in this simple science experiment

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fire experiment

The idea that you could light a fire using water sounds crazy, right?

But this is a totally real, and totally cool, science experiment that you can do at home, to create fire from water in a bottle.

We found this backyard experiment on brusspup's YouTube channel.

All you need are two pieces of computer paper, water, a black marker (like a Sharpie), a curved water bottle (like a POM juice bottle), and a sunny day.

It uses the same method that evil kids use to burn ants with a magnifying glass.

You use the curved bottle as you would a magnifying glass, to focus the sunlight onto the black spot on the paper until it's hot enough to ignite. It wouldn't work on just plain white paper because the color white reflects light, while the color black absorbs light (and its accompanying heat). That heat — when combined with the flammable paper – become fire.

Try it for yourself, but be careful — this is real fire and will set off alarms if lit in a contained space. Find a nice outdoor area for your experiment.

materials fire water experimentSteps:

1. Fill the bottle with water.

2. Hold the bottle over the black rectangle until it burns a hole through the paper.

3. Put the second piece of paper on top of the first.

4. Wave the papers up and down to get oxygen flowing through the fire.

5. Drop it like it's hot.

See the full video of science tricks on brusspup's YouTube here.

Join the conversation about this story »

NOW WATCH: What happens to your body when you get a tattoo

The tabs on soda cans are genius, and physics shows why

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The soda-can tab is more than meets the eye.

In its resting state, the tab is what engineers call a "second-class" lever: The force you apply only moves one way, like a wheelbarrow.

When you lift the handles, the majority of the force falls on the wheel, in this case otherwise known as the fulcrum. This makes the load in the middle easier to move.

As Bill Hammack, YouTube's EngineerGuy and an engineer at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, explains in a recent video, pulling a soda-can tab exerts force on the rivet, which in this case is the load you want to move.

This lets you vent the pressurized can.

But something remarkable happens the moment you vent the can: The tab becomes a first-class lever, in which the force you apply changes direction around the fulcrum, like a seesaw.

"Part of the reason this clever design works," Hammack explains in the video, "is because the pressure inside the can helps to force the rivet up, which in turn depresses the outer edge of the top, until it vents the can and then the tab changes to a seesaw lever."

In other words, the wheelbarrow lever lets you exert great force with relatively little effort. In this case, it lets you create a vent from the rivet. The crack you hear is the pressure quickly equalizing. From there a simple seesaw lever breaks the seal itself.

Looking at the process from inside, you can see more clearly when the can vents.

This part is integral to the process, Hammack says, because if you tried to open the can just by pressing down on the seal without venting the can first, you'd need to make the tab enormous to fight back against the pressure inside the can. That would make it extremely expensive, not to mention oddly shaped and inefficient.

The actual design just goes to show that machines don't have to be complicated to be clever. Which is good news, considering that the tabs of yesteryear were as dumb as they were impractical.

Older soda and beer drinkers will remember the pull-away tabs that you'd either throw on the ground or drop into the can itself, hoping it wouldn't cut your lip when you went to take a sip. Thankfully, the tab got a full redesign in the 1980s.

Thirty years later, the design might just be the perfect way to crack open a Fresca.

Join the conversation about this story »

NOW WATCH: How scientists uncovered a completely new world inside the tunnels of the most powerful physics machine on Earth

The tabs on soda cans are genius, and physics shows why

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0

The soda can tab is more than meets the eye.

In its resting state, the tab is what engineers call a "second-class" lever: the force you apply only moves one way, like a wheelbarrow.

When you lift the handles, the majority of the force falls on the wheel, in this case otherwise known as the fulcrum. This makes the load in the middle easier to move. 

As Bill Hammack, YouTube's engineerguy and an engineer at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, explains in a recent video, pulling a soda can tab exerts force on the rivet, which in this case is the load you want to move.

This lets you vent the pressurized can.

But something remarkable happens the moment you vent the can: The tab becomes a first-class lever, in which the force you apply changes direction around the fulcrum, like a seesaw.

"Part of the reason this clever design works," Hammack explains in the video, "is because the pressure inside the can helps to force the rivet up, which in turn depresses the outer edge of the top, until it vents the can and then the tab changes to a seesaw lever."

In other words, the wheelbarrow lever lets you exert great force with relatively little effort. In this case, it lets you create a vent from the rivet. (The crack you hear is the pressure quickly equalizing.) From there a simple seesaw lever breaks the seal itself.

Looking at the process from inside, you can see more clearly when the can vents.

This part is integral to to the process, Hammack says, because if you tried to open the can just by pressing down on the seal without venting the can first, you'd need to make the tab enormous to fight back against the pressure inside the can. That would make it extremely expensive, not to mention oddly shaped and inefficient.

The actual design just goes to show machines don't have to be complicated to be clever. Which is good news, considering the tabs of yesteryear were as dumb as they were impractical.

Older soda and beer drinkers will remember the pull-away tabs that you'd either throw on the ground or drop into the can itself, hoping it wouldn't cut your lip when you went to take a sip. Thankfully, the tab got a full redesign in the 1980s.

Thirty years later, the design might just be the perfect way to crack open a Fresca.

Join the conversation about this story »

NOW WATCH: How scientists uncovered a completely new world inside the tunnels of the most powerful physics machine on Earth

Science experts grilling shrimp with rubbing alcohol and a 5-gallon water jug is borderline reckless

2 men were just awarded the Nobel Prize in physics for unlocking the secrets of the strangest particle in the universe

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superkamiokande top

The 2015 Nobel Prize in physics has been awarded to a Japanese physicist and a Canadian physicist for discovering that abundant subatomic particles known as neutrinos can undergo changes in their identity, a process that requires the particles, once thought to be massless, to possess mass.

The prize goes jointly to Takaaki Kajita of the University of Tokyo in Japan and Arthur B. McDonald of Queen's University in Kingston, Canada "for the discovery of neutrino oscillations, which shows that neutrinos have mass."

The two recipients were leaders of two major underground neutrino observatories on opposite sides of the world. Kajita was part of the Super-Kamiokande collaboration in Japan, and McDonald led a group at the Sudbury Neutrino Observatory, or SNO, in Canada.

"Neutrinos are a puzzle and this year's Nobel Prize in physics honors a fundamental step toward unveiling the nature of the neutrino," said Olga Botner, a member of the Nobel Committee for Physics and a professor of physics at Uppsala University in Sweden.

"This is a great prize," said physicist Michael Turner, director of the Kavli Institute for Cosmological Physics at the University of Chicago. He added that this is the latest of four neutrino-related Nobel Prizes, from 1988 to 2015.

Today’s announcement was "doubly wonderful," said Gene Beier, a professor of physics at the University of Pennsylvania who was a U.S. co-spokesperson for the SNO experiment. Beier had also worked in the Kamiokande II experiment, a predecessor to Super-Kamiokande.

Both experiments provided big answers.

'A terrible thing'

"Neutrinos are among the fundamental particles," explained McDonald by phone during this morning's Nobel announcement in Sweden.

"The neutrino has a mass and it's more than a million times lighter than the electron," said Botner.

"Neutrinos punch above their weight. They contribute as much mass as stars do," Turner said.

They are one of the most abundant kinds of known particles in the universe, second only to photons, or particles of light. Yet they are elusive and mysterious. Even though an estimated billions of neutrinos pass through humans every second, they "pass through our body unfelt and unseen," said Botner.

In the 1930s, theoretical physicist Wolfgang Pauli first proposed neutrinos to explain the missing energy from a type of nuclear reaction known as "beta decay." In a December 1930 letter, the 30-year-old Pauli proposed the particle, greeting his colleagues with the words "Dear Radioactive Ladies and Gentleman" in German.

He later apologized, reportedly calling his proposal "a terrible thing. I have postulated a particle that cannot be detected." The neutrino wouldn't radiate any form of light or electromagnetic radiation. It was believed to be electrically neutral — making it all the more difficult to detect.

The mysterious 'little neutral one'

borexino collab neutrino 2Physicist Enrico Fermi gave it the name "neutrino," or "little neutral one" in Italian. They were believed to travel at or near the speed of light.

Physicists came to accept the idea that neutrinos were produced abundantly, at the beginning of the universe, in nuclear reactions inside stars and in collisions between cosmic rays and the atmosphere. Most neutrinos pass straight through the Earth undetected. Occasionally they collide with something and can be detected.

It wasn't until 1956 that signs of neutrinos were detected in nuclear reactions in experiments led by physicists Frederick Reines and Clyde Cowan in the U.S. Cowan died in 1974, but Reines was honored with one-half of the Nobel Prize in 1995 for the detection of the neutrino.

However, much about the neutrino remained unknown.

In the 1960s, physicist Ray Davis led experiments studying the neutrinos coming from the sun. On Earth, the researchers detected about one-third the number of neutrinos expected to stream from the sun. Did scientists not fully understand the sun, or was there something going on with the neutrinos?

To catch a neutrino

Davis shared part of the 2002 Nobel Prize in Physics for the detection of neutrinos from the cosmos, along with Japanese physicist Masatoshi Koshiba, who helped design the Kamiokande experiment in Japan to confirm Davis's results.

Solar FlarePhysicists worked for decades to try to solve the mystery of the missing neutrinos. According to the Standard Model of particle physics, there are three types of neutrinos, known as electron neutrinos, muon neutrinos, and tau neutrinos, which accompany charged particles known as the electron, muon and tau particles.

The sun produces only electron neutrinos. Some physicists suggested that some electron neutrinos transformed into the other types on their way to Earth.

But scientists had to build detectors good enough to solve this problem. They had to be built under solid rock, blocking most other kinds of particles that could drown out signs of neutrinos.

In 1996, the Super-Kamiokande detector went online in Japan. Super-K was built in a zinc mine under 1000 meters of solid rock. Containing 50,000 tons of water, Super-K was designed to detect muon neutrinos from the atmosphere, either from the atmosphere above, or passing all the way through the globe.

Occasionally, neutrinos would collide with an electron or core of an atom in a water molecule, and produce telltale flashes of light. This mighty subterranean detector only found signs of 5,000 neutrinos in its first two years.

A Nobel-worthy discovery

nobel prize_physics_730px

Analyzing their data, the researchers found a difference in the muon neutrinos detected from straight overhead and those traveling through the Earth. They concluded that the muon neutrinos passing through the globe transformed into a different type of neutrino.

Meanwhile, the Sudbury Neutrino Observatory in Canada, aimed to study neutrinos from the sun. Similar to Super-K, it was located in a nickel mine. However, it was buried even deeper, under more than 2,000 meters of rock. It detected even fewer neutrinos from the sun, only about three per day in its first two years.

Its tank was filled with 1,000 tons of heavy water. An ordinary water molecule contains two hydrogen atoms and one oxygen atom. In heavy water, the hydrogens are replaced by its heavier cousin, deuterium, which has an extra neutron. Several types of collisions can occur in the heavy water, with electron neutrinos producing different reactions than the other types of neutrino.

So the researchers could distinguish the electron neutrinos from other types of neutrinos. They found the two-thirds of the neutrinos that were undetected in earlier experiments and uncovered evidence that some of the electron neutrinos were transforming into the other types.

"Yes, there certainly was a 'eureka' moment. We were able to see that neutrinos appeared to change from one type to the other," McDonald said today during the Nobel announcement.

'The hard part of any experiment'

Physicist Peter Wittich, now at Cornell University, wrote his a Ph.D. thesis on the SNO results, Beier said, but it had to be held as the researchers checked to eliminate possible sources of error in their experiment. He hid the thesis from the public for a year while SNO confirmed its results.

What the public may not realize is “that’s the hard part of any experiment,” Beier said, in terms of eliminating sources of error. “Getting the answer is easier than making sure it is right,” he said.

If the neutrinos were transforming, as they were later confirmed to be, that had huge implications. Physicists had not known whether neutrinos had zero mass, like photons, or had a little mass. Standard theory suggested they had no mass at all.

“Within the Standard Model, neutrinos should be massless,” said Turner.

But, if neutrinos were transforming from one type to another, in the way that physicists observed, this meant that had mass.

This “provided evidence for physics beyond the Standard Model,” Turner said, and showed “that there was something more to the understanding of particles and forces."

Neutrinos may hold the key

So neutrinos may hold the key to expanding our understanding of matter. How do physicists know they have mass, which contradicts the Standard Model of particle physics?

dark matterQuantum physics suggests that any object, such as an electron, can act as either a solid particle or a rippling wave. Neutrinos act this way as well. Traveling from the sun, neutrinos can act like rippling waves and possess characteristics of all three types of neutrinos.

When detected in any experiment, they are recorded as particles and must assume the identity of one of the three types of neutrinos. The relative amounts of the three types of neutrinos that are detected depend on differences in the masses between the three neutrinos.

The fact that neutrinos can go from one form to another, and are recorded in different amounts, suggests that they have slightly different masses.

Other important experiments on neutrinos have since been done, Beier said. The KamLAND experiment occurred a little later. It pinned down the fact that SNO was seeing neutrino oscillations.

"We are very satisfied that we have been able to add to the world's knowledge on a very fundamental level," McDonald said today during the Nobel announcement.

The discovery of neutrino oscillation lifts the veil a little more on the mysterious neutrino, while at the same time opens a new field of unanswered questions.

Editors' update, 10/6/2015, 2:30 p.m.: This article has been updated to indicate that there are four neutrino-related Nobel Prizes, in 1988, 1995, 2002, and 2015.

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A major breakthrough has given these Australian engineers everything they need to build a new generation of super-fast computers that would jeopardize the way we store personal information

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Humankind is hot on the trail to designing and building the next-generation of super computers, called quantum computers.

Capable of easily cracking encryptions that would be impossible with the average classical computer, a quantum computer will not only revolutionize computing speed but also render most common-day encryption methods obsolete.

Now, a team of scientists at the The University of New South Wales (UNSW) in Sydney, Australia and Keio University in Japan have just made a significant breakthrough in the field using a special material: Silicon.

By modifying a standard silicon transistor — the backbone of all modern-day electronic devices — the scientists have performed the world's first calculation with what are called quantum bits, instead of classical bits, with a silicon-based material.

Quantum bits are the coded language by which quantum computers would speak to one another and transmit and store information. Never before has anyone managed to get two of them to communicate using silicon.

This is a tremendous achievement.

"Our results mean that all of the physical building blocks for a silicon quantum computer have now been successfully constructed," Menno Veldhorst, who is the lead author of the paper where the team reported their results, said in a UNSW video. The paper was published in Nature on Oct. 6.

silicon quantum computer 2In addition to having everything they need to start the real task of designing a quantum processor, the engineers can proceed with a material that is both ubiquitous and cheap.

"Because we use essentially the same device technology as existing computer chips, we believe it will be much easier to manufacture a full-scale processor chip than for any of the leading designs, which rely on more exotic technologies,"Andrew Dzurak, who is the team leader and director of the Australian National Fabrication Facility at UNSW, said in a press release.

Next steps

Other researchers have successfully performed calculations between two quantum bits, but they used expensive materials like diamond and cesium. In addition to being pricey, these materials do not play nice when it comes to large-scale manufacturing. The crucial advantage of silicon transistors is that you can, in theory, connect hundreds of them together to work as a quantum computer.

EPROM_Microchip_SuperMacro"The silicon chip in your smartphone or tablet already has around one billion transistors on it, with each transistor less then 100 billionths of a meter in size," Veldhorst said in the press release.

Now that the team has successfully managed to get two qubits talking to one another, the next step is to get three qubits communicating, and then tens, hundreds, and eventually billions.

Classical computers use what are called bytes, which are comprised of 8 individual bits, so if your computer has an 8 GigaByte hard-drive, that means it has the capacity to store billions of bits of information like important PDF documents and vacation photos. If quantum computers are ever going to compete with what we have today, then they're going to have to run on a lot more than just a few quantum bits.

Right now, the most qubits anyone has ever connected is D-Wave System Inc., which broke the 1,000 qubit barrier earlier this year. Though some question D-Wave's technology as genuine quantum computing.

But the UNSW team is taking it one step at a time and has high hopes.

"I believe that a Si-CMOS qubit prototype containing between tens and hundreds of qubits could be made within five years, provided we have the right level of investment and the right industry partners," Dzurak told Gizmag.

Check out Dzurak and Veldhorst explaining their work in the YouTube video below:

 

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Scientists have found some crazy new ways to cook meat

Here's why a particle that barely exists won this year's Physics Nobel Prize

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Neutrinos take patience.

They’re worth it, and the announcement of the 2015 Nobel Prize in Physics recognizes that, following related prizes in 1988, 1995 and 2002. Ironically, these near-undetectable particles can reveal things that cannot be seen any other way.

I could begin by telling you that neutrinos are elementary particles, but that sounds condescending. They’re not called elementary because they’re easy to understand – they aren’t – but because they are seemingly point-like in size, and we can’t break them down into smaller constituents.

There’s no such thing as half a neutrino.

The smallest things in the universe

Atoms, despite the Greek name (“cannot be cut”), are not elementary particles, meaning they can be disassembled. An atom is a diffuse cloud of electrons surrounding a tiny, dense nucleus composed of protons and neutrons, which can be broken into up and down quarks.

Particle colliders, which accelerate particles to near the speed of light and smash them together, help us discover new elementary particles.

First, because of E = mc2, the energy in the collision can be converted into the mass of particles. Second, the higher the accelerator’s beam energy, the more finely we can resolve composite structures, just as we can see smaller things with X-rays than with visible light.

We haven’t been able to take apart electrons or quarks.

These are elementary particles, forming the basic constituents of ordinary matter: the Lego bricks of the universe. Interestingly, there are many heavy cousins of familiar particles that exist only for fractions of a second, and thus are not part of ordinary matter. For example, for electrons these are the muon and tauon.

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What’s a neutrino?

How is this elementary particle – the neutrino – different from all other elementary particles? It’s unique in that it’s both almost massless and almost noninteracting. Those features are different, though often conflated (don’t take advice about neutrinos from a poet, even it is John Updike).

It’s a mystery why neutrinos are almost, but not quite, massless. We do know why they’re almost noninteracting, though: They don’t feel the electromagnetic or strong forces that bind nuclei and atoms, only the aptly named weak force (and gravity, but barely, because their masses are small).

Though neutrinos are not constituents of ordinary matter, they are everywhere around us – a trillion from the sun pass through your eyes every second. There are hundreds per every cubic centimeter left over from the Big Bang. Because they so rarely interact, it’s almost impossible to observe them, and you certainly don’t feel them.

Neutrinos have other weird aspects. They come in three types, called flavors – electron, muon and tauon neutrinos, corresponding to the three charged particles they pair with – and all of these seem to be stable, unlike the heavy cousins of the electron.

Because the three flavors of neutrinos are almost identical, there is the theoretical possibility that they could change into each other, which is another unusual aspect of these particles, one that can reveal new physics.

This transformation requires three things: that neutrino masses are nonzero, are different for different types, and that neutrinos of definite flavor are quantum combinations of neutrinos of definite mass (this is called “neutrino mixing”).

For decades, it was generally expected that none of these conditions would be met. Not by neutrino physicists, though – we held out hope.

Doing astronomy with invisible particles

In the end, nature provided, and experimentalists discovered, supported by calculations from theorists. First came decades of searching by many experiments, with important hints to encourage the chase.

Seahorse of the Large Magellanic CloudThen, in 1998, the Super-Kamiokande experiment in Japan announced strong evidence that muon neutrinos produced in Earth’s atmosphere change to another type (now thought to be tauon neutrinos).

The proof was seeing this happen for neutrinos that came from “below,” having traveled a long distance through Earth, but not for those from “above,” having traveled just the short distance through the atmosphere. Because the neutrino flux is (nearly) the same at different places on Earth, this allowed a “before” and “after” measurement.

In 2001 and 2002, the Sudbury Neutrino Observatory in Canada announced strong evidence that electron neutrinos produced in the core of the sun also change flavors. This time the proof was seeing that electron flavor neutrinos that disappeared then reappeared as other types (now thought to be a mix of muon and tauon neutrinos).

Each of those experiments saw about half as many neutrinos as expected from theoretical predictions. And, perhaps fittingly, Takaaki Kajita and Arthur McDonald each got half a Nobel Prize.

In both cases, quantum-mechanical effects, which normally operate only at microscopic distances, were observed on terrestrial and astronomical distance scales.

As the front page of The New York Times said in 1998, “Mass Found in Elusive Particle; Universe May Never Be the Same.”

These clear indications of neutrino flavor change, since confirmed and measured in detail in laboratory experiments, show that neutrinos have mass and that these masses are different for different types of neutrino.

Interestingly, we don’t yet know what the values of the masses are, though other experiments show that they must be about a million times smaller than the mass of an electron, and perhaps smaller.

That’s the headline. The rest of the story is that the mixing between different neutrino flavors is in fact quite large. You might think it’s bad news when predictions fail – for example, that we would never be able to observe neutrino flavor change – but this kind of failure is good, because we learn something new.

International society of neutrino hunters

I’m delighted to see this recognition for my friends Taka and Art. I wish that several key people, both experimentalists and theorists, who contributed in essential ways had been similarly recognized.

It took many years to construct and operate those experiments, which themselves built on slow, difficult and largely unrewarding work going back decades, requiring the effort of hundreds of people. That includes major US participation in both Super-Kamiokande and the Sudbury Neutrino Observatory. So, congratulations to neutrinos, to Taka and Art, and to the many others who made this possible!

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When I first started working on neutrinos, over 20 years ago, many people, including prominent scientists, told me I was wasting my time. Later, others urged me to work on something else, because “people who worked on neutrinos don’t get jobs.”

And, even now, plenty of physicists and astronomers think we’re chasing something almost imaginary.

But we’re not. Neutrinos are real. They’re an essential part of physics, shedding light on the origin of mass, the particle-antiparticle asymmetry of the universe, and perhaps the existence of new forces that are too feeble to test with other particles.

And they are an essential part of astronomy, revealing the highest-energy accelerators in the Universe, what’s inside the densest stars, and perhaps new and otherwise unseen astrophysical objects.

Tiny particles, big mysteries

Why should you care, beyond sharing our curiosity about revealing some of the weirdest things in the universe?

The weak force that neutrinos feel is what changes protons to neutrons, powering nuclear fusion reactions in the sun and other stars, and creating the elements that make planets and life itself possible.

dark matterNeutrinos are the only component of dark matter that we understand, and figuring out the rest will help us understand the structure and evolution of the universe.

If the neutrino masses had been much larger, the universe would look much different, and perhaps we wouldn’t be here to see.

Finally, if you are purely practical, neutrino physics and astrophysics is one of the most difficult jobs, requiring us to invent incredibly sensitive detectors and techniques. This knowledge has other uses; for example, using a neutrino detector, we could tell if a purported nuclear reactor is on, what its power level is and even if it is producing plutonium. This may have some real-world applications.

The past decades in neutrino physics and astronomy have been great, but some of the most exciting things are just starting to happen. The IceCube Neutrino Observatory at the South Pole is now seeing high-energy neutrinos from outside our galaxy.

Super-Kamiokande has announced a plan, based on a proposal from me and Mark Vagins, to improve their sensitivity to antineutrinos compared to neutrinos. And the international community hopes to build a major new neutrino facility, in which a powerful beam of neutrinos will be sent from Fermilab in Illinois to a detector deep underground in the Homestake mine in South Dakota. Who knows what we’ll find?

And that’s what I’ve really been waiting for.

John Beacom, the author of this post, gave a TEDx presentation earlier this year. Check out on YouTube or below:

John Beacom, Professor of Physics, Professor of Astronomy, and Director of the Center for Cosmology and AstroParticle Physics (CCAPP), Ohio State University

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

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China's bizarre 'floating city' is not a giant hologram or window into a parallel universe

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floating china city

Thousands of people in China saw what looked like a giant, floating city in early October, spurring conspiracy theories involving holograms or a window into a parallel universe.

While thoses theories were obviously false, there's actually some cool science that explains how people saw an entire city as a mirage floating in the sky.

It has to do with physics and the way our eyes perceive objects around us. When we look at something, our brain assumes the light coming from it traveled in a straight line. But this becomes an issue when the light travels through either air or liquid with different densities — when it hits the boundary between the two it bends, sending it off its straight course.

That's why things look like they're in a different spot when they're underwater — the boundary between the water and the air bends the light we are looking at and our brains get the wrong idea of where the object is.

The same thing happens when light travels through air with different densities. When warm air rises, an invisible barrier between it and the cooler air below sometimes forms that bends light. So when a beam of light travels through warm air then cold air, it shifts down because cold air is denser than warm air, making the light look like it came from above.

This phenomenon, called fata morgana, can make objects look like they're floating. As this helpful story in Wired explains, it's the same reason why sailors thought they were seeing the Flying Dutchman, the ghost ship that would appear just beyond the horizon and then suddenly vanish.

If conditions are just right, like they were that day in Jiangxi and Foshan, China, this effect can make entire cities look like they're floating.

TI_Graphics_Floating city mirageThe floating city mirage wasn't because of secret government tests, aliens, holograms, or parallel universes — just really cool science.

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Here's the truth about China's bizarre 'floating city'

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floating china city

Thousands of people in China saw what looked like a giant, floating city in early October.

Countless conspiracy theories about the vision being a hologram or a window into a parallel universe abounded.

Those theories were obviously false, and there's actually some really cool science that explains how people saw an entire city as a mirage floating in the sky.

It has to do with physics, and the way our eyes perceive objects around us. When we look at something, our brain assumes that the light coming from it traveled in a straight line. But this becomes an issue when the light travels through either air or liquid with different densities — when it hits the boundary between the two it bends, sending it off its straight course.

That's why things look like they're in a different spot when they're underwater — the boundary between the water and the air bends the light we are looking at and our brains get the wrong idea of where the object is.

The same thing happens when light travels through air with different densities. When warm air rises, an invisible barrier between it and the cooler air below sometimes forms that bends light. So when a beam of light travels through warm air then cold air, it shifts down because cold air is denser than warm air, making the light look like it came from above.

This phenomenon, called fata morgana, can make objects look like they're floating. As this helpful story in Wired explains, it's the same reason why sailors thought they were seeing the Flying Dutchman, the ghost ship that would appear just beyond the horizon and then suddenly vanish.

If conditions are just right, like they were that day in Jiangxi and Foshan, China, this effect can make entire cities look like they're floating.

TI_Graphics_Floating city mirageThe floating city mirage wasn't because of secret government tests, aliens, holograms, or parallel universes — just really cool science.

Join the conversation about this story »

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Neil deGrasse Tyson: Here’s what would happen if the sun disappeared

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What would happen if you woke up one day and the sun was just gone? Neil deGrasse Tyson explains this improbable astrophysics question. 

Produced by Darren Weaver and Kamelia Angelova. Additional production by Kevin Reilly and Rob Ludacer.

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StarTalk Radio is a podcast and radio program hosted by astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson, where comic co-hosts, guest celebrities, and scientists discuss astronomy, physics, and everything else about life in the universe. Follow StarTalk Radio on Twitter, and watch StarTalk Radio "Behind the Scenes" on YouTube.

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