18 April, 2012

A-Z Blogging Challenge: Particle Physics

Particle physics (or high-energy physics) is a branch of physics that studies subatomic particles (also called fundamental or elementary particles) and the forces that act on them.

One of the main ideas in particle physics is of the Standard Model. According to the Model, there are three kinds of subatomic particles (which can have traits such as different spin, electric charge, mass, and lifetimes): quarks (up, down, charm, strange, top, and bottom), leptons (electron, muon, tau, electron neutrino, muon neutrino, and tau neutrino), and bosons. The bosons are the exchange particles of the four fundamental forces: the weak force (W and Z bosons), electromagnetic force (photons), strong force (gluons), and gravity (Higgs boson). The Higgs boson has yet to be found, so the Standard Model is currently incomplete, but there are ongoing experiments at CERN trying to find the Higgs.

(This is could be my all-time favorite video on YouTube. I mean it.)

The field heavily relies on the use of particle accelerators (atom smashers). They are machines that accelerate matter using magnetic fields and force particles to collide, the most famous of them probably being the Large Hadron Collider. Data is also gathered by recording cosmic radiation.

Some questions beyond the Higgs boson and the Standard Model include dark matter, supersymmetry ((the idea that there may be "shadow particles" for all fundamental particles), and extra dimensions. There is also antimatter, which carries the opposite charge as regular matter; for example, since an electron has a negative charge, an anti-electron is a positron. Antimatter is thought to have had a role in the Big Bang, in that matter and antimatter existed evenly at the very beginning and unequal decay of antimatter left behind the matter existing today (baryogenesis).

By Festival della Scienza, CC-BY-2.0. SOURCE.
Notable Particle Physicist:

Lisa Randall 

Lisa Randall is the Frank B. Baird, Jr. Professor of Science at Harvard University and a former professor at Princeton University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), who earned a Ph.D. from Harvard in Theoretical Particle Physics. She was the first tenured woman in the physics department at Princeton and the first tenured female theoretical physicist at Harvard and MIT.

She is a member of the National Academy of Sciences, the American Philosophical Society, and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and was the recipient of a National Science Foundation Young Investigator Award, Alfred P. Sloan Foundation Research Fellowship, the Department of Energy (DOE) Outstanding Junior Investigator Award, the Premio Caterina Tomassoni e Felice Pietro Chisesi Award (University of Rome), the Klopsteg Award from the American Society of Physics Teachers, and the Julius Lilienfield Prize from the American Physical Society.

In 2007, she was listed by Time magazine as one of the 100 Most Influential People. She is the author of Warped Passages: Unraveling the Mysteries of the Universe's Hidden Dimensions and Knocking on Heaven's Door: How Physics and Scientific Thinking Illuminate the Universe and the Modern World.

Her research involves particle physics and cosmology, and her work has contributed to knowledge about the Standard Model, supersymmetry, baryogenesis, cosmological inflation, dark matter, and other spatial dimensions.




How likely do you think it is that the Large Hadron Collider will find the Higgs boson?

-----The Golden Eagle


Karen Baldwin said...

Perhaps Ms. Randall can explain how the particles in my brain work. When I saw how attractive she is then read what she researched, my brain saw 'particle physics and cosmetology. Hmm? I might have some anti matter going on in my head. VEry interesting post.

Unknown said...

This is where my knowledge of the Big Bang Theory show comes in handy :P

Fellow A-Z Buddy
Doing a monumental blog catch-up
Mithril Wisdom

Shelly said...

Yes. I agree with Em and thought why didn't Ms. Randall look like your typical nerd.

Sad to say, we seem to be programmed that you one can't have both beauty and brains.

Nick Wilford said...

Extra dimensions sounds pretty cool. What exactly is meant by that?

Anonymous said...

I remember reading about the particle collider in Wired magazine. They had a pretty detailed write-up on the instrument. One of the comments I had read was that we were one step away from creating our own black hole. Of course, I laughed at the comment, but something like that also is a scary thought. That we'd drop out of existence into a place where not light escapes. Whoa! Pretty intense scenario!

Talli Roland said...

You lost me at 'physics'.

Seriously, though. I'm fascinated by components that make up the universe. Really enjoying your series!

Unknown said...

The Higgs boson has yet to be found, so the Standard Model is currently incomplete, but there are ongoing experiments at CERN trying to find the Higgs. <--- I'm imagining this naughty particle that escaped the lab and went into hiding and is watching from a distance, laughing at scientists. Muhahaha!

Okay, on a slightly more serious note, a guy I dated for almost three years was a particle physicist, and I (obviously) never entirely understood what he was doing. I remember the word "quarks", and "colliding particles to see what happens" and... stuff!

Anonymous said...

This was a very informative post! Amusing home the comments surround the attractiveness of Ms Randall though lol!

Jennie Bennett said...

I love hearing about awesome women scientists. Particle Physics sounds pretty cool :)

Pat Hatt said...

Be interesting if they found other dimensions, not sure they should mess with them though.

Mark said...

Sounds cool, but I think it's way over my head:)

Hart Johnson said...

Oh, how interesting. I followed some of that, even, but you definitely know a lot more about it than I do. My physics concentrated mostly on motion and change, if I remember properly.

Old Kitty said...

Blimey!! I'm kind of rooting for the shifty shy higgs boson particles to continue eluding these scientists!

Take care

Heather Day Gilbert said...

I've read about Ms. Randall and I love her theories on particle physics (though I only understand when it's explained in layman's terms!). Cool post!

anthony stemke said...

Although the greater majority of this blog is over my head, it is vastly interesting.

anthony stemke said...

Although the greater majority of this blog is over my head, it is vastly interesting.

Michael Offutt, Phantom Reader said...

That there is a very intelligent woman. I had a professor in college that was really smart. As high as my I.Q. is, I wish I had 30 more points so that I can hobknob with these kinds of people and talk astrophysics over coffee.

~Sia McKye~ said...

Physics has never been my subject of interest-beyond the basics. I have heard of Randal and yes, I've read some of her work.

Interesting post!


Laura said...

Great post - and so heartening to see a woman at the top of her field. As for Cern - very likely, eventually... though you can almost guarantee that any discovery will simply throw up a whole new set of questions

S. L. Hennessy said...

I can't help but think about the Big Bang Theory while reading this post. Don't know if you've ever seen the show, but if not you might want to check it out.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Need to let Stephen Tremp know about this post - he'll be drooling.

cleemckenzie said...

I've been fortunate to tour the Stanford Limear Accerator. Not being a scientist I need lots of explanation,, so I appreciated how they informed our group of lay people.

As always you've givene lots to assimilate. Thanks

Lynda R Young as Elle Cardy said...

This is waaay beyond me ;)

My Arabic Journey said...

Hi! Thank you for visiting my blog. Physics is out of my realm but your post is very educational for me. Happy blogging in the A-Z Challenge.

Melanie said...

Whoa....physics, I was *so* bad in it in school. However, I think there's a bit of storytelling there as well, was just thinking, who names all these little itty bitty things? ;)

Erin M. Hartshorn said...

I think the LHC is more likely to find the Higgs Boson than they are to find FTL neutrinos. ;)


E. Arroyo said...

Wow...does that mean I have to go back to school? LOL


Rusty Carl said...

Physicists are the most special of scientists, as they are uncovering the universe at its most fundamental.

Plus it's the coolest discipline in my opinion.

Jay Noel said...

Brains and beauty!

The work CERN is doing is absolutely fascinating. I hope they're able to confirm the existence of this God Particle.

Weaver said...

People who understand all of this a much smarter than I am.


Anthony Hopper said...

I had read somewhere that scientists using the Hadron Collider think they might have found it? Apparently not yet... :-)

Anonymous said...

Quark... silly TV show. ;)

Anonymous said...

Quark... silly TV show. ;)

Andrew Leon said...

I don't believe in god...
Sorry, couldn't resist.

Golden Eagle said...

Em-Musing: She's an attractive scientist. :)

Thank you!

Jamie: I've never watched that show . . . I'm curious just how much science they managed to include in a comedy program.

Shelly: It's unfortunate, definitely.

Nick: Dimensions beyond the third that we can't sense ourselves; they're mostly theory at the moment, though superstring theory is affected by them.

Lisa Randall explains it much better in Warped Passages. :)

Jack: You know, that makes me think of a Star Trek episode that I just watched--"The Alternative Factor". Similar idea, though dealing with antimatter, not black holes.

Talli: I'm glad you're enjoying it! :)

Rachel: LOL. Who knows, maybe it is. ;)

Cestlavie22: Yup. But it's nice to see a female scientist at the head of a field, at any rate!

J. A.: Same here.

Hope you learned more about it through this post. :)

Pat: It's interesting to speculate what might happen if people discovered an extra dimension; but based on all the horror stories that come out of fiction, it should probably stay in fiction . . .

Mark: Particle physics is complicated; I get the Standard Model, but some of the theoretical stuff throws me for a loop.

Hart: I actually posted about motion earlier in the month, under Fluid Dynamics and Kinematics. :)

Old Kitty: It would make for some interesting research, that's for sure!

Golden Eagle said...

Heather: Thank you! :)

Anthony: I'm glad you find it interesting.

Michael: Indeed, she is!

Who wouldn't want to chat with the brilliants over the greatest ideas in today's science? :)

Sia: I'm in the process of reading Warped Passages. Interesting so far . . .


Laura: Thank you!

That it will. I can't wait for the end of the year, which is when they predicted they'd have an answer.

S. L.: Nope, never seen it. It's not really the kind of TV I usually watch. :P

Alex: Uh, okay . . . not so sure about the drooling, though. LOL.

Cleemckenzie: It must have been cool to visit the institution!

You're very welcome. :)

Lynda: Hope I'm not boring you to death with the physics. :P

Inspiring Always: You're welcome--I enjoyed the visit!

Thank you.

Melanie: There's a story behind the name "Quark"; it comes from James Joyce's Finnegan's Wake and the line "Three quarks for Muster Mark". :)

Erin: I agree. Though wouldn't it be cool if they found FTL particles?

E. Arroyo: It's an ever-evolving field--I'm willing to bet the physics they taught even just a decade ago before the Standard Model was, well, standard is different.

Rusty: Physicists definitely discover some amazing things!

Jay: An excellent combination, IMO. :)

Donna: You're worthy! You're one of the smartest bloggers I know.

Anthony: There was at least one call like that, where they announced preliminary results; but yeah, that turned out to be like the neutrinos clocked in faster than the speed of light.

Stuart: Never seen it. Sounds amusing, though. :)

Andrew: That's certainly the Higgs's controversial name . . .

Traci Kenworth said...

I don't think any of them looked like nerds in the video or Ms. Randall. We need to get past what we think a scientist/mathematician etc. looks like. Great post. I hope they can narrow it down.

Golden Eagle said...

Traci: I definitely agree! One can be smart AND visually attractive.

Thank you. :)