Archive for the ‘Science’ Category

Tevatron: Disengage

September 30, 2011

In a previous post, I referenced the Large Hadron Collider (LHC), located on the French/Swiss border.

As it happens, we have (soon to be read, “had”) a collider of our own, called the “Tevatron,” operated by the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory in Batavia, Illinois. It is not as sophisticated as the LHC, which may have had something to do with the lapse of funding for the Tevatron, resulting in the shutting down of the program.  For example, the Tevatron is capable of approaching the speed of light, but not exceeding it as the LHC may have done.

The Tevatron has, however, made history in its 26 years of operation…it revealed the top quark in 1994. When CERN made a comeback with the LHC around 2009, the Tevatron team stepped it up to unlock the Higgs boson particle, also known as the “God Particle“…you know, the thing that might unlock the secrets of matter and who knows what else.

As a side note, I think it is great how CERN commented on the shutdown of the Fermilab collider–click “CERN” above (30-Sep-11).

The Tevatron is supposed to broadcast the shutdown process online at 1:45PM CST. An era is about to end.

I know…no pictures. This blog took longer than I thought, so I am forgoing the pictures until next time.

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Mono Lake Alien…Sort Of

December 2, 2010

Mono LakeSo it is not an alien, but it is closer than we have come before.  In 2008, a team of researchers headed by Dr. Ronald Oremland of the US Geological Survey found bacteria that used arsenic as an energy source to photosynthesize carbon dioxide into food.  The samples were taken from Mono Lake in California.  The evidence suggested bacteria photosynthesized before the presence of oxygen in Earth’s atmosphere.  Lakes similar to Mono Lake are fed by hydrothermal waters, drawing arsenic from surrounding rock.  In 2009, Professor Paul Davies (a physicist at Arizona State University) encouraged scientists to look to arsenic-rich environments and hydrothermal vents for a “second genesis” of life on Earth.

PoisonIt was an accepted fact that life on Earth is not possible without six elements—carbon, hydrogen, oxygen, nitrogen, sulphur and phosphorus.  However, Professor Davies and his team have raised bacteria from Mono Lake in a lab to find it has substituted arsenic for phosphorus.  This differs from the 2008 discovery because, instead of merely respirating arsenic, the bacteria has incorporated arsenic into its DNA.  This means an element found to be poisonous to life is the very element the bacteria in question need to survive.  Davies suggests this points to an adaptation, rather than a new life form.  Still, the discovery shows life is not limited to practical conditions on Earth.  Furthermore, this shows the lack of understanding we have of the scope at which life can be sustained.

Oglethorpe and EmoryIf life can thrive in, or adapt to, conditions we originally thought to be impossible, it becomes easier to consider the possibility of lifeforms developing in other unthinkable environments—possibly other planets.  Once people accept life existing outside of Earth’s atmosphere, it is just a hop, skip and a jump to public acceptance of the existence of other celestial/planetary environments conducive to development of such lifeforms into something intelligent.  Aliens to the right are Oglethorpe and Emory from the show, Aqua Teen Hunger Force…not exactly intelligent lifeforms.

The Little Big Bang

November 9, 2010

LHC CERNOn the French/Swiss border, heavy ions are colliding at the Large Hadron Collider (LHC).  The experiments scrutinize the aftermath of particle collisions, such as the big bang.  By analyzing particles resulting from the collision, researchers may find out if (and how) quarks can be freed from protons and neutrons…this is one of a myriad of discoveries/affirmations researchers hope to make through these experiments.

On November 8 (yesterday), ions collided at 2.76 TeV per nucleon pair for a total of 287 TeV per beam…whatever that means.  According to Wikipedia, 624,000,000 TeV is required to operate a 100W light bulb for one second.  I remember Joules from chemistry…I don’t remember electron volts.  It’s cool, though.  Here is another take on an explanation.  The main Web site for the collider is here, along with links to four areas of research.  The images/3D models are fascinating.

Black HoleA wealth of information on the topic is also available here, compliments of good ol’ National Geographics.  I had read about this in Popular Science, and I am glad Nat-Geo also touched on the black hole hypothesis.  My concern wasn’t so much a black hole, but the potential creation of a universe within this one…effectively pushing everything outward, sandwiched between theoretical boundaries.  But…the collisions have caused no such event to happen.  Then again, the final goal of the accelerator is about five to seven times the amount of energy of yesterday’s collisions.