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Posts Tagged ‘In the News’

Lots of interesting particle physics news recently on the Cosmic Frontier front.

Science News reports that the National Research Council’s March 7 report for science in the coming decade recommends completion of the Large Synoptic Space Telescope.

…which will not only probe the nature of dark matter and dark energy but aid in tracking near-Earth asteroids.

LSST  is a huge public and private partnership, which includes many of the national labs, among them Fermilab, which hopes to build on its computing experience with the Sloan Digital Sky Survey to help manage the unprecedented flow of data expected from LSST. The February issue of symmetry magazine outlines the partnership needs the experiment will require.

…the LSST camera will produce 3.2-billion-pixel images and generate, on an average viewing night, about 15 terabytes of raw data, or 25,000 CDs worth. To display one of the LSST full-sky images on a television would require not just a high-definition screen, but 1500 of them.

While LSST is not expected to take data for quite sometime, its predecessor the Dark Energy Survey should start its first sky survey in October. The blog dark matter, dark energy, dark gravity explains how DES will be the first experiment to use four different methods at once to search for dark energy. Medill news services uses a great video to show physicists at Fermilab wrapping up tests on camera components before shipping the final parts to Chile for assembly on the 4-meter Blanco telescope. Sadly, the New York Times reports that the driving force behind making the telescope a bastion of U.S. science in Chile, Victor Blanco, passed away. 

Unlike DES and LSST, the holometer experiment aims not to record the sky as we see it but as Fermilab theorist Craig Hogan thinks it really is: a giant hologram.  The Little India newspaper explains Hogan’s theory and how it relates to black hole science.

Scientists have known for long time that information plays a key role in the creation of a system. Our computers and robots are just metals and wires if no information is exchanged in the form of bits. Our brain is inanimate if no information is carried by the neurons. Our genes are futile if no information is available from DNA that instructs how to function. In everything we know information is the key.

Similarly the entire information about our universe must be encoded elsewhere. Like a hologram on our credit cards, which contains the information in a thin film, and can generate 3D objects when viewed in proper light, the reality we tempt to believe is actually just one way of viewing information printed on a distant cosmic film. What we see and experience as reality are the shadows of the truth.

–Tona Kunz


Lots of interesting news last week about Fermilab, including the releases of a new version of Scientific Linux and Illinois representatives supporting a reduction in proposed cuts to Fermilab’s budget. Below are three stories I found particularly interesting.  

Science asked Have Physicists Already Glimpsed Dark Matter?  Fermilab theorist Dan Hooper thinks so and argues a new look at data from the experiments DAMA, CoGeNT, XENON100 and CDMSII bear him out. But spokespersons for those experiments disagree.

What do you think?

New Scientist published an article by Fermilab Director Pier Oddone about how the closure of the Tevatron later this year won’t put an end to the great scientific results coming out of its detector collaborations, CDF and DZero.  More than 10 petabytes of Tevatron data will provide scientists with plenty of data to sift through for several years

“During that time new ideas and better tools will be developed to squeeze ever more information out of the data,” says Oddone. “This will allow us to continue chasing down the hints of new physics we already see in our analyses.”

Oddone put pen to paper again, this time with the help of Argonne Director Eric Isaacs, to outline effects of proposed science budget cuts on the two labs and beyond in a Chicago Tribune op-ed piece.

    High-tech jobs are just the first casualty of such cuts. Rolling back funding for basic science would dim our nation’s spirit of discovery and entrepreneurship. It would curtail research into how our world works — research that spurs new theories and technologies. And the cuts would be felt across Chicago’s wider high-tech community, which depends on collaboration, new ventures and a workforce trained at some of the world’s most sophisticated facilities.
— Tona Kunz

 To celebrate its 30th anniversary, Discover magazine created a list of the The 12 Most Important Trends in Science Over the Past 30 Years. High-energy particle physics and Fermilab played a part in three of these 12 game-changing research break throughs. Here’s a look at these Discover-selected trends and Fermilab’s contributions to them.

 Trend: The Web Takes Over

Pictured is Fermilab's 2001 home page, which was designed in 1996. Twenty years ago, Fermilab helped to pioneer the URL. It launched one of the first Web sites in the country in 1992. Credit: Fermilab

The first concept for what would become the World Wide Web was proposed by a high-energy particle physicist in 1989 to help physicists on international collaborations share large amounts of data. The first WWW system was created for high-energy physicists in 1991 under the guidance of CERN. 

A year later, Fermilab became the second institution in the United States to launch a website. It also helped initiate the switch easy-to-remember domain name addresses rather than Internet Protocol addresses, which are a string of numbers. This switch helped spur the growth of the Internet and WWW.

Particle physics also secured a place in sports history through its computing savvy. A softball club at CERN, composed of mostly visiting European and American physicists, many connected to Fermilab, was the first ball club in the world to have a page on the World Wide Web, beating out any team from Major League Baseball.

Trend: Universe on a Scale

The field of cosmology has advanced and created a more precise understanding of the evolution and nature of the universe. This has brought high-energy particle physics, cosmology and astronomy closer together. They have begun to overlap in the key areas of dark energy, dark matter and the evolution of the universe.  Discover magazine cites as being particularly noteworthy in these areas the first precise measurement of cosmic microwave background, or CMB, radiation left over from the Big Bang and the discovery with the aid of supernovas that the  expansion of the universe is accelerating.

Dark Energy Camera under construction at Fermilab. Credit: Fermilab

Fermilab physicists study the CMB with the Q/A Imaging Experiment, or QUIET. They study dark energy with several experiments, most notably the long-running Sloan Digital Sky Survey , the Dark Energy Survey, which will be operational at the end of the year, and the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope, potentially operating at the end of the decade or mid-next decade.  

Trend: Physics Seeks the One

During the last few decades the particle physics community has sought to build a mammoth international machine that can probe the tiniest particles of matter not seen in nature since just after the time of the Big Bang.

Initially, this machine was planned for the United States and named the Superconducting Super Collider. Scientists and engineers from Fermilab help with the design and science suite of experiments for the SSC, which was under construction in Texas until it was canceled in 1993.

A similar machine, the Large Hadron Collider in Switzerland, did take shape, starting operation in 2008. Fermilab played a key role in the design, construction and R&D of the accelerator with expertise garnered through the Tevatron accelerator construction, cutting-edge superconducting magnet technology and project managers.

The U.S. CMS remote operation center at Fermilab. Credit: Fermilab

Fermilab now serves as a remote operation center for CMS, one of the two largest experiments at the LHC. Many physicists work on CMS as well as one of the Tevatron’s detector teams, DZero and CDF.  The United States has the largest national contingent within CMS, accounting for more than 900 physicists in the 3,600-member collaboration.

 Fermilab’s computing division serves as one of two “Tier-1” computing distributions centers in the United States for LHC data. In this capacity, Fermilab provides storage and processing capacity for data collected at the LHC that is analyzed by physicists at Fermilab and sent to U.S. universities for analysis there.

Discover magazine cited as a goal of the LHC the search for the Higgs boson, a theorized particle thought to endow other particles with mass, which allows gravity to act upon them so they can form together to create everything in the visible world, such as people, planets and plants. The LHC and the Tevatron are racing to find the Higgs first. The Tevatron has an advantage searching in the lower mass range and the LHC in the higher mass range. Theorists suspect the Higgs lives in the lower mass range. So far, the Tevatron has greatly narrowed the possible hiding places for the Higgs in this range.

— Tona Kunz