September 16, 2014

02.03.11: Rise of the Robonauts.

The launch of STS-133; one small step for Robot kind… (Credit NASA/JSC).

The International Space Station (ISS) has a new permanent resident, one that will assist astronauts and become a valued member of the space station team. Robonaut 2 (R2) arrived at the ISS this week, delivered by STS-133 on the final flight of the Space Shuttle Discovery. Initially, Robonaut 2 will be a stationary resident, to be installed in the Unity Node until it can perform more complex mobile tasks. [Read more...]

29.05.10: CERN Moves into New Sub-Atomic Territory.

The LHC tunnel. (Credit: CERN/LHC/Maximilien Brice).

The LHC tunnel. (Credit: CERN/LHC/Maximilien Brice).

 

    The Large Hadron Collider (LHC) is starting to show its stuff. Earlier this year, scientists at the CERN institute on the Swiss-French border powered LHC into uncharted territory, conducting proton collisions in the 7 trillion electron volt (TeV) range.  This is a first for particle physics. One again, the world didn’t end in a dark matter strangelet, a super-massive black hole did not emerge and burrow to the center of our planet, and time travelers from the future did not emerge to sabotage the collider.

    The plan now is to run the LHC at the 7 TeV range for a period of 18 months to 2 years to gain data over known particles and check their agreement with standard particle physics, so that the search for the unknown can begin. Top of the most-wanted list is the Higgs-Boson, an undiscovered particle predicted by super-symmetry. There is a chance that the LHC will nab the Higgs-Boson in its first run if it inhabits the mass range of 160 giga-electron volts (GeV). This is doubtful, but not out of the realm of possibility, since current capabilities go down to 400 GeV. When at full power, the LHC will push those sensitivities down to 800 GeV. The sensitivity of the data measured is expected to be of the level of one inverse femtobarn. This is equal to 1 x 10-43 of a meter, or one trillionth of the diameter of a uranium nucleus. Eventual LHC runs envision detection of exotic particles all the way up into the 2 TeV range.

After the current 7TeV run is completed, a one year shut down will occur for maintenance and upgrades. The subsequent run will see the LHC operating in the 14TeV range for 8 month periods, with 4 month maintenance cycle. The LHC promises to solve the mysteries of super symmetry as well as the questions of dark matter and baryonic matter formation in the early universe. And let’s not forget the concept of string theory that is currently badly in need of observational proof. Along with the LHC, the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer to be placed on the International Space Station later this year on the final shuttle flight promises to answer some key questions in particle physics. Could we have a Grand Unified “Theory of Everything” that you could fit onto a t-shirt in the next few years? Stay tuned!