Subatomic stuff

Hey guys! So I’m pretty sure by now that anyone who follows physics knows about the discovery of tachyon particles. You know-

Particles that travel faster than the speed of light.

But that’s impossible! You say. Nothing travels faster than the speed of light. Even if you’ve never heard of these tacky-whatcha-mecallits, it’s okay, I’ll be starting from the basics.

According to this system called the Standard Model, there’s these little particles that are in everything we are. Some of these particles are called fermions- these are ones we’re pretty sure exist. The category of fermions includes stuff like quarks and leptons.

Still confused on fermions? Check this out:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U0kXkWXSXRA (Credit to Hank Green from the Vlog Brothers).

So, the people who hypothetically calculate this stuff are people called quantum

physicists.

Most physicists dismissed tachyons as either non real, or annihilated through something known as tachyon condensation (a process  thought to eliminate tachyons). Furthermore, calculations like Super String Theory, that has a lot of credibility with physicists, doesn’t even include tachyons! It just talks about fermions.

The thing about these tachyons is that they mess with something called causality. That’s what physicists call the relationship between cause and effect. “With every action, there is a reaction”. It’s something we’ve always heard, right?

According to scientists, things don’t “just happen”. There’s always a reason why.

The thing about the tachyon particle is that we would see it travelling intwo directions- appearing and departing in opposite directions.

However, according to Bosonic String Theory (a bunch of calculations that believes in tachyons), information can’t be transmitted faster than the speed of light. This would mean that an effect would happen beforea cause.

Recently, a CERN-OPERA experiment (these are both two physics research laboratories), noticed something funny.  It didn’t start with a bunch of scientists trying to prove Einstein wrong.

The experiment started out with trying to calculate neutrino oscillations.

However, it turned into trying to measure the speed of a neutrino. CERN generates neutrinos by slamming protons into a graphite target, to produce intermediate particles, which decay into neutrinos.  The time it took to travel was detected, using high tech GPS sensors.

 (Cern Control Centre on 30 March 2010 Photograph: Maximilien Brice /CERN)

the image above depicts the set up of the experiment that generates neutrinos and measures their speed.

The results were shocking. They indicated that these muon neutrino particles were tachyons that can travel faster than the speed of light.

Of course, there is room for error in the experiment. The time it takes for technology to work: the proton beam (the one that slams protons into the graphite target), and the GPS system.

So there you have it- particles physics in a blog post :) This isn’t all there is to neutrinos. There’s much, much, more. But I’ll be covering all kinds of science in these blog posts. If there’s anything in particular you want me to break down for you, just leave a request in the comment, and I’ll get to it. If you just have questions on tachyons, or there’s something I could have explained better, leave a comment too.

If you want to learn more, just got to:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/global/2010/mar/29/lhc-launch-live-large-hadron-collider

 

–Pia

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