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Of Cosmic Significance

I mean it.

1) Neutrinos have mass. This means we may have found a significant chunk (not all, but some) of that missing “dark matter” you were worried about. (Minos experiment at Fermilab by Dr. Lisa Falk Harris and others. Understandable explanation and links to the research at the BBC [1].)

2) A new fundamental particle may exist. Axions. These are sort of like photons with a tiny bit of mass, if I understand the gist, which I probably don’t. (Somewhat understandable explanation and links at physicsweb [2].)

3) The Pioneer 10 and 11 spacecraft, launched in 1972 and 1973, are not where they should be according to the known laws of physics. Something is holding them back. “Each year, they fall behind in their projected travel by about 5,000 kilometers (3,000 miles)” (Pioneer Anomaly, Planetary Society [3]). Given that they’re out at the edge of the solar system where it meets interstellar space, and that they travel tens of millions of miles a year, the discrepancy is tiny. But it’s there. And it shouldn’t be.

4) Gravitons may have–finally!–been detected. Tajmar and DeMatos (European Space Agency) [4] detected an effect around spinning superconductors that they say provides the first empirical evidence for a gravitomagnetic field. The size of the gravitomagnetic field that was induced can be explained if the (theoretical) gravitons are assumed to be much heavier than predicted by theory. The really neat thing about this is that empirical evidence of gravitons could ensue, and then actual study of the beasts. And then, at long last, we (well, pointy-headed physicists) could start to understand gravity.

3 Comments (Open | Close)

3 Comments To "Of Cosmic Significance"

#1 Comment By Sarah in Chicago On 10 Apr, 2006 @ 14:59

oooo, this stuff rocks!!!

And yes, I know I’m being a complete geek in saying such, but while I may actually be a sociology phd wonk, I do have a degree in astrophysics as well, which I do miss and love still.

(hope you don’t mind me popping over from Shake’s Sis, etc to comment)

So, where do you pick this stuff up from hon?

#2 Comment By quixote On 10 Apr, 2006 @ 16:17

Hey, I lo-o-ove comments. Please! Comment away!

My degrees are all in various biological subjects, so I’m a complete amateur on this stuff, but a fascinated one.

Where did I hear it? The BBC article was the first place I saw the report about neutrinos. I’m not sure where I came across the axions. (And why “axions”? Are they on some kind of axis? Inquiring minds want to know, but nobody explains it to them!)

The Pioneer Anomaly I heard about when the Planetary Society was fundraising to try to save the relevant data, stored on huge old magnetic tapes which were going to be scrapped by NASA because that outfit is now officially run by idiots. I just recently saw an update that almost all the data has been saved, can now be studied, and we should have an answer sometime.

And the gravitomagnetic research I saw first on Barbelith in their Laboratory section. It’s an originally English discussion board about everything. Sometimes great. Sometimes less great. But almost always interesting.

#3 Comment By Sarah in Chicago On 10 Apr, 2006 @ 18:26

Ah, bugger, I was kinda hoping it was a news reel email or the like I could subscibe to.

Oh, and as to particle names, I never ever noticed a pattern.

And don’t get me started on NASA, talk about a HUGE fucking wasted opportunity.