Why the Higgs Boson Matters
Winner of the Imperial College Science Challenge essay contest in physics … great read on why seeking out the Higgs is so important.
Have you ever contemplated why you weigh what you do? I am not alluding to the second doughnut you had the other morning, or the ill-advised chips on the way home from the pub, but rather the fundamental reason why the atoms that make up your body, and everything else in the world, have a certain mass. If you haven’t, you are not alone — until recently, scientists hadn’t thought much about it either.
Before the standard model of particle physics came along, the origin of mass was not even considered a problem; that an object had mass was simply assumed. But when scientists began probing objects at smaller and smaller scales, they discovered that it was not quite as simple as that: according to the standard model, fundamental particles should weigh nothing at all.
(via Scientific American Blog Network, image of theoretical Higgs event via Wikimedia)
160,000 light years away sits the Large Magellanic Cloud, an irregular dwarf galaxy that orbits our own Milky Way galaxy. It’s a fascinating object, actually, filled with stars, gas, dust, and all the usual trinkets a galaxy has.
It also has an assortment of globular clusters — roughly spherical collections of a few hundred thousand stars bound by their own gravity orbiting the cluster center like bees buzzing around a hive. NGC 1846 is one such globular cluster, and it looks like most of the others, if a bit sparse and loosely distributed. But it has something that does make it rather special. You can see it if you peruse this lovely Hubble Space Telescope picture that was just released:
Here are a few beauts to share with you guys today from Universe Today: IC 1396 by John R. Taylor Milky Way by Brent Hall Tiangong 1 by Tavi Greiner ——-Sharing via these buttons will share…
The Pillars of Creation were destroyed 6000 years ago by a supernova, but people won’t see that for another 1000 years because light from that area of space takes 7000 years to reach Earth. Past, present, future…All one.
In 1998, the Hubble Space Telescope was pointed at HR 8799, in hopes of seeing any potential planets that might be orbiting that nearby, Sun-like star. None were found… but in 2008 images using the Gemini telescope found several planets orbiting HR 8799. In fact, four planets were discovered there!
What costs a billion euros, can operate in temperatures in excess of 500 degrees celsius, and orbits the sun closer than any spacecraft in human history?
This made my brain hurt a bit, but it’s worth a read if you’re interested in what all this dark energy talk is about.
In honor of the Nobel Prize, here are some questions that are frequently asked about dark energy, or should be.
What is dark energy?
It’s what makes the universe accelerate, if indeed there is a “thing” that does that. (See below.)
So I guess I should be asking… what does it mean to say the universe is “accelerating”?
First, the universe is expanding: as shown by Hubble, distant galaxies are moving away from us with velocities that are roughly proportional to their distance. “Acceleration” means that if you measure the velocity of one such galaxy, and come back a billion years later and measure it again, the recession velocity will be larger. Galaxies are moving away from us at an accelerating rate.
But that’s so down-to-Earth and concrete. Isn’t there a more abstract and scientific-sounding way of putting it?
(via TopicFire. By Jean-Louis Santini)
High-profile critics fear President Barack Obama’s commercial overhaul of human spaceflight is going nowhere and could mark the end of half a century of US supremacy among the stars and planets.
“We will have no American access to, and return from, low Earth orbit and the International Space Station for an unpredictable length of time in the future,” Neil Armstrong, the first man to set foot on the Moon, warned lawmakers at a recent hearing.
The end of the space shuttle era has left America’s human spaceflight program in an “embarrassing” state, Armstrong said, arguing that NASA needs a stronger vision for the future and should focus on returning humans to the Moon and to theInternational Space Station.
With the US space shuttle program now mothballed after its last flight in July, the United States is forced to depend on Russia’s Soyuz capsules to ferry astronauts to the orbiting research laboratory until at least 2015.
Obama canceled the Constellation program that aimed to return humans to the Moon by 2020 and called on NASA to instead focus on new, deep-space capabilities to carry people to an asteroid by 2025 and Mars by 2030.
NASA is counting on the private sector to develop a shuttle alternative at the least possible cost within the next five years.
But many experts doubt that the firms, most of which have little space experience, can step up to the challenge.
“I don’t think any of the ISS partners looks at what we are doing in the US with commercial cargo and crew and feels very confident,” Space Policy Institute director Scott Pace told AFP.
“So there is a great gap between the aspirations of the policy and the actual capabilities that exist now.”