Sunday, July 29, 2007

Fizzy Cysts and other lancible carbuncles

I have recently learnt that my favourite physicists Dr Steven Boyd is coming home to Australia for a quick visit. You may know him from such papers as "Measurement of neutrino oscillation by the K2K experiment". Now you may think your smart because you can count your change in your head and know if the shopkeeper is ripping you off but no matter how smart you think you are this guy is smarter. For his day job, when not lecturing, Steve is firing beams of particles through mountains in an attempt to determine whether neutrinos oscillate in the same way as antineutrinos which may illuminate one of the most perplexing questions in physics : why is there more matter than antimatter in the universe? He has worked at the University of Washington in Seattle, on the K2K neutrino oscillation experiment in Japan, at the KEK laboratory and with the Super Kamiokande detector (also in Japan) and at Fermilab and is now trying to topple the Standard Model at the University of Warwick.
He also loves a good strong ale and I look forward to chatting with him over one soon.

6 comments:

Anonymous said...

Aww, how cute. Wishing Adrian a super birthday..... Matthew C xx

Mike Bogle said...

"why is there more matter than antimatter in the universe?"

Ok I'll take a guess :) Because if there were equal amounts nothing could exist because the two would destroy each other, leaving the universe completely neutral and homogeneous, right?

Then again, that's not actually an answer is it. It would be a result and not the cause.

Though I'm not a physicist either, so for all I know equal amounts of both matter and antimatter could mean the universe ultimately became a massive potato and I wouldn't know any better. Though in that instance I wouldn't be around to realise it...

. said...

*Heavy Sigh* (Giant Doe-eyed Gazing at described genius)

unique_stephen said...

Matthew - long time no C

Mike - when you create a particle you also create it's anti particle. So why is there a bias towards one type of mass in the universe? Where is the symmetry? Thus is the Standard Model challenged.

Libby - It's sickening isn't it.

Anonymous said...

Gee - if only . were right....

I can never resist a physical discussion. Steve hit the nail on the head - the easiest way to get antimatter is for a photon to disintegrate into an electron and it's positive partner, the positron. Hence you always generate 1 particle of matter with 1 particle of antimatter. This begs the question of where all the antimatter is at the moment, as we seem to be walking around without exploding into flashes of light. It suggests that there is an asymmetry in the laws of nature that favours matter over anti-matter. In fact this is true - and it can be measured in accelerators experiments. Measurement, unfortunately, does not always imply understanding - we still don't know WHY there is an asymmetry - it is possible that neutrinos, through a complicated process called leptogenesis, can help tell us. This is why I spend my life firing neutrinos through substantial fractions of the earth's crust. Later I'll do it with anti-neutrinos and see if there is any difference in their behaviour - if there is, then neutrinos also violate this matter-antimatter symmetry and we might know a bit more.

Also, for inexplicable reasons (boys with toys?), I just think it's cool...

SteveB

LauraDanielleDotN said...

ah yes, i know that paper well.