The Luckiest Physicist Ever

Masatoshi Koshiba

A popular theory had arisen in the 1980s that protons could decay, just as atoms and isotopes. In order to determine if the theory was correct, the Japanese held an experiment, lead by Masatoshi Koshiba, and built a large tank of water surrounded with detectors on the edge to search for decaying protons. The experiment was called Kamiokande, for the  Kamioka Nucleon Decay Experiment.

The Water Tank (encompassed with detectors)

The tank held approximately 3000 metric tons of water in it, or about 10^34 protons. After running for one year, the detector did not find any protons to have decayed. Since every proton had been observed for 1 year, and there were 10^34 years, it was observed that the protons lived at least for 10^34 years without decaying – longer than the life of the universe (10^10 years). These findings proved the theory false..but that wasn’t the lucky discovery.

In 1987, a supernova exploded in the Large Magellanic Cloud. It was the first time any event so destructive and energetic occurred relatively close to the earth since recorded history. The experiment happened to be running at the time — and the detectors went off in relation to 11 events, all near the source of the supernova.

The Detector Display from the Water Tank

Koshiba’s Nucleon Decay Experiment had just functioned as a Neutrino Detector Experiment, one he had surprisingly been working on with seemingly no relation to his government authorized nucleon experiment. As the detectors had still been running when the supernova exploded, Koshiba and his team had remarkably detected the first astrophysical neutrinos from anything other than the Sun – fitting in perfectly with his second analysis regarding neutrinos.

For his lucky discovery and resulting work regarding neutrinos, Koshiba won the  Nobel Prize in 2002. The work that grew out of the astounding results led directly to the discovery of neutrino  oscillations and the fact that neutrinos have mass.

Although Koshiba was a brilliant man with vast amounts of knowledge on particle physics, the detectors fortunately running at the exact moment of the supernova explosion resulted in a lucky discovery regarding neutrinos that awarded him the Nobel Prize.



Can a Car Frame be Made of Carbon Fiber?

It is possible for a car frame to be made of carbon fiber, and few cars have had their frames made of such material already (such as the BMW M6, the Chevrolet Corvette ZR1, and the Ford GT). Most car manufacturers currently use steel, for 2 key reasons.

1. The Price of Carbon Fiber –  It is unlikely for a car to be made of carbon fiber as the material is very expensive. Ten years ago, carbon fiber cost $150 a pound. Now, the price is around $10 a pound. Many analysts conclude that for carbon fiber to make it into widespread use in cars, the price will have to drop to about $5 per pound [1]

2. Waste Disposal – Normally, when a car breaks down, its steel can be melted and reused construct another car (or anything else made of steel). Carbon fiber, however, cannot be melted down and is not easy to recycle. When it is recycled, the recycled carbon fiber is not as strong as it was before recycling, and cannot be used to build another car.

Carbon fiber can be a possible solution to the oil crisis. It is lightweight, durable and very safe. However, recycling of carbon fiber is very difficult and the price point is too high for the current market. When combined with efficient engines and other cheaper cheaper materials as well as a change in driving habits, carbon fiber is just one piece of the energy puzzle.


Living Crystals?

Of everything once thought impossible, building life was on the top of that list. Humans have always tried to determine their origins, where they came from, and how they were created. Physicists at New York University approached this fundamental question in a unique manner: by trying to build life themselves. These physicists set out to create particles that could imitate the way flocks of birds, schools of fish and even colonies of bacteria organize and move together. 

After months of experimentation and data collection, these scientists created two-dimensional “living crystals” that could break, form, explore, and reform themselves elsewhere. These self-propelled particles would turn on in blue light — when the light was on, the particles would collide and cluster. The light would set off a chemical reaction causing the particles to crystalize, and when it shut off, the crystals would loose mobility. However, these particles cannot replicate, and thus do not qualify as life forms. 

The team is now working on a particle that has a metabolism and can self-replicate, but lacks mobility.

Post your thoughts below!

Construction of the Eiffel Tower

As once said by Eiffel, the Eiffel tower was built in order to withstand the high winds that were present in France:

“What phenomenon did I have to give primary concern in designing the Tower? It was wind resistance. Well, I hold that the curvature of the monument’s four outer edges, which is as the mathematical calculations have dictated it should be, will give a great impression of strength and beauty.”

As demonstrated by the illustration below, the forces of wind produce a torque that around the bottom left of the Eiffel Tower are countered by its weight.

The force of the wind (dF) produces a torque around the bottom left corner of the tower which is countered by the force of the Tower’s weight (dW) [1]

From a mathematical standpoint, the equation for the tower is [1] :

 where  is the half-width of the Tower at height  is the half-width of the Tower at the ground and  is the maximum wind pressure the Tower can withstand at a height .

(This is a root of the quadratic equation describing a parabola resting against the right side of the Tower, so the curve of the Tower’s right side is described by the negative arm of the parabola.)

The fastest winds recorded at the Tower reached a speed of 214 km/h in 1999 and would have produced pressures of just 2.28 kN/m^2.

In conclusion, the Eiffel tower was constructed in a manner to be sure that the wind did not affect it. After all, it was the tallest tower in the world for a long time (~42 years). [2]

The Eiffel tower, notes Weidman, “is a structural form molded by the wind.” This was Eiffel’s point more than a century ago, when he wrote about the four stout legs supporting the legendary tower: “Before they meet at such an impressive height, the uprights appear to spring out of the ground, moulded in a way by the action of the wind itself.”

Hope this helps!


[1]: Elegant Shape Of Eiffel Tower Solved Mathematically By University Of Colorado Professor

Actual Mass of a Proton

The Problem

[Scientific American] Researchers began with a target of hydrogen, an atom that consists of  one proton and one electron. When they bombarded the hydrogen with muons  — heavier cousins of electrons — from a particle accelerator, a muon  would occasionally replace an electron. Probing the muonic hydrogen with  a laser yielded a high-precision measurement of the proton’s size. The  problem is that the measurement differed from those obtained by two  other methods by 4%, or 0.03 femtometers (fm). That’s a tiny amount — 1  fm is 0.000000000001 millimeter — but is still significantly larger than  the error bars on either of the other measurements.

The Solution

As a natural instinct, when conflicting results arise, the physicists rush to their calculations and quadruple-check the solutions. However, it is painstakingly hard to determine the error (if any). There could be a problem with the models  used to estimate the proton size from the measurements, but so far, none  has been identified. So far, no clear answer has been determined.

One possibility is that the team that discovered the slight change has discovered a new branch of physics. This team is the only one to use muons to bombard the proton. Other groups all used electrons, and there is a possibility that muons interact with protons differently than electrons. It might be hard to imagine that the small difference between muons and electrons would cause such a change, and both theorists and particle physicists have their doubts.

Remember, the so-called size of a proton is a very ambiguous definition. It’s not a simple block of mass with an easily defined surface. Another possibility could be that muon orbitals are smaller than those of electrons — thus the muonic measurement might be more sensitive to the charge allocation compared to the protonic center. 

The Conclusion

Overall, many theories have arisen to combat these conflicting details, and only time will tell the final result of the actual mass of a proton.

Standard Model of Particle Physics

A General Timeline

In More Detail

1964 – Murray Gell-Mann and George Zweig put forth the idea of quarks. They suggested that mesons and baryons are composites of three quarks or antiquarks, called up, down, or strange (u, d, s) with spin 0.5 and electric charges 2/3, -1/3, -1/3, respectively.

1964 (late) – Papers suggested a fourth (c) quark carrying another flavor to give a similar repeated pattern for the quarks.

1965 – O.W. Greenberg, M.Y. Han, and Yoichiro Nambu introduce the quark property of color charge.

1967 – Steven Weinberg and Abdus Salam propose a theory that suggests the electroweak interaction. Their theory requires the existence of a neutral, weakly interacting boson called the Z(0). The Higgs Boson is also predicted.

1968 – 1969 – James Bjorken and Richard Feynman analyze data found during an experiment in SLAC via terms of a model of constituent particles inside the proton, proving the existence of quarks.

1970 – Sheldon Glashow, John Iliopoulos, and Luciano Maiani recognize the importance of a fourth quark in the context of the Standard Model.

1973 – Donald Perkins re-analyzes old data from CERN and reveals indications of weak interactions with no charge exchange (due to a Z(0) boson exchange)

1973 – A quantum field theory of strong interaction is fomulated and developed.

1974 – The concept of the standard model is discussed in a conference by John Iliopoulos

1976 – Gerson Goldhaber and Francois Pierre find the D0 meson – cohering to the Standard Model yet again.

1976 – The tau lepton is discovered by Martin Perl and collaborators at SLAC.

1977 –  Leon Lederman discover “bottom” quark (as well as its antiquark).

1979 – Strong evidence for a gluon is found at PETRA.

1989 – Experiments carried out in SLAC and CERN strongly suggest that there are three and only three generations of fundamental particles.

1995 – The CDF and D0 experiments at Fermilab discover the top quark at the unexpected mass of 175 GeV.

2012 – The discovery of the Higgs Boson.

…and more to come!


The Woodward Effect

The Woodward Effect is a theory reliant on Einstein’s General Relativity Theory. Assuming that the “strong Machian interpretation” of GRT as well as gravitational inertia (like Wheeler-Feynman) radiation reaction forces hold, we see that when a particle is accelerated through a gradient, its rest mass should fluctuate around its average value during acceleration. 

If the theory is true, then many innovative applications such as propellant-less propulsion and gravitational exotic matter generators may be possible. These possibilities also include endless supplies for starship fuel and other items that rely on a massive supply of energy. 

Further explanation: If you make the overall system oscillate (surrounding mass), and  you time the movements of the inner mass with the oscillations, then  you can selectively impart more momentum in one part of the oscillation  than in another, for the overall system. This would create a net change  in momentum for the system. [1]

Hope this helps! If you do have any questions, please comment on this answer or message me. 

[1]Woodward Effect? Explain, please?

Free Electron Lasers

A free-electron laser, or FEL, acts like a regular laser in that it emits a beam consisting of coherent electromagnetic radiation which can reach a very high power, but uses different mechanisms in order to form the beam. 

Put simply, the FEL works by sending electrons through magnets in a vacuum. As these electrons travel through the alternating feild, they wiggle back and forth and emit different colored photons. These photons are then directed onto a special mirror that only allows 15 percent of the photons through and 85 percent back onto the beam line. At the end of the beam line there is another mirror that reflects the photons back up the line. These photons simulate the electrons in order to produce even more photons, and the laser eventually reaches a steady state.…


An Introduction to String Theory

What is space time composed of?

The Interaction of tiny supersymmetric strings.

Space time is thought to be inhabited by tiny vibrating 1-dimensional strings. These  strings compose everything – making particles, atoms, space, and time interchangeable.

These strings are also the edges of 2 5-dimensional membranes, which in turn make up space – time. Essentially, our universe, and the creation of everything that we know, are made up of the interactions of 5-dimensional membranes.

Ultimately, the strings or membranes are composed of dimensions. However, we don’t know what “dimensions” these are.

This explanation is only from one proposed theory – feel free to propose other theories and ways to view space time. I’d love to discuss these ideas and how they interact to create our universe.

Quantum Phase Transitions

About Quantum Phase Transitions

Quantum transitions are accessed at zero temperature by the cariation of a non thermal control parameter. These transitions can influence the behavior of electric systems over a certain range of the phase diagram.

Quantum phase transitions occur as a result of competing ground state phases. They can occur as a function of pressure, magnetic field, and chemical composition and are driven by quantum zero-point motion rather than thermal fluctuations.  Quantum critical points help control behaviour in the quantum critical region at non-zero temperatures.

Such transitions can have great consequences including the genesis of new phases of matter and are a starting point of a new branch of condensed matter physics.

[1] [cond-mat/0309604] Quantum phase transitions