Tomorrow Fermilab researchers will power down their Tevatron particle collider for the final time, marking the end of an era. But for some, that era is so over anyhow. Hadrons, like last season's handbag, have had their time in the spotlight. The next hot trend in physics is muons, and all the cool kids know it. That's why Fermilab physicists are already taking a hard look at muon colliding technologies as a possible next move in the game of international physics research.
Here's where the game stands. America dropped the ball when it dumped millions into the Superconducting Supercollider only to shutter the project back in the '90s. It was the next step in particle physics after Tevatron but it never was completed. CERN took up the mantle of high powered particle physics and now has the LHC, which stands as the largest physics lab in the known universe.
The LHC, like Tevatron, smashes hadrons (of which protons are a varietal). These are not fundamental particles, but are made up of smaller subatomic pieces, so when they collide the energy from the collision is split between the constituent quarks. If we could smash fundamental particles--those are particles that aren't composed of other particles, but are already at the single-component level--more energy would go directly into the collision, and thus into spawning all kinds of exotic matter. Which is exactly what physicists want from a good collider.
And that's why Fermilab's physicists are thinking about muons these days. Now, here's the cool trick--in order to smash muons, they're going to have to bend time a little bit.
Muons are like electrons but heavier--about 200 times heavier actually--which is a good thing, considering we're trying to manipulate and smash them together. But they're also highly unstable, with a life spanning just a few microseconds. After that, they decay into a bunch of other less-useful stuff. A few microseconds isn't very long, but there is a way to stretch it out long enough to be useful by playing with the rules of relativity.
It would work something like this: You get muons from high-energy particle collisions, which generally impart a good deal of energy to the particles they spawn. Which means the muon, from the moment it falls out of this particle collision, is moving very fast. If you can then grab it and give it a little accelerating up toward the speed of light, relativistic effects start to take over. As the muon approaches light speed, time slows down for the muon relative to the time frame of the surrounding accelerator. So those two microseconds stretch into a lifetime that's long enough to be relevant to physicists--that is, long enough to smash two of them together.
It's a complex trick but a feasible one, and such a collider isn't very big--it would fit in Fermilab's current footprint. And it would put Fermilab right back at the cutting edge of particle physics--not that it ever really left.
Hadrons. They're so 2010. More details at Ars.
Let's try not to drop the ball on this one America.
THE LAND OF GOD
Actually what you're thinking of is the Vatican City which lies in the heart of Rome, Italy. Of course that could be just as pretensious. The promise land is Mecca.
No, no, NO! The holy land is Jerusalem and that's the END OF IT!!!
Seriously, whatever beef you have with your god, please leave your baggage off this site. You always seem to have something negative to say about the subject. You're no more open-minded than a dogmatic religious nut job.
"The person is smart. People are dumb, panicky, dangerous animals and you know it. Fifteen hundred years ago everybody knew, the Earth was the center of the universe. Five hundred years ago everybody knew, the Earth was flat, and fifteen minutes ago you know tomorrow."
Part of the fun part of bjorn comments is they are so short and without punctuation they could mean a whole massive amount of things. They just arrive as some kind of venting for him, but the rest of us are like, 'what was that?’ Actually, I like him. He shows up so rarely and randomly, he just surprises me and well that is fun in itself. ;)
I am very much for this new proposal technology! But until the money is approved for it, it just not reality. But YEA for it!
Geting back on topic...
This is a pretty neat concept, but the part I'm wondering about is the way they are going to accelerate the muons to near the speed of light - and they will have to get pretty close to get the sort of time dilation they are looking for. I haven't looked into this any further than this article but it would seem to me like this is the biggest problem. Anyone know what they have planned?
I think they should look into plasma wakefield acceleration techniques. This might be the best way to get the particles moving after collision and the concept should be compatible with the muon plasma right after initial collision. Just a thought though.
Bjorn has gone on tirades about his disdain for religion (seemingly Judao-Christian spiritual beliefs). It's old and unamusing.
He doesn't like the concept of God or religion. We get it. Don't knock everyone else for what you might think they believe. Any wise person understands the contradiction of culturally based spiritual practices in a world as interwoven with different types of people such as ours. It doesn't mean that this level of enlightenment should denounce the relevance of spiritual faith. Whether or not God exist is not as important as the belief of whether or not God exist.
To bring things back into perspective of the article, U.S. likely dropped the ball on Fermilab for the primary reason that all other areas of scientific research are stagnated in this country: politics.
In an instance the public may be wowed (yes I made that up) by a scientific concept, but once that instance is over people are mired by all the other things within their immediate lives to be so concerned about something that won't directly benefit them in the short term. It's short sighted but it's characteristic of our society.
With this mindset, elected officials tend to look at these other supposedly pressing needs to put their attention and efforts to. All the meanwhile, scientific research in particular realms are deemed irrelevant, costly, and behind schedule because everything doesn't go off without a hitch 100%.
This is why we aren't leading the way in particle physics, and this is why NASA is stuck without a spacecraft.
I apologize to bjorn for my statement. I'm just sick of hearing the hate crimes go around.
Super Conductor Super Collider!
Trick technology of the '90's.
Ronnie Creager's part in Super Conductor Super Collider (Skate Video 1993):
Did anyone ever skate the tunnels of the SSC?
The background noise from a crash and then reacceleration to crash again seems a little overwhelming to sort through. I would think that would be the biggest and most expensive P.I.T.A. Then again, maybe I don't understand the process..
@ beyond 9; Why would we want to use what we have wisely, thereby avoiding the costs for children? Maybe people in the U.S. haven't heard about it yet, but we have a monetary system where wealth is ONLY created through the creation of a prior debt. Every dollar coming out of a mint printer is first and foremost an instrument firmly created through debt, or the PEOPLE of the United States not ALLOWED to create it. The pictures of the big founding fathers on all our money, like Washington, Franklin, Lincoln, Jackson, and Jefferson? Those American heroes likenesses all being used without owner permission by the central bank, aka The Fed; WERE ALL ENEMIES OF THE CENTRAL BANK'S FORMATION.
enlightening article... and all this time I thought Muons were cattle of less than average intelligence...