Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Sidney Drell And Vera Rubin

We lost two incredible and important figures in physics during this holiday season.

Sidney Drell, the elementary particle theoretical physicist responsible for the Drell-Yan process, passed away on Dec. 21, 2016. As important as his work in physics, he was also a central figure in the effort of nuclear disarmament. His accomplishments and efforts are just too numerous to list here, and you should do yourself a favor and read about him. He has no doubt had a hand in shaping our world today.

We lost Vera Rubin on Christmas day. She was one of the first astronomers to make the Dark Matter detection, and someone whom I thought should have already been awarded the Nobel Prize. So this year, we lost two extremely strong women candidates for the Nobel prize, Rubin and Deborah Jin.


Monday, December 19, 2016

Antihydrogen Looks Just Like Hydrogen

The ALPHA collaboration at CERN has measured the first ever 2s-1s transition in antihydrogen atoms, and it looks like the Standard Model and CPT symmetry are still correct!

Carrying out the whole procedure 11 times, the group found that on average just under 60% of antiatoms left the trap with the laser tuned to the 1s-2s transition, while no antiatoms (within the bounds of statistical error) dropped out when the laser was tuned to a different frequency or when it was switched off. The researchers say that the antiatoms underwent the transition at the expected frequency and therefore behaved no differently from normal hydrogen.

I'm sure there will be many more to come. The ability to store antihydrogen long enough to study it is a major accomplishment in itself.


Wednesday, December 07, 2016

"Germany's Wildly Complex Fusion Reactor Is Actually Working" - Fake News?

Does qualify as "Fake news", or are they just being stupid?

I posted yesterday about the successful test of the Wendelstein 7-X Stellerator magnetic field. It definitely should deserve the media publicity, because the topology of the magnetic field is very complex and very crucial to how they intend to hold the plasma that they will generate. But this is simply just ONE STEP towards the operation of this machine. They still haven't achieve yet what they intend to do.

So it is with a bit of a dismay that I read news reports that somehow indicated that this "fusion reactor" is "actually working"! Now, I wouldn't have paid much attention had this come from some obscure site, but this one actually came from Popular Mechanics!

However, the stellerator design is still relatively untested, so a group of researchers spent the past year studying the W7-X reactor to ensure that it was working the way it was supposed to. They found an incredibly small error rate, less than 1 in 100,000, which the researchers characterized as "unprecedented accuracy."

This is good news for the W7-X reactor, which was intended as a proof-of-concept for the stellerator design. Now that the researchers know the accuracy of the reactor's magnetic fields, they can begin building new reactors that focus on efficiency.

I'm sorry, but if you don't know any better, you'd think that this darn thing is now working, and they're now going to design "new reactors" with better performance. 


How dense can one be to get this report wrong? The actual paper, which one can read freely online, clearly indicated that this was a test of the complicated magnetic field, not the actual working of the reactor.

I would not be surprised if this is nothing more than a wrong piece of information that got passed around. I see Science Alert having the same type of headlines in their report.

All of these are misleading, and worst still, they are misleading the public who do not have the awareness of what is going on. And this is sad because the public often relies on these type of news sources, and yet, they are being given, at best, a misleading information.


Monday, December 05, 2016

Confirmation Of Wendelstein 7-X Magnetic Field

I mentioned a while back that Germany's Wendelstein 7-X Stellerator was about to go on with their tests. One of the most novel aspect of this fusion machine is the complex topology of its magnetic field.

We now have a report that confirms the topology of this magnetic field, with an agreement of better than 1:100,000. The field lines that they saw as shown in Fig. 2 of the paper is astounding and science-fictiony!

Well done, people!