Thursday, 5 July 2012


Kudos to the ATLAS and CMS teams for actually observing [sort of] an elementary particle 133 times as massive as a proton--125.3±0.6 gigaelectronvolts according to CMS; ATLAS says it's 126.5±0.6 GeV. I don't think they'll be hassling over the precise figure, especially since both come with a statistical probability range that encompasses the other. Fabulous. These observations are all the more incredible because the boson decays in about the time it takes for light to travel the diameter of a hydrogen atom's nucleus! [updated the distance travelled by light in about 10 to the power of -25 seconds. Still rough, but closer to the truth than the length of your nose, which was what I had in the earlier version of this post.] 
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  1. I am surprised at the lack of irony in your comment, Rob, given your accurate skewering of the goings on in Astronomy and Astrophysics.

    This is the ultimate potlatch. Worthless science seeking to confirm theories that no one understands and no one needs by spending unimaginable quantities of money in excess of the GDP of some countries. The irony is that this is a competition to say "Mine's smaller than yours, but heavier".

    Guess what? There was a bloke on the radio this morning saying that maybe there isn't only one type of boson, maybe there are 4 or 5. So. YAWN. Except that this sort of statement will licence the spending of a few more nations' GDP to show it.

    And another physicist was saying that no one knew what to use electricity for when it was discovered (and look at the problems generating it have caused). And of course, no one knew what use the split atom would and look at how useful that has proved to be.

    Bah humbug. I have just read a brilliant analysis of the biogeographic history of Flores which really shows how selection works . Journal of Biogeography 37, 995-1006. That has some relevance to humans and will not starve or kill anyone.

  2. Don't sugar-coat it, Iain! Tell us how you really feel! I guess I was overawed by the majesty of the moment.


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