December 15, 2012 archive

Only 6 Days Until The End Of The World!

Higgs Hiccup: Contradictory Results Show Up at LHC

By Adam Mann, Wired

12.14.12 2:08 PM

Ever since physicists found a particle that looks very much like the Higgs boson in July, they have been probing its properties, essentially running their experimental hands all over it to check out its features. They do this by smashing protons together at insanely high speeds in the Large Hadron Collider and watching the resulting rain of particles that gets produced. Within this melee, several Higgs bosons appear and almost immediately decay into other particles.

The LHC can detect the Higgs decaying in two different ways. One channel produces two characteristic photons while another creates four particles known as leptons. The two decay paths each give scientists a distinct value for the mass of the Higgs. But there’s a little problem.

“There turns out to be a slight tension between the two masses,” said physicist Beate Heinemann of the University of California, Berkeley, who works on ATLAS, one of the LHC’s Higgs-searching experiments. “They are compatible, just not super compatible.”

The two photon channel is saying that the Higgs mass is 126.6 gigaelectronvolts (GeV), or about 126 times the mass of a proton. The four lepton decay route suggests the mass is 123.5 GeV. A very tiny disagreement that is nonetheless very strange because the Higgs should have one identifiable mass. ATLAS scientists noticed the discrepancy in their data previously and thought it might simply be a problem with calibrating their machinery. Yet even after calibration and analyzing more data, the difference remained.

We looked for one. We may have found two.

Vasudevan Mukunth, The Hindu

December 15, 2012

There was initial surprise in Kyoto about the dilepton-decay data being suppressed. However, the experimental data of the Higgs’ decay into the other combinations of particles coincided (fairly) perfectly with the theoretical predictions, easing physicists toward the conclusion that the Standard Model had done a good job… again.

And now, the reason for suppression has been revealed! On December 13 (exactly a year to the day the first tentative spottings were announced), a new round of data from the ATLAS detector was revealed at CERN, showing that the Higgs boson seemed to be decaying into two photons twice as often as allowed by the Standard Model. Not just that: the elusive particle also seemed to exist at two different masses – almost as if there are two kinds of Higgs bosons, not one.

The “second mass” observation was derived from results of the particle’s decay into four leptons. More specifically, at 4.1 standard-deviations (a confidence level of 99.534 per cent), the mass of the Higgs boson from this channel was calculated to be 123.5 +/- 0.9 GeV, which is conspicuously lower than the mass observed from the diphoton-decay channel (by about 3 GeV).

Before we start jumping up and down: The ATLAS collaboration has also announced that the two masses are compatible only at 2.7 standard deviations, which represents a lower statistical confidence than is required to assert evidence. Moreover, results from the CMS collaboration will also have to be factored in before anything is confirmed, and the next batch of data-release from CERN is expected in March, 2013. And last, it’s quite unlikely that the Higgs would have a twin so close in mass – if you’ve already walked 122.6 m, would you consider another 3 m as requiring a lot more energy than what you’ve already spent?

But, if true, this result invalidates the ‘Standard Model‘.  Brains.

Why a Zombie Movie Made by Physicists is the Best Kind of Science PR

By J. Bryan Lowder, Slate

Wednesday, Dec. 12, 2012, at 2:15 PM ET

Decay is totally ridiculous, in the best sense of the word. The 75-min, $3,500 movie is remarkably well-made, given the creative team’s lack of experience. It’s studded with all the gratuitous gore, cheap shocks, and absurd plot twists that zombie fans crave. Science nerds and those who love them will bask in its shameless use of sci-fi clich├ęs like “the results are inconclusive at best,” and “my research is too important!”


Hydrocarbons as a store of energy.

On This Day In History December 15

Cross posted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

This is your morning Open Thread. Pour your favorite beverage and review the past and comment on the future.

How ironic that on this very day, Congress and President Barack Obama are about to approve a bill that will essentially violate at least 5 of these amendments and more.

Find the past “On This Day in History” here.

December 15 is the 349th day of the year (350th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 16 days remaining until the end of the year.

On this day 1791, Virginia becomes the last state to ratify the Bill of Rights, making the first ten amendments to the Constitution law and completing the revolutionary reforms begun by the Declaration of Independence. Before the Massachusetts ratifying convention would accept the Constitution, which they finally did in February 1788, the document’s Federalist supporters had to promise to create a Bill of Rights to be amended to the Constitution immediately upon the creation of a new government under the document.

After the Constitution was ratified in 1789, the 1st United States Congress met in Federal Hall in New York City. Most of the delegates agreed that a “bill of rights” was needed and most of them agreed on the rights they believed should be enumerated.

Madison, at the head of the Virginia delegation of the 1st Congress, had originally opposed a Bill of Rights but hoped to pre-empt a second Constitutional Convention that might have undone the difficult compromises of 1787: a second convention would open the entire Constitution to reconsideration and could undermine the work he and so many others had done in establishing the structure of the United States Government. Writing to Jefferson, he stated, “The friends of the Constitution…wish the revisal to be carried no farther than to supply additional guards for liberty…and are fixed in opposition to the risk of another Convention….It is equally certain that there are others who urge a second Convention with the insidious hope of throwing all things into Confusion, and of subverting the fabric just established, if not the Union itself.”

Madison based much of the Bill of Rights on George Mason’s Virginia Declaration of Rights (1776), which itself had been written with Madison’s input. He carefully considered the state amendment recommendations as well. He looked for recommendations shared by many states to avoid controversy and reduce opposition to the ratification of the future amendments. Additionally, Madison’s work on the Bill of Rights reflected centuries of English law and philosophy, further modified by the principles of the American Revolution.

The Stolen Child

The Stolen Child

   Where dips the rocky highland

   Of Sleuth Wood in the lake,

   There lies a leafy island

   Where flapping herons wake

   The drowsy water rats;

   There we’ve hid our faery vats,

   Full of cherries

   And of reddest stolen berrys.

   Come away, O human child!

   To the waters and the wild

   With a faery, hand in hand.

   For the world’s more full of weeping than you can understand.

   Where the wave of moonlight glosses

   The dim gray sands with light,

   Far off by furthest Rosses

   We foot it all the night,

   Weaving olden dances

   Mingling hands and mingling glances

   Till the moon has taken flight;

   To and fro we leap

   And chase the frothy bubbles,

   While the world is full of troubles

   And anxious in its sleep.

   Come away, O human child!

   To the waters and the wild

   With a faery, hand in hand,

   For the world’s more full of weeping than you can understand.

   Where the wandering water gushes

   From the hills above Glen-Car,

   In pools among the rushes

   That scarce could bathe a star,

   We seek for slumbering trout

   And whispering in their ears

   Give them unquiet dreams;

   Leaning softly out

   From ferns that drop their tears

   Over the young streams.

   Come away, O human child!

   To the waters and the wild

   With a faery, hand in hand,

   For the world’s more full of weeping than you can understand.

   Away with us he’s going,

   The solemn-eyed –

   He’ll hear no more the lowing

   Of the calves on the warm hillside

   Or the kettle on the hob

   Sing peace into his breast,

   Or see the brown mice bob

   Round and round the oatmeal chest

   For he comes the human child

   To the waters and the wild

   With a faery, hand in hand

   From a world more full of weeping than he can understand

Normalizing Marijuana

Cross posted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

This past election cycle was made more interesting, not so much for the main event between Pres. Barack Obama and presidential wannabe Mitt Romney but, by the ballot initiatives in Washington and Colorado that legalized the recreational use of marijuana in those states. There are eighteen states and the District of Columbia that have legalized its use for medical purposes and several others in the process of doing the same.

Currently under federal law, marijuana is classified under the Controlled Substances Act as a Schedule I narcotic whose cultivation, distribution, possession and use are criminal acts. Besides the legal ramifications there are the social and economic impacts. Both states are looking into controlling marijuana sales and use the same as they do alcohol, which makes a great deal of sense. In a recent national poll taking by Quinnipaic found that across the entire country 51 percent of American voters think marijuana should be legal and 44 think it should be illegal.

In an interview with ABC News’ Barbara Walters, President Obama said that at this time he does not support legalization of marijuana but needed to find a middle ground on punishing use of the drug. He then punted to congress for the solution:

“This is a tough problem, because Congress has not yet changed the law,” Obama said. “I head up the executive branch; we’re supposed to be carrying out laws. And so what we’re going to need to have is a conversation about, How do you reconcile a federal law that still says marijuana is a federal offense and state laws that say that it’s legal?”

Either the president is unaware or just trying to avoid the responsibility but blaming congress for not changing the law is false, as FDL‘s  Jon Walker at its Just Say Now blog points out, the president has does not need congress to change marijuana status:

With 99 percent of federal laws this would be the case, but the Controlled Substance Act is fairly unique. The law explicitly gives the executive branch the right to change the legal status of any drug without Congressional involvement. If the administration, after examining the latest scientific research, determines that cannabis shouldn’t be Schedule I it has the power to move it to a lower schedule, which would make medical marijuana legal under federal law, or even unschedule it all together, which would effectively legalize it.

Several sitting governors in states with medical marijuana have petitioned Obama asking him to reschedule marijuana, and currently the Obama administration is actually fighting an effort in federal court to get the executive branch to provide a legitimate review of marijuana. There is no reason Obama can’t simply stop fighting the case and reschedule marijuana without needing to involve Congress.

MSNBC host Chris Hayes and his panel guests on his December 2 Up with Chris Hayes talked about how Washington and Colorado are dealing with the result of the ballot measures that legalized marijuana in those states:

Terror, Horror and Human Rights (or rather lack thereof)

I hope you can wade through to the end.  This is important.  And I think it is even more important to share the first three stories in order to highlight the last one.  So I’ll start in India, then proceed to Indonesia, followed by Cote d’Ivoire.

But those place names could just have easily have been Washington, DC, Indianapolis, or Charleston.  This is one area where America is much less than spectacular.

The places could be anywhere where some people are considered less than human.  For us transgender people that doesn’t exclude much of this planet.

The stories will set the background for the story from New York about UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon and others speaking about Human Rights Day.

I caution the reader that there is violence in the first stories.