Left Hand Doesn't know what the Right Hand is Doing
February 16, 2010 3:17 PM   Subscribe

Many thought the secrets of the universe would be revealed by the LHC in Switzerland, but the lower powered Brookhaven Collider briefly violated the laws of physics recently.
posted by ExitPursuedByBear (74 comments total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
 
hot soup of quarks, antiquarks, and gluons

Incidentally, my favorite kind of soup. I'd argue it's best when served chilled, like a vichyssoise.
posted by Solon and Thanks at 3:28 PM on February 16, 2010 [3 favorites]


I think Stanley Donwood broke those laws first.
posted by filthy light thief at 3:31 PM on February 16, 2010


Oh that is *such* a fine.
posted by The Whelk at 3:33 PM on February 16, 2010


Uh, what does this mean?
posted by KokuRyu at 3:34 PM on February 16, 2010 [2 favorites]


1-Do you know how fast you were going back there?
2-How could I, Officer? I was too busy paying attention to where I was.
posted by Damn That Television at 3:34 PM on February 16, 2010 [51 favorites]


It means you're getting a visit from some ...people in big ships soon and I'd just do whatevr they said if I was you.
posted by The Whelk at 3:35 PM on February 16, 2010


I am so glad. All this predestination has really been bothering me. :)
posted by kalessin at 3:36 PM on February 16, 2010


My attempts to understand quarkistry have been similar to a chimpanzee trying to fix a photocopier by hitting it with a stick, so forgive me if this is a stupid question, but it's not really possible to break the laws of physics, is it? This experiment has simply exposed a flaw in our understanding of what the laws are, yeah?
posted by Joe Beese at 3:40 PM on February 16, 2010 [2 favorites]



Uh, what does this mean?


Gonna take a high School Physics stab at this and say it means some of the werider, faster-then-light-seemingly time-traveling predictive behaviors we've observed in sub-atomic particles may not have been true during the early conditions of the universe, I think?
posted by The Whelk at 3:40 PM on February 16, 2010


Joe Beese Correct, the breaking part is poetic license. We're at the edge of our understanding of physics. It was predicted as long ago as 1988 (whew think New Coke) that the handedness of quarks and neutrinos and leptons would break down at this level. That handness is probably what made us a matter as opposed to an anti-matter universe.
posted by ExitPursuedByBear at 3:42 PM on February 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


Uh, what does this mean?

It's way over my head, but one part I think I got: There's a fundamental physics principle called charge-parity (CP), where particles and antiparticles will be created and destroyed in the same amounts. That's the symmetry they're talking about. If this CP were never broken, there'd be no matter in the universe after the big bang (all the particles and antiparticles would have destroyed one another, being symmetrical and all.)

But obviously there is a great deal of matter in the universe. So CP must have been broken sometime, but in previous experiments scientists could never account for a large enough violation to create so much matter.

The FPP is about a CP violation that's consistent with predictions/what the scientists were looking for. It doesn't totally explain where all this matter came from, but further study of it might and that's why it's so important.

IANAP.
posted by Solon and Thanks at 3:43 PM on February 16, 2010 [5 favorites]



I hate over dramatic headlines:

"The features observed at STAR are qualitatively consistent with predictions of symmetry-breaking domains in hot quark matter," said Vigdor. "Confirmation of this effect and understanding how these domains of broken symmetry form at RHIC may help scientists understand some of the most fundamental puzzles of the universe, and will be a subject of intense study in future RHIC experiments."

(from the 2nd article)
posted by Erberus at 3:49 PM on February 16, 2010


The sciencedaily article there is amazingly poorly written. There's a slightly better description over on Cosmic Variance of the science going on here, though it's still a little vague as to what the result in question actually is.
posted by Schismatic at 3:50 PM on February 16, 2010


Solon and Thanks: "But obviously there is a great deal of matter in the universe."

Well, that's a relative term, isn't it? Even if you ignore the vast majority of the universe where there isn't anything, once you get to where something actually is, it turns out that's almost entirely empty space too.
posted by Joe Beese at 3:51 PM on February 16, 2010


plenty of interesting angles
posted by Hammond Rye at 3:52 PM on February 16, 2010


All I know is that the universe is pretty much the biggest thing I ever saw. If someone has something bigger, I'd like to see it.

We're not running out of matter, are we?
posted by mccarty.tim at 3:53 PM on February 16, 2010 [5 favorites]


The Onion could have copy-pasted this article, and we'd say that it was remarkable for showing how obtuse science journalism can be.
posted by mccarty.tim at 3:54 PM on February 16, 2010


Well, that's a relative term, isn't it?

In this case, "great deal" relative to how much scientists have been able to account for.
posted by Solon and Thanks at 3:55 PM on February 16, 2010


The universe's books don't check out cause it turns out this universe is merely a front for a Trinitium Laundering operation on Negaxis-8.
posted by The Whelk at 3:57 PM on February 16, 2010 [2 favorites]


i like this description of "breaking the laws of physics" from the link i just posted...
"perhaps it would best described as discovery of a loophole. That’s the thing about loopholes – they may violate the spirit of the law, they may be unfair, but they are legal."
posted by Hammond Rye at 3:57 PM on February 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


This news gives me a large hadron.
posted by Ratio at 4:02 PM on February 16, 2010 [14 favorites]


mcarty.tim All I know is that the universe is pretty much the biggest thing I ever saw. If someone has something bigger, I'd like to see it.

You're like the Jack Handey of Science.
posted by ExitPursuedByBear at 4:05 PM on February 16, 2010 [4 favorites]


Define the universe. Give two examples.
posted by Xoebe at 4:13 PM on February 16, 2010 [11 favorites]


Earth-311, Earth-717, etc
posted by The Whelk at 4:15 PM on February 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


I am so glad. All this predestination has really been bothering me. :)

I knew you would say that.
posted by Babblesort at 4:19 PM on February 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


So how did I get stuck on Earth-911...?
posted by oneswellfoop at 4:19 PM on February 16, 2010


That's the one with all the Nannies! Run before they make the medicine go down!
posted by The Whelk at 4:22 PM on February 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


My brother-in-law-to-be does sciencey things at Brookhaven. I don't know what the hell he does. But if he's breaking the laws of physics, I'm going to have to give him a stern talking-to.

Unless such law-breaking leads to time travel or faster-than-light travel, in which case I'll volunteer to take test flights.
posted by uncleozzy at 4:30 PM on February 16, 2010


Incidentally, my favorite kind of soup. I'd argue it's best when served chilled, like a vichyssoise.

With a nice Chianti. Ftftftftftft.
posted by kirkaracha at 4:31 PM on February 16, 2010


The Left Hand of Darkness is bluffing.
posted by loquacious at 4:33 PM on February 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


But then you have to deal with the sticky fingers of time.
posted by The Whelk at 4:37 PM on February 16, 2010


The Left Hand of Darkness is bluffing.

Does it have cards in its pocket, like grains of sand?
posted by brundlefly at 4:56 PM on February 16, 2010


Following on from the point made by Solon and Thanks, it follows that particles and antiparticles should have been created equally in the Big Bang, and thus anihilated each other: it's one of the central quandaries contained in the question "Why is the universe exist at all, rather than nothing"?

We're talking about a tiny inequivalence - I've heard ratios of one ten-billionth banded about. That is, the ratio of matter was just 1/107th larger than that of antimatter in the protean universe. The rest essentially cancelled each other out. What we see - the entire observable universe - is the tiny fraction that remains.

The results from Brookhaven give one possible line of evidence as to how that might have come about.
posted by Bora Horza Gobuchul at 4:56 PM on February 16, 2010


Particle physicists remind me of that crazy race in Star Trek that could only talk to Captain Picard in metaphors.

We're hunting for the quantum duck! The Jacobs Duck swims in a pond of ice cream, except it doesn't just swim, it vibrates directionally by simultaneously existing and not existing. The Jacobs Duck has never been spotted, only inferred by theorietical mid-70's work that discovered the eight kinds of subatomic spoons: north, south, east, southeast, here, there, out, and spork. Seven spoons make a spoonbag; eight make a Grand Duchy. The spoons coexist spacially - but not temporally - in the ice cream pond, which corresponds to a field that stretches from the sun to your sock drawer, which sits in a state of perpetual existential crisis. We have, however, discovered traces of anti-ducks, which can be seen scattered across a Heintzman windshield when driven through a deep mine on a trolley, and indicate the possibility of a hidden realm that really doesn't make much sense at all.
posted by bicyclefish at 4:56 PM on February 16, 2010 [41 favorites]


What we need is Richard Feynman to break it down for us.

Unless what we're seeing here is Richard himself playing a practical joke.
posted by bwg at 5:01 PM on February 16, 2010


Feynman and Kaufman at Jalad.
posted by Babblesort at 5:04 PM on February 16, 2010 [9 favorites]


Even if you ignore the vast majority of the universe where there isn't anything, once you get to where something actually is, it turns out that's almost entirely empty space too.

Empty space isn't entirely empty.
posted by empath at 5:11 PM on February 16, 2010


What we need is Richard Feynman to break it down for us.

Okay, done:

The Feynman Lectures

Watch the one on symmetry for a decent explanation of what they're talking about.
posted by empath at 5:18 PM on February 16, 2010


I read "Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider" as "Relatively Heavy Ion Collider" which made me think of a wonderfully Douglas-Adams-type machine.
posted by Navelgazer at 5:20 PM on February 16, 2010


empath: "Empty space isn't entirely empty."

Quantum foam?

OK, now you're starting to mess with my head.
posted by Joe Beese at 5:34 PM on February 16, 2010


Darmok and Hawking at Tanagra. Einstein, when the walls fell.
posted by runcibleshaw at 5:39 PM on February 16, 2010 [9 favorites]


empath: "The Feynman Lectures"

appears to acquire Silverlight installation
posted by Joe Beese at 5:40 PM on February 16, 2010


Ye canna change the laws of physics, laws of physics, laws of physics
Ye canna change the laws of physics, laws of physics, Jim
posted by Horace Rumpole at 5:46 PM on February 16, 2010 [5 favorites]


What we need is Richard Feynman to break it down for us.

You mean a Richard Feynman breakdown?
posted by kid ichorous at 5:52 PM on February 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


From Solon and Thanks: ...it follows that particles and antiparticles should have been created equally in the Big Bang, and thus anihilated each other...

Here is my question: Why should anything have been created in the Big Bang? Why should the Big Bang have happened? What was all this stuff before the Big Bang?

That's 3 question, I know. It'd be great if someone could fill me in on this stuff so I could collect the Nobel prize.
posted by Mister_A at 5:54 PM on February 16, 2010


Does this mean I'm supposed to throw out all my old clothes made from antimatter?

Or should I just wait another 13.73 billion years until they're retro and cool again? Besides the basic labcoat, I have no idea what's cool or hot in physicist fashion.
posted by sebastienbailard at 5:55 PM on February 16, 2010


Here is my question: Why should anything have been created in the Big Bang? Why should the Big Bang have happened? What was all this stuff before the Big Bang?

It might have been another, older universe.
posted by invitapriore at 6:04 PM on February 16, 2010


> The Left Hand of Darkness is bluffing.

Pfft. It doesn't even know what the Right Hand of God is doing.
posted by ardgedee at 6:05 PM on February 16, 2010


Quantum foam? OK, now you're starting to mess with my head.

Wait 'till you hear about dark energy.
posted by octobersurprise at 6:10 PM on February 16, 2010


The only way Quantum Physics makes any sense is to be really, really stoned.
posted by five fresh fish at 6:19 PM on February 16, 2010 [3 favorites]


This experiment has simply exposed a flaw in our understanding of what the laws are, yeah?

Thisity-this-this, Joe Beese. Bingo.
posted by IAmBroom at 6:20 PM on February 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


Quantum foam?

OK, now you're starting to mess with my head.


Turns out that all this time we've been part of a massive cappucino.
posted by Talez at 6:51 PM on February 16, 2010


Did I mention that the tub is conical?
posted by Babblesort at 6:59 PM on February 16, 2010 [3 favorites]


Joe Beese Correct, the breaking part is poetic license.

Yeah, unfortunately that kind of "Poetic license" makes it a lot harder for people to understand what's actually going on. "Oh, no one will understand this anyway so I might as well just make up a bunch of random, but interesting sounding shit" is not a good way to explain science.
posted by delmoi at 7:41 PM on February 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


Did I mention that the tub is conical?

I was told that it was saddle shaped...
posted by porpoise at 7:41 PM on February 16, 2010


The oscillatory idea was in disrepute for quite some time, but I'm glad to see that there are still serious people working on it, because it seems to make more sense than this idea that there was, at some no-time and no-place, a no-thing of infinite energy that stopped being what it wasn't somehow...
posted by Mister_A at 7:47 PM on February 16, 2010


Because that theory makes the universe sound like a terrible movie.
posted by Mister_A at 7:53 PM on February 16, 2010


YOU FELLLETHLY PEEG!
posted by The Whelk at 8:12 PM on February 16, 2010


because it seems to make more sense than this idea that there was, at some no-time and no-place, a no-thing of infinite energy that stopped being what it wasn't somehow...

On the other hand, it's got a "turtles all the way down" vibe that disqualifies it from being a completely satisfying explanation.
posted by invitapriore at 8:20 PM on February 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


Particle physicists remind me of that crazy race in Star Trek that could only talk to Captain Picard in metaphors.

Well, if you learn the math, they can stop making up imprecise analogies to try to explain it to you. But, even if you learn the math, you often find yourself trying to visualize the shit, and then you're back at analogies.

And, ultimately, the math itself is a metaphor for what's really happening in the universe. It's very precise, and it seems to be fairly accurate for most observable phenomena, but it can't really explain "how" or "why" on a fundamental level--it just allows predictions at increasingly smaller scales. Don't confuse the map with the territory. It could be turtles all the way down.
posted by Netzapper at 8:39 PM on February 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


1-Do you know how fast you were going back there?
2-How could I, Officer? I was too busy paying attention to where I was.


Frau Schrodinger storms angrily into her husband's worskhop late one night and says, "Ervin, what on earth have you been doing to the cat? he looks half-dead!"
posted by ricochet biscuit at 8:53 PM on February 16, 2010 [1 favorite]


alright, now ya'll are fuckin with me. I've been living for so long out here in 6,000-years-old-land that as soon as I saw the words Big Bang I reflexively thought to myself, "The Big Bang is only a theory"

so, there is intelligent life out there, is what you're saying? I mean, east of I-75, but still?

well, if you think so, then I guess it might be worth my learning how to read again.
posted by toodleydoodley at 8:54 PM on February 16, 2010


I ♥ BNL! If you ever have the chance, take the tour!
posted by Eideteker at 9:43 PM on February 16, 2010


The ideas behind this are not that difficult to understand. You don't need mathematics either.
Blame it all on incompetent science writing.

For those who don't mind a a bit more reading: First you have to understand the notion of Parity conservation and why we already knew it was broken. Of course, that parity violation was governed by the weak force. We've never seen a parity violation by the strong force. (Review: the three forces are gravity, strong and electro-weak) Note also that parity violation by the strong force is not completely unexpected but its nice to see it.

This confirms that a universe we thought had small asymmetries is perhaps riddled with them.
posted by vacapinta at 3:17 AM on February 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


One of the most frustrating things as a (I suppose former) physicist is reading science journalism or pop-sci treatments of subjects that I actually understand, and not being able to figure out what they're going on about. There's this disgusting idea with physics that the way to make it cool is to make it weird and incomprehensible and maybe even illogical. I guess the vibe is, if the writer gets this crazy stuff, then he/she must be a genius. Some physicists are responsible for this crap too, Steven Hawking is really bad about it.
posted by Humanzee at 4:38 AM on February 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


Joe Beese wrote: "Well, that's a relative term, isn't it? Even if you ignore the vast majority of the universe where there isn't anything, once you get to where something actually is, it turns out that's almost entirely empty space too."

The density of matter in space is not really important to this. If symmetry were preserved as it normally is, there would be no matter nor antimatter at all. The universe would be entirely energy and no matter, as every time energy was converted to mass, the particle and antiparticle created would immediately annihilate each other, becoming energy once again.

Obviously, there had to be some conditions in which symmetry breaks down since there is matter in our universe. We have now seen those conditions, as first hand as we are currently capable of.
posted by wierdo at 5:20 AM on February 17, 2010


Netzapper: Particle physicists remind me of that crazy race in Star Trek that could only talk to Captain Picard in metaphors.

Well, if you learn the math, they can stop making up imprecise analogies to try to explain it to you. But, even if you learn the math, you often find yourself trying to visualize the shit, and then you're back at analogies.


"Sokath, his eyes uncovered!"
posted by DreamerFi at 7:50 AM on February 17, 2010


...the lower powered Brookhaven Collider briefly violated the laws of physics recently.

Not violated, illuminated.
posted by Evilspork at 7:56 AM on February 17, 2010


uncleozzy : Unless such law-breaking leads to time travel or faster-than-light travel

My mind was blown when I realized that these were actually the same thing.
posted by quin at 8:52 AM on February 17, 2010


Mister_A: Here is my question: Why should anything have been created in the Big Bang? Why should the Big Bang have happened? What was all this stuff before the Big Bang?

I happen to have just read "Before The Big Bang", which is a pretty good high-level tour through the various origin theories people are working on right now. There are a few surprisingly strong competitors to the Big Bang theory, actually. If you're curious enough to read a few hundred pages about it, it'd be worth grabbing from the library.
posted by rusty at 10:27 AM on February 17, 2010 [1 favorite]


Thanks Rusty!
posted by Mister_A at 10:57 AM on February 17, 2010


Although allowed by quantum chromodynamics (QCD), the underlying theory that describes the strong nuclear force, such local strong parity violation has never been detected directly.

So parity violation has been observed in QCD, but it wasn't assumed to be a perfect symmetry in the first place. Hardly a "violation of the laws of physics" as advertised.
posted by Premeditated Symmetry Breaking at 11:20 AM on February 18, 2010


Here is my question, since I'm reading a lot about string theory and quantum mechanics, etc, recently.

Does this have any impact on the holographic universe theory?
posted by empath at 11:51 AM on February 18, 2010


(or string theory in general for that matter)
posted by empath at 11:51 AM on February 18, 2010


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