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Exploring Superstrings in the Lab 312

Posted by Zonk
from the knitting-a-scarf dept.
ultracool writes "Physicists at Utrecht University in the Netherlands have come up with a way of observing a superstring by utilizing Bose-Einstein condensation (BEC). A one-dimensional BEC in an optical lattice is rapidly rotated, causing a quantized vortex to form. The bosonic part of the superstring consists of this vortex line. Inside the vortex, they would trap an ultracold cloud of fermionic atoms. Hopefully this will allow observation of the supersymmetry between bosons and fermions, thus providing the first experimental evidence to support superstring theory."
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Exploring Superstrings in the Lab

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  • Woah.. (Score:5, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday May 14, 2005 @08:41PM (#12532587)
    I almost understood a word of that.. Almost.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday May 14, 2005 @08:44PM (#12532601)
    http://java.sun.com/j2se/1.5.0/docs/api/java/lang/ StringBuilder.html [sun.com] .
    They're great. You can modify them and they aren't synchronized so they're fast, too. If these scientists are only just now discovering them they should try reading some newsgroups.
  • More info... (Score:5, Informative)

    by KeiserSoze (657078) on Saturday May 14, 2005 @08:44PM (#12532602) Homepage
    A more detailed explanation of http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Superstrings [wikipedia.org]superstri ngs.
  • No Way! (Score:3, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday May 14, 2005 @08:44PM (#12532604)
    Supersymmetry between bosons and fermions is not possible in your universe. We have seen to that.
    • Yes it is. (Score:2, Funny)

      by game kid (805301)

      Of course it's possible to see symmetry between bosoms and females--

      (hears enraged Slashdotters worldwide screaming bosons and fermions)

      --what? nah, I've no idea about those.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday May 14, 2005 @08:45PM (#12532611)
    It's the one in which Q inverts a universal constant, right?
  • It might not hurt... (Score:5, Informative)

    by daveschroeder (516195) * on Saturday May 14, 2005 @08:45PM (#12532615)
    ...to refer people to more information on Bose-Einstein condensates (BEC):

    BEC wikipedia page [wikipedia.org]
    BEC home page at Colorado [colorado.edu]
    BEC at NIST [nist.gov]
    What is a BEC? [physlink.com]
  • A liquid or solid condensate at room temp exhibiting BEC properties will be nice. I wonder if liquid helium can be made that way.

    Just pop open the bottle and show friends how the BEC flows up the wall.. down the bottle, over your arm and onto the floor..

    I thought liquid helium was the best way to learn about BECs
    • What you want to show is superfluidity, like helium 4 has beneath 2.1 Kelvin (or so IIRC).

    • by BillX (307153) on Saturday May 14, 2005 @09:27PM (#12532849) Homepage
      A liquid or solid condensate at room temp exhibiting BEC properties will be nice. I wonder if liquid helium can be made that way.

      If you can flow liquid helium up your arm at room temperature, it's time to talk to your landlord ASAP.
      • If you can flow liquid helium up your arm at room temperature, it's time to talk to your landlord ASAP.

        The poster is probably just mistaking the instantly condensed nitrogen from the atmosphere for liquid helium. Liquid nitrogen (and oxygen the other gases in our atmosphere) runs down the plumbing of your helium container as the liquid boils off and escapes.

        Having LN2 run down your arm is not very pleasant either, however. Stings like electric shock at first, and if it stops stinging you know you're in
  • - (This added to get past slashcode)
  • by n0mad6 (668307) on Saturday May 14, 2005 @08:50PM (#12532644)
    I am not a condensed matter physicist (I'm a high-energy physicist), but it seems like this is a way to demonstrate a supersymmetry (a symmetry between fermions and bosons) rather than a demonstration of a string theory. In experimental high-energy physics, its widely believed that supersymmetry will be proven or disproven conclusively within the next decade. String theory is an entirely different matter.

    Any string theorists out there want to chime in?

    • by Stalyn (662) on Saturday May 14, 2005 @09:00PM (#12532704) Homepage Journal
      Witten said that proving supersymmetry would be helpful in understanding string theory. From what I understand supersymmetry down the road implies string theory. So if supersymmetry is disproved by implication so is string theory. However if supersymmetry is proved is does not prove string theory. But rather add towards understanding and maybe later proving string theory.

      but IANAST.
      • Brian Greens' book "The elegant Universe" talks about the history of string theory and if I recall correctly, there were many branches of string theory. One breakthrough in the 80's was M-Theory which tried to consolidate the ideas of 2, 3 and higher-dimensional string-derivative theories. Unless I have the order mixed up, it was then that super-symmetry was introduced. If I am correct, then super-symmetry was part of an exciting theory that was a superset of conflicting theories which provided a semblance of unification (the fabled grand unification theory).

        The point is that, unless my memory of the order of progress is wrong, super-symmetry is relatively new to string-theory and definitely wasn't part of the original models. I do not know that disproving super-symmetry disproves all branches of string-theory. No branch yet has experimental prudence, so it's still possible that after back-tracking, one of the earlier branches was on the right track.

        Not just wishful thinking, I'm demonstrating that the disproof of super-symmetry does not end string theory; just string theory as we (read me) know it.
        • Check this [superstringtheory.com] out. Anyway from my understanding string theory in its modern form implies supersymmetry. If supersymmetry is disproven than string theory in it's current form is inconsistent. So yeah string theory isn't exactly dead but needs some major rework. So much rework that it might be unfixable.
      • Nothing can prove string theory. You can only show that the observed behavior of something is consistent with string theory.

        But, from what you say, it sounds like there are a number of competing theories which all predict a certain kind of supersymmetric behavior for fermions and bosons.

        So, if this experiment works as string theory predicts, string theory and a number of other theories that predict the same thing get a feather in their collective caps.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday May 14, 2005 @09:01PM (#12532712)
      I'm also not a string theorist, but I believe that (string theory) + (supersymmetry) = (superstrings). This seems to be an attempt to construct a condensed matter analog of the superstring theory that could underly particle physics. In other words, it's an analog that doesn't necessarily mean that superstrings are or are not the underlying fundamental theory of physics.
      • MOD PARENT UP! (Score:5, Interesting)

        by Dr. Weird (566938) on Saturday May 14, 2005 @09:17PM (#12532797)
        This is an important point that I think the article really butchers: as far as I can tell (and I am a condensed matter physicist), they are *NOT* actually creating fundamental superstrings, i.e. those predicted by string theory. Rather, they are creating objects in BEC's that behave in exactly the same way as predicted by that theory.

        To use a computational analogy, they are simulating the equations of string theory using a BEC as the computer. So whatever results they get had better agree with string theory! They aren't actually testing whether these explain the world, just exploring the equations of string theory with an efficient computer -- the BEC.

        • Heh...the first thing I thought when I read the blurb was 'come back when you've actually proven something'.

          Whilst what they're doing is very cool, I think the subject is only interesting to the mainstream (as opposed to the trade journals, where this /is/ very interesting) if and when they actually could use this method to prove/disprove the existence of strings. Or even just observe /indications/ of strings.
        • Brian Greene, in two whole books, never answered the question: is there any reason beyond wishful thinking to believe that the coupling constant isn't exactly 1?
    • I'm far from a string theorist, but this supersymmetry is something that would have to be true for string theory to be true. If the supersymmetry is not true, string theory as it is understood today will be disproven.
  • I swear. This type of science is sounding more and more like Stan Lee's Marvel dialog every year.

    I've been a science geek my whole life, and I have barely an idea of what they are talking about. I thought there was some disagreement about the existence of the multidimensional strings. Is that over now?

    We're going to wake up one day and someone in Portugal will have a wormhole operating in his lab, or an antimatter explosion will accidently be set off in Japan. Careful, boys, we're getting into comic book
    • The fact that it sounds farfetch does not mean it is any less likely/unlikely that what is true.

      Yes, the high energy physics jargon is terrible and inviting ridicule such as yours. But, remember the Top, Bottom, Charm, Strange, or even the Big bang theory?

      The article is terribly written, but it has a link to the original arxiv scientific article. So you are welcomed to go try to understand it.

      Btw, this statement by you :
      I thought there was some disagreement about the existence of the multidimensional
    • We're going to wake up one day and someone in Portugal will have a wormhole operating in his lab, or an antimatter explosion will accidently be set off in Japan. Careful, boys, we're getting into comic book territory now.

      As long as I get superpowers out of the deal, that's cool. Then I'll make the unscrupulous bastards who gave me superpowers pay and pay and pay. Oh yeah, and I'll dominate the world while I'm at it.
    • Basically, this is a nice experiment that deals with some stuff we don't properly understand yet. Currently we've been considering various ideas for filling those holes in our knowledge, string theory being an example. We don't know if they're correct and we're not likely to know in the near future, we're just window dressing.

      If this test doesn't work as predicted then we go "eww, that colour won't go with my hair" and walk away from the shop. This translates to "oh shit, we really don't have a clue what's
  • by dj245 (732906) on Saturday May 14, 2005 @08:51PM (#12532654) Homepage
    The bosonic part of the superstring consists of this vortex line. Inside the vortex, they would trap an ultracold cloud of fermionic atoms.

    This has direct implications for the food industry. No longer will superstring cheese have to be refrigerated, the fermionic atoms will maintain an ultracold cloud around the superstring cheese, keeping it tasty and fresh. Yum.

  • ... so I am very curious to see if they will come up with anything.
  • by Glaz (883674) on Saturday May 14, 2005 @08:54PM (#12532667)
    If they can demonstrate that the predictions of superstring theory hold true, and that it can actually be used to connect Quantum Physics with Relativistic Physics, we might actually be able to stop some of the bickering that goes on among Physicists today.

    What does that mean for us? Well, when Newton found physical laws that worked more generally than Aristotle thought, Physics was born and we were launched into a new era of science. Einstein's Special (and then, afterward) General Relativity made what we consider the modern era possible.

    Quantum Physics and Relativity have always been at odds, though. After all, what makes gravity operate at a quantum level? Superstring theory is one of several "theories of everything" that would allow us to explain the world in more general terms--and in the past, every time that has happened, society and technology has taken leaps and bounds forward.

    What will happen if we find out that Superstring theory really is the theory of everything? It's liable to be as outlandishly unthought of as space travel to the people of the turn of the 20th century.
  • Humans really have got some sophisticated toys running these days. Is it any easier to create a black hole from BEC than from "STP" matter? If so, I'd like to hear about some research on rotating cylindrical ones, and their effects on signal propagation in their peculiar spacetime neighborhood. Conducted far out in space, preferably ;).
  • Far Stringtopia (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Doc Ruby (173196) on Saturday May 14, 2005 @09:00PM (#12532700) Homepage Journal
    Interstellar space is "ultracold", and there are some accumulations of bosonic and fermionic atoms there. Could these superstringy conditions be found there, and observed by instruments on Earth?
    • Interstellar space will have at least a 4 degrees Kelvin temperature due to the background microwave radiation. AFAIK Einstein-Bose condensates are only possible thousanths of a degree or less above absolute zero (O degrees Kelvin). Under idealized lab conditons, we earthlings can generate cold far below what you usually find in interstellar space. That is needed for the observational evidence these guys are looking for.
    • Re:Far Stringtopia (Score:3, Informative)

      by zerbot (882848)
      Intrastellar space is not ultracold, it's pretty darn hot (4 Kelvin) when you contrast that to the temperatures needed to form a BEC (around 170 nanoKelvin).
    • But its not that cold. To do the BEC thing, one needs very small fractions of a degree above absolute zero & the closer to absolute zero the better it works. Interstellar space has a temperature in the vicinity of 2.3 degrees thanks to the background radiation left over from the big bang. Its all pervasive, no place to 'hide' from it. So it seems to me that interstellar space is a quite a bit too hot for the formation of a BEC.

      OTOH, I not a physicist either. Hell, I'm not even sure I spelled it ri
  • char array (Score:2, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward
    It's still a char array, no matter how sophisticated MSDN tries to make it sound.
  • Give me a break... (Score:2, Interesting)

    by kavau (554682)
    Hopefully this will allow observation of the supersymmetry between bosons and fermions, thus providing the first experimental evidence to support superstring theory.

    The scientists are creating a system here that looks quite similar to superstring theory in some ways from a mathematical point of view. They have no way of observing "real" superstrings at these energies. While certainly interesting in its own right, this experiment can in no way provide experimental evidence that superstring theory really de

  • by Anonymous Coward
    Don't you just puss the button on top of the can and the superstring sprays all over the lab?
  • Toss all this in a flashlight casing and some foggy-headed obscure physics nerd gets to be the first one to play Jedi.
  • Uh huh (Score:2, Funny)

    by Shky (703024)
    "The bosonic part of the superstring consists of this vortex line. Inside the vortex, they would trap an ultracold cloud of fermionic atoms. Hopefully this will allow observation of the supersymmetry between bosons and fermions, thus providing the first experimental evidence to support superstring theory."

    Pfft. Well, obviously.
  • Ahh.. (Score:3, Funny)

    by bigattichouse (527527) on Saturday May 14, 2005 @09:15PM (#12532785) Homepage
    And if we channel a reverse impulse through the reflector dish, the superstring will disperse the space-time anomoly. Aren't you waiting for some of this quantum research to accidentally unleash a super-mega-quantum bomb.. "safety tip - avoid trying to look under God's skirts".
    • by mcc (14761)
      I knew Wil Wheaton had an account somewhere on slashdot, I was WONDERING what his username was!
  • The big problem with String theory is lack of experimental evidence (or even experiments) to prove it. It's detractors like to say it is just a religion with no proof. However, this looks more like an experiment to prove supersymmetry which doesn't necessarily prove string theory.
  • Wow, me and 'da guys were just tossing around that idea at the construction site during lunch just last week. Who wouldda thunk!
  • by volsung (378) <stan@mtrr.org> on Saturday May 14, 2005 @09:39PM (#12532914)
    Not to rain on anyone's parade, but based on that article, this is NOT a test of supersymmetry or string theory in the sense the article blurb leads you to believe. (Surprised?) These physicists have thought up a clever way to create an analog to a superstring out of a macroscopic quantum system. The neat thing about condensed matter physics is that you can concoct systems that behave like more fundamental systems which you can't easily create. You can then test the implications of a particular mathematical model.

    So this is very cool (literally!) science, but NOT a test of superstring theory as a way to describe fundamental particles or interactions. At best, it will provide some interesting checks of the mathematical predictions of string-like theories, but only translated into this system. You still won't know if string theory has any hope of describing real electrons, photons, gravitons, etc.

  • by dr. loser (238229) on Saturday May 14, 2005 @09:42PM (#12532927)
    IAAP (I am a physicist), and again we have an physics article posted by someone who doesn't know the difference between reality and an analogy.

    The system that these folks propose to study (quantized vorticity in a Bose-Einstein condensate) can be described with the same type of mathematics that is used in superstring theory. The proposed experiments would test the validity of the math. These experiments would say nothing about whether the math of superstring theory is a valid description of the world!

    A similar situation would be the following: observing a weight on a spring would confirm the math behind simple harmonic oscillators. It would not, however, tell me anything about whether the vibrational modes of the sun obey those same equations.

    Analogy != equivalence!
    • So, reading your post and some other posts in this thread, this is the impression I have got, please tell me if it is correct or incorrect:

      If this experiment works, it will not prove superstring theory. But if the experiment DOESN'T work, it will DISPROVE or seriously hamper superstring theory?
      • If I predict that the outcome of an experiment is A then the experiment can work regardless of whether I get the expected outcome. If the experiment doesn't work it means that you didn't do it correctly. Maybe you didn't rule out interfering factors, or the power dropped out at a vital moment or you knocked the apparatus.
    • Brian Greene in two whole books never answered the question: is there any reason, beyond wishful thinking, to believe that the coupling constant isn't exactly 1?
  • Great scott! That just sounded like a scene from star trek!
  • I thought that it was called M-Theory [wikipedia.org] now? (Simplified here [wikipedia.org]).
    As some of you know, there are five superstring [wikipedia.org] theories - M-theory was supposed to "unite" these theories, so to speak. The difference between these superstring theories, is in how the implement supersymmetry, so I guess that this experiment, would somehow point us to which of the five theories are ...most correct?
    I am in way over my head here, but perhaps someone is more knowledgable here ;)
  • ...the first experimental evidence to support superstring theory."

    Or not.

  • That I just don't possess the "Branes" to understand this superstring theory.
  • "Bosons are also the only particles which can occupy the same state as another."

    Ok this is cool shit. This means that bosons fall throught the table. Literally. Do not put a boson in your pocket, you will loose it! The practical uses for it are stunning! Keys your are garanteed to loose!
  • Hopefully this will allow observation of the supersymmetry between bosons and fermions, thus providing the first experimental evidence to support superstring theory.

    precisely! after all, A gleekzorp without a tornpee is like a quop without a fertsneet (sort of).

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