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Science Technology

Tiny Particle With No Charge Discovered 280

Posted by ScuttleMonkey
from the met-with-a-neutral-response dept.
ZonkerWilliam writes to mention PhysOrg is reporting that a tiny particle with no charge, called an 'axion' has been discovered. From the article: "The finding caps nearly three decades of research both by Piyare Jain, Ph.D., UB professor emeritus in the Department of Physics and lead investigator on the research, who works independently -- an anomaly in the field -- and by large groups of well-funded physicists who have, for three decades, unsuccessfully sought the recreation and detection of axions in the laboratory, using high-energy particle accelerators."
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Tiny Particle With No Charge Discovered

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday December 06, 2006 @06:39PM (#17138062)
    "No charge."
  • by creimer (824291) on Wednesday December 06, 2006 @06:39PM (#17138074) Homepage
    Even in the field of particle physics, there had to be a slacker somewhere.
  • and it means... (Score:4, Informative)

    by MagnusE (1019984) on Wednesday December 06, 2006 @06:40PM (#17138084) Homepage
    axion () means worthy in greek. ;)
  • by brxndxn (461473) on Wednesday December 06, 2006 @06:40PM (#17138096)
    Hire them to find Bin Laden!!

    • by Cyberax (705495) on Wednesday December 06, 2006 @07:09PM (#17138524)
      Well, physicists can do this, but this would involve smashing Earth to pieces and looking at its debris.

      BTW, and they would need about $10000000000000000000 funding for LEC (Large Earth Collider).
      • by fimbulvetr (598306) on Wednesday December 06, 2006 @07:12PM (#17138554)
        Well, physicists can do this, but this would involve smashing Earth to pieces and looking at its debris.

        BTW, and they would need about $10000000000000000000 funding for LEC (Large Earth Collider).


        About the same requirements as the US military then, eh?
        • by Metteyya (790458)
          About the same requirements as the US military then, eh?

          That'd be about two zeros more, AND Large Earth Collider does guarantee the effect.
          • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

            by schon (31600)

            the US military then, eh?

            That'd be about two zeros more
            Hey, that's a horrible thing to say about the president and secretary of defense!
      • Funding (Score:5, Funny)

        by OldManAndTheC++ (723450) on Wednesday December 06, 2006 @08:33PM (#17139690)

        Dear Sir,

        Your proposal intrigues us. If you can flesh it out with further details, we are certain that a mutually satisfactory agreement can be reached. Eagerly awaiting your reply.

        Sincerely Yours,

        Galactus, LEXX, and Prostetnic Vogon Jeltz

  • Detected... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by PresidentEnder (849024) <wyvernender@NOSPAm.gmail.com> on Wednesday December 06, 2006 @06:43PM (#17138136) Journal
    how, exactly? I understand that the usual electronic detector won't work, so they use an electronic detector of some sort (this from the article), but how does that, um, happen? Anyone with more knowledge care to elaborate?
    • Re:Detected... (Score:5, Informative)

      by P3NIS_CLEAVER (860022) on Wednesday December 06, 2006 @06:49PM (#17138238) Journal
      FTFA-

      "They didn't know how to handle the detector for short-lived particles," Jain said. "I knew that for this very short-lived particle -- 10-13 seconds -- the detector must be placed very near the interaction point where the collision between the projectile beam and the target takes place so that the produced particle doesn't run away too far; if it does, it will decay quickly and it will be completely missed. That is what happened in most of the unsuccessful experiments." Instead, Jain used a visual detector, made of three-dimensional photographic emulsions, which act as both target and detector and that therefore can detect very short-lived particles, such as the axion. However, use of such a detector is so specialized that to be successful, it requires intensive training and experience. In the 1950s, Jain was trained to use this type of detector by its developer, the Nobel laureate, British physicist Cecil F. Powell. Jain has used it throughout his career to successfully detect other exotic
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by drrck (959788)
      Well in TFA they described a three dimensional photographic emulsion, used not only as a target but as a detector as well.

      Think of it like those high speed film clips of a bullet going through a block of ballistics gel. The particle hits the emulsion and leaves a detectable wake.
      • Re:Detected... (Score:4, Insightful)

        by Aglassis (10161) on Wednesday December 06, 2006 @06:55PM (#17138336)
        Think of it like those high speed film clips of a bullet going through a block of ballistics gel. The particle hits the emulsion and leaves a detectable wake.

        This is a bad description. The wake of a bullet going through ballistics gel is due to the electromagnetic force. The axion, in contrast does not experience that force. Like the neutron, it must be discovered indirectly (though it is more difficult to discover than a neutron). A useful part of the article:
        After they are produced, axions rapidly decay into two electron pairs, the electron and the positron, he explained.
        So basically, they discovered it by observing the electrically interacting positron and electron pair produced very close to the production with a specialized type of photographic film.
        • Wait... the electromagnetic force between atoms?
    • Sooner or later it hits something or decays, at which point you get charged particles which you can study by seeing how much a magnet bends them. And even a neutral particle can have plenty of effect: your eyes are electronic detectors for neutral photons, after all.
    • I know this is /., but did even you think about RTFA before asking such an obvious question? The answer is the first line in the article.


      Using a visual target/detector (emulsion), Piyare Jain has revealed the path of the axion, a tiny particle with no charge, a very low mass and a lifetime much shorter than a nanosecond.
    • by mcmonkey (96054)
      The theory behind the detector is actually fairly straightforward. The reaction occurs in a magnetic field. You get one sort of response from positively charged particles. You get the opposite response from negatively charged particles.

      When you get no response, that's your particle with no charge.
  • Isn't that known as the slutty little neighbor of the sub-atomic world?
  • This is a big deal (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday December 06, 2006 @06:44PM (#17138154)
    From the last time I heard the axion was supposed to take a particle collider the size of the solar system. This is certainly curious. Additionally, the axion theory is a competitor to the string theory. If the results are true both the standard model and the string theory are going to be thrown into disarray.
    • by AuMatar (183847) on Wednesday December 06, 2006 @06:55PM (#17138326)
      String theory will merely add a 29th dimnension where axions can exist to make the math work.
      • by TubeSteak (669689)
        String theory will merely add a 29th dimnension where axions can exist to make the math work.
        Which is why some people don't consider string "theory" to be a real theory.

        Isn't it one of the basic rules of science that if you can't test it, it isn't a theory.
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          Uhm, no. The Big Bang is a theory, but people don't go around trying to create mini universes. Sure you could argue that they "test" it with observational data, but that's not really performing experiments either now is it?

          And as a Mathematician, why are you limiting the concept of a "theory" to the land of science? You scientists are constantly being bound by the restrictions of the physical world around you!

          Isn't it one of the basic rules of grammar that if you are asking a question, you use a questio

          • by AuMatar (183847) on Wednesday December 06, 2006 @08:22PM (#17139568)
            Testable doesn't mean you can recreate it- it means it makes some predictions about how the world is now that can be tested. Big bang predicts levels of background radiation and other things that can be tested for.

            String theory doesn't predict anything. Its not testable. Its not science. Its caused some interesting advances in math to solve certain aspects of it, but thats about it.
            • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

              by Alsee (515537)
              String theory doesn't predict anything.

              Actually sting theory predicts axions. As per Wikipedia on Axion [wikipedia.org]: It should be noted that the existence of axions is also a necessary component of string theory. But that is a fairly weak prediction of string theory, as other models also predict the axion.

              String theory is stuck in a bizarre limbo in that the interesting predictions it does make involve math that's so hard that we can't actually understand what the predictions are. :)

              -
          • but people don't go around trying to create mini universes.
            Funny you should mention... http://www.casavaria.com/sentido/science/2006/06-0 802-new-universe.htm [casavaria.com]
        • Which is why some people don't consider string "theory" to be a real theory.

          At least from a little googling around, it seems that various versions of string theory predict axions, and different versions of string theory seem to predict different properties of axions, which suggests that searching for axions and determining their properties is, indded, a test of string theory.

          "String theory" does the same thing every other field of science does: it makes models, generates predictions from those models, and i

      • same old (Score:2, Offtopic)

        by roman_mir (125474)
        white is the new black and the dimension is the new epicycle [answers.com].
    • by spiro_killglance (121572) on Wednesday December 06, 2006 @07:17PM (#17138606) Homepage
      Not sure which particle your were thinking of but the axion was supposed to be really light, in the eV range, its the gravitino
      that is in the plancks (need a atom smasher as big as the solar system) mass range. String theory does have axions in it as well
      as stacks of light neutral particles called moduli. The article didn't say how they knew or why they thought that particle was an
      axion. The experiment found at light neutral particle with mass ~19 Mev (or maybe 7 Mev) that decays to electron positron pairs, they didn't say the had a spin measurement, if its not spin 0 with negative parity its definitely not an axion. Another experiment (PVLAS) last year found evidence a particle with mass in the milliEv range, that fits more with an axion. So maybe this is something
      else.
      • by Firehed (942385)
        Anyone care to translate that out of Particle Physicist?
        • by mako1138 (837520) on Thursday December 07, 2006 @12:18AM (#17141560)
          Particle physicists measure mass in units of electronvolts/c^2, which is written without the c^2 for convenience. The electron is about 0.5 MeV, and the proton/neutron are about 1 GeV. So this experiment supposedly found axions with mass ~10 MeV, whereas theory says they should be on the order of eV -- big discrepancy.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Iron Condor (964856)

      From the last time I heard the axion was supposed to take a particle collider the size of the solar system. This is certainly curious. Additionally, the axion theory is a competitor to the string theory. If the results are true both the standard model and the string theory are going to be thrown into disarray.

      Oif -- couple'a misconceptions ere:

      1) The axion is an outcropping of the standard model -- people are looking for it because the standard model says it ought to be there.

      [ 1.5) Until it makes predictions for the masses of the elementary particles, it should be called the "sub-standard model" to begin with ]

      2) Therefore the Axion cannot possibly be in conflict with string theory either, as string theory is an attempt to derive the standard model from something more fundamental. Wherever the standard

  • Wiki (Score:5, Informative)

    by hamster3null (819118) on Wednesday December 06, 2006 @06:48PM (#17138218)
  • In the original article included an axion digital picture frame already on the market- I guess capitalism is faster than physics.
  • Isn't that called a Neutron [wikipedia.org]? Heh.
  • by necro2607 (771790) on Wednesday December 06, 2006 @06:52PM (#17138274)
    That's crazy. How do they know it's called an axion? ... ;)
  • by Chirs (87576) on Wednesday December 06, 2006 @06:53PM (#17138300)

    I think it's kind of a neat ironic twist that he needed to use an analog detection mechanism to position the detector close enough to the target to detect the particle.
  • by Z1NG (953122) on Wednesday December 06, 2006 @07:02PM (#17138434)
    Are they positive?
  • Are these the same Axions cited in Wikipedia? [wikipedia.org] And that I remember being written up about in New Scientist?

    There have been various ongoing experiments involving coupling them to photons with high magnetic fields and even creating ghost photons that appear after a beam of photons is shot through a strong magnetic field at a wall. Being coupled to Axions in some fashion by the magnetic field the photons reappear on the other side of the wall purportedly to illuminate a surface, if however weakly so.
  • by CrazyJim1 (809850) on Wednesday December 06, 2006 @07:16PM (#17138598) Journal
    We must defeat the Axion of evil.
  • The existance of such a particle is axionatic in the physics world.
  • equal and opposite reaxion?
  • true? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by bcrowell (177657) on Wednesday December 06, 2006 @07:28PM (#17138794) Homepage

    This would be very important, if true. However, there's at least one thing that makes me wonder whether it's right:

    Jain has used it throughout his career to successfully detect other exotic phenomena, such as the charm particle, the anomalon, the quark-gluon plasma and the nuclear collective flow.

    I used to do low-energy nuclear physics research, and although this stuff is at higher energies, a lot of it sets off my B.S. detector. The information I've been able to find about the anomalon makes it sound like it's flaky. The statement in the article also makes it sound as if Jain discovered the other things on the list, but actually I think what it really means is that he participated in experiments, where his contribution was that he did the emulsion technique. From what I know about the continuing work on the quark-gluon plasma, it's not a specific, definite, yes/no thing that can really be considered to have been discovered, and I don't think emulsions have been particularly important in that work, either.

    It's unfortunate that the paper isn't available on arxiv.org. However, IOP will let you read it if you set up an account. Well, I'm not a specialist in relativistic heavy ion physics, or emulsion techniques, but the paper doesn't look very convincing to me at all. In figure 4, they claim to see two peaks, one near 7 MeV, and one near 19 MeV. The statistics simply don't look convincing. All I see is a spectrum with some noise in it, where they've picked what look like two big statistical fluctuations and called them peaks. They claim it's significant at the 3-sigma level, which actually isn't a very high level of statistical confidence, especially for such an extraordinary claim.

    • Re:true? (Score:5, Funny)

      by rentedflowers (640237) on Wednesday December 06, 2006 @07:43PM (#17139014)
      You're missing the really groundbreaking development here, though.

      This is a /. article, claiming a scientific discovery, that is traceable to a peer-reviewed journal article. A well-respected journal, no less. This is truly a first.
    • Re:true? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by mcelrath (8027) on Wednesday December 06, 2006 @08:59PM (#17139952) Homepage

      This can't possibly be the axion. If it were a particle it must show up as a narrow peak in Fig.2(a) due to the claimed lifetime in Fig.1(a). The width of a particle in the Q graph is 1/lifetime, and the claimed lifetime is so large that it's width must be tiny -- literally a line on the graph (smeared by detector resolution). But instead Fig.2(a) is totally smeared out. This must be some off-shell phenomena or fakes. It is not a particle.

      Also, the standard for claiming discovery of a new particle is 5 standard deviations. The reason for this is because we often see fluctuations below this that go away with more data. The small peaks he does claim after massaging his data are only three standard deviations.

      So, the claim that it's a particle is dubious. The claim of a discovery is absolutely wrong. This does not meet the criteria for a particle discovery in particle physics.

      • by radtea (464814)
        So, the claim that it's a particle is dubious.

        For some reason the IOP won't let me at the full paper even though I've set up an account, but the mention of emulsion detectors set my radar off. I did work on a possible axion candidate (the anomalous e+/e- pairs from ORANGE and EPOS experiments in Germany in the late 80's, whose results are now widely believed to have been fraudulent after the non-detection at Argonne) and one of the interesting things about digging through data that don't make no sense is t
  • That an independent researcher would headline something like this, rather than some "well-funded" group. How could you ever write a grant to research something that is free of charge?
    • by bcrowell (177657) on Wednesday December 06, 2006 @09:16PM (#17140096) Homepage

      That an independent researcher would headline something like this, rather than some "well-funded" group. How could you ever write a grant to research something that is free of charge?

      Hee hee...

      ...but seriously, one of the things that smells really fishy about this is that there are only two authors on the paper. Relativistic heavy-ion physics is a field that normally involves huge collaborations. You get maybe 50 or 100 authors on every paper. There's just no possible way, politically, that these two American guys could submit a proposal to CERN, do an experiment, publish results showing physics beyond the standard model, and not have any other names on the paper. If physicists at CERN believed the result, you'd better believe that some of their names would be on it.

  • An Axion was arrested today on suspicion of bad conduct, but was later let off without charge.

    Ba da ba dum, *pshhh*
  • A million spelling checkers are going to keep "correcting" it to axon or axiom or anion.
  • Three Decades!!! (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Nom du Keyboard (633989) on Wednesday December 06, 2006 @07:53PM (#17139140)
    3 decades.

    30 years.

    10,957 days.

    262,968 hours.

    15,778,080 minutes.

    946,684,800 seconds of your life.

    All to find a virtually infinitesimally particle with no charge at all.

    That, and mention on Slashdot: Priceless!!

  • So that's where I left it!
  • by thewiz (24994) * on Wednesday December 06, 2006 @09:13PM (#17140078)
    but this story left me feeling kind of neutral about the whole thing.
  • by Dr. Di-boson (1036622) on Wednesday December 06, 2006 @10:08PM (#17140574)
    This story is completely incorrect. The paper of Jain and Singh, available at http://www.iop.org/EJ/abstract/0954-3899/34/1/009 [iop.org] does not claim that the axion has been found. They simply report the observation of a couple of narrow resonances which can be interpreted as a signature of new particles. The scientific interpretation of these resonances is unclear at this point. In fact, astrophysical bounds completely rule out that one of these resonances is the so-called axion. I work in this field, so I know. I have no idea how the press is getting the idea that this means the axion has been found. It is *not* based on scientific facts.
  • by cosmicl (1034776) on Thursday December 07, 2006 @12:40AM (#17141738)
    A few things sound strange about this report. The title does not mention "observation of", or "evidence for" . Instead it is "Search for new particles decaying into electron pairs of mass below 100 MeV/c2" This means the author either chose not to use the stronger words of observation, or evidence in the title, or was unable to convince the referees to allow it. Nuclear emulsion is a low rate detector. If this effect is real, it reasonably likely that someone would have seen it by now, particularily the work did not require an accelerator. I did my dissertation in particle physics looking at an apparent enchancement in the number of +/- particle pairs produced with low relative velocity. They were produced by 28 GeV/c proton collisions on liquid hydrogen. I noticed an enhancement that at first look had the signature of some new particle or resonance. It was really exciting for a few days. It was not a new particle. Rather it was an enhancement, predicted back in the 1920's due to a modification of phase space arising from the attractive electromagnetic force between particles of opposite charge. It was interesting because the dominant force in the collision producing these particle was the much stronger strong-nuclear force. With a bit more work, I was able to show this enhancement for several types of charged particle pairs. (And finish my thesis.) I doubt this enhancement is what is happening in this axion claim. But there are mechanisms for creating enhancements that are not axions, especially if the statistics are limited and the number of trials (statistical penalty) not counted properly. Finding axions would be an extraordinary claim. It would need to be supported by extraordinary proof. It seems unlikely this paper contains either.

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