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Fermilab Scientists Discover New Particle 151

Posted by samzenpus
from the isn't-it-cute dept.
An anonymous reader writes "Fermilab today announced that scientists working at the CDF (Collision Detector at Fermilab) experiment confirmed the observation of a new particle, the Xi-sub-b. The Xi-sub-b is categorized as a baryon, which are formed of three quarks. Commonly known baryons include the proton as well as the neutron."
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Fermilab Scientists Discover New Particle

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  • Really new? (Score:4, Funny)

    by mswhippingboy (754599) on Wednesday July 20, 2011 @03:33PM (#36827946)
    My guess is they've discovered an old particle.
    • by Anonymous Coward

      One comment in, and already the comment section for this article is too pedantic to read. Good job /.

      (Now commences the -1 votes against this comment for hitting too close to home.)

      • by Chris Burke (6130)

        One comment in, and already the comment section for this article is too pedantic to read. Good job /.

        Sorry for being pedantic, but I think you meant too stupid.

    • Re:Really new? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by blair1q (305137) on Wednesday July 20, 2011 @03:37PM (#36828000) Journal

      Nope. They made them.

      It's possible, even likely, that something somewhere else (supernova, the big bang, etc.) made some in olden times. But these were brand-spankin' new.

      • Nope. They made them.

        It's possible, even likely, that something somewhere else (supernova, the big bang, etc.) made some in olden times. But these were brand-spankin' new.

        And I get called pedantic!

        Given that energy and/or matter cannot be created or destroyed, only converted from one form to another, I submit that nothing was "made" here, only converted from the same energy that had existed since the moment of the big bang.

        • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

          by Anonymous Coward

          Nope. They made them.

          It's possible, even likely, that something somewhere else (supernova, the big bang, etc.) made some in olden times. But these were brand-spankin' new.

          And I get called pedantic!

          Given that energy and/or matter cannot be created or destroyed, only converted from one form to another, I submit that nothing was "made" here, only converted from the same energy that had existed since the moment of the big bang.

          Umm... How do you think we make antimatter at CERN? How do you think antimatter behaves when exposed to matter? Matter can be made and destroyed, but energy can only be converted from one form to another (matter is just a form of energy). You may say semantics, but that is a huge difference.

          • by rivetgeek (977479)
            whomever is modding this down doesn't understand basic physics. This is correct. Matter can certainly become "not matter" E=MC^2
            • whomever is modding this down doesn't understand basic physics. This is correct. Matter can certainly become "not matter" E=MC^2

              Agreed. That would be through a conversion process and would require a great deal of energy, but none of it would be "destroyed", only converted. This is the first law of thermodynamics (conservation of energy). Basically, Energy can be neither created nor destroyed. It can only change forms. In any process in an isolated system, the total energy remains the same.

            • by noodler (724788)

              E=MC^2

              The M stands for Mass, not Matter.
              Not all Matter has Mass.
              So this equation only sometimes applies.

          • Your concept of antimatter is a bit simplistic. Matter (and antimatter) are forms of energy. If you expose matter to anti-matter you get (a huge amount) of energy. Nothing is lost in the process. Anti-matter is simply matter that is composed of antiparticles. Antiparticles are exactly the same as their particle counterpart, except with an opposite charge.

            Hawking was the only respected physicist I'm aware of in modern times that tried to claim that something (quantum information in this case) could be destro

            • by jbengt (874751)

              If you expose matter to anti-matter you get (a huge amount) of energy. Nothing is lost in the process.

              If you expose a tank to an anti-tank shell, you get a huge amount of energyh. Nothing is lost in the process.?
              Rather, by anyone's proper understanding of the word destroyed the tank and the anti-tank shell are both destroyed, even if the conservation of energy/matter holds.

              Your concept of antimatter is a bit simplistic.

              • If you expose matter to anti-matter you get (a huge amount) of energy. Nothing is lost in the process.

                If you expose a tank to an anti-tank shell, you get a huge amount of energyh. Nothing is lost in the process.?

                That's correct. In the context of physics (which is what we are discussing), NOTHING is lost. Every particle can be accounted for, either from the resulting debris, the heat generated or the energy dissipated into the air in the form of a blast wave.

                Rather, by anyone's proper understanding of the word.

                Again, context is important here. We're discussing physics, therefore, the colloquial understanding does not apply.

              • by Bengie (1121981)

                The tank nor the shell are destroyed, they're transformed.

        • by blueg3 (192743)

          That's not actually true of particle physics, but even if it was, you'd be wrong. The essence of the thing is not just its constituent parts. You can't look at an ingot of steel and say that it's a sword until it's been shaped. Likewise, you can have a bunch of energy, but it's not a Xi_b until you make it one.

          • You are looking at the sword wrong. It is just a lump of steel, just like any other.

            • by jbengt (874751)

              You are looking at the sword wrong. It is just a lump of steel, just like any other.

              Then I challenge you to a sword fight. You can take a lump of steel. I'll take one made of damascus steel by an expert swordmaker. Winner take all.

        • by blair1q (305137)

          You're right, and to prove it you didn't even make an argument.

          Why even have the word "make", since all things were made at the dawn of time and now we don't "make", we just "rearrange". What a stupid word this "make" is made out to be. It makes me so ANGRY.

          Zzzzzzzzz.....

        • by Tim C (15259)

          Given that energy and/or matter cannot be created or destroyed, only converted from one form to another, I submit that nothing was "made" here

          The process of assembling a chair from raw materials is called "making" a chair, not "converting lumber, nails, screws, glue, etc into" a chair. In the same way, these particles have been made.

      • by w0mprat (1317953)
        How about ultra high energy cosmic rays striking our atmosphere? The resulting collisions are far more energetic than any human experiment has so far achieved. They probably spit out a lot of stuff we haven't detected yet. http://www.fourmilab.ch/documents/OhMyGodParticle/ [fourmilab.ch]
    • by alta (1263)

      No, you're wrong. It IS old, but they descoverred it.

      • No, you're wrong. It IS old, but they descoverred it.

        That would make it a new discovery, not a new particle.

        • by flibuste (523578)

          No, you're wrong. It IS old, but they descoverred it.

          That would make it a new discovery, not a new particle.

          I would go as far as to say it is neither a new particle, or a new discovery. It is a confirmation that a particle predicted to exist by the Standard Model [wikipedia.org] actually does. Which will allow for (even) more confidence in this model and more discoveries to be made.

          But that is just me being pedantic ;-)

          • It is a confirmation that a particle predicted to exist by the Standard Model [wikipedia.org] actually does. Which will allow for (even) more confidence in this model and more discoveries to be made.

            I agree 100%. That's really what I was getting at in my original post, but it got picked apart. In my way of thinking, a "Discover New Particle" would entail the discovery of a particle that had not been previously contemplated, whether found through experimental or theoretical (mathematical) means.

  • Science! (Score:5, Informative)

    by blair1q (305137) on Wednesday July 20, 2011 @03:35PM (#36827968) Journal

    Favorite quotes from TFA:

    "existence of the Xi-sub-b has been predicted for some time"

    "the Xi-sub-b was observed in 25 instances among almost 500 trillion proton-antiproton collisions"

    • So are you saying they didn't "discover" it, just because they didn't see it and recognize it first? Right, and by that logic I suppose you don't think Columbus discovered America just because there were already tons of people there. How picky! Don't ruin good stories with your facts, you liberal.
  • Something felt totally different today :)

  • The real question is if this is something we can transplant.

  • I'm glad these folks continue to make discoveries and such, even after all the layoffs and knowing that their funding has been cut off after FY 2011.

    Good on them, and I hope they all find great places to work. Maybe across the pond where gov's still fund research.
  • Original paper (Score:5, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday July 20, 2011 @03:44PM (#36828094)

    http://arxiv.org/abs/1107.3753

    • by vlm (69642)

      Despite being posted by an AC, I can confirm thats the real thing and not a link to the 2G1C particle or something like that.

      Check out the multi-page list of authors... lots of people getting resume stuffing today.

  • by vlm (69642) on Wednesday July 20, 2011 @03:46PM (#36828104)

    If you'd prefer a link to the actual release instead ofconceivablytech's take on it:

    http://www.fnal.gov/pub/presspass/press_releases/2011/CDF-Xi-sub-b-observation-20110720.html [fnal.gov]

    does anyone have the arXiv link to the actual paper, not the PR fluff?

  • Yawn... (Score:3, Informative)

    by Entropius (188861) on Wednesday July 20, 2011 @03:49PM (#36828148)

    They haven't discovered a new fundamental particle. All they've done is to arrange some quarks into an arrangement we've already known about.

    This is an engineering accomplishment -- sticking together an up, a strange, and a bottom quark to make a bound state. It doesn't represent any great discovery in physics; people have known for a long while that such a particle exists, simply from the properties of quarks. In fact, lattice QCD has been able to simulate such things for a while now, and (although I have not seen such a result) could calculate its mass.

    Making a big deal about this could be a political move, since the Tevatron (the particle accelerator that the CDF is attached to) is due to shut down soon.

    • by vlm (69642)

      They haven't discovered a new fundamental particle. All they've done is to arrange some quarks into an arrangement we've already known about.

      This is an engineering accomplishment -- sticking together an up, a strange, and a bottom quark to make a bound state. It doesn't represent any great discovery in physics; people have known for a long while that such a particle exists, simply from the properties of quarks. In fact, lattice QCD has been able to simulate such things for a while now, and (although I have not seen such a result) could calculate its mass.

      Making a big deal about this could be a political move, since the Tevatron (the particle accelerator that the CDF is attached to) is due to shut down soon.

      The space shuttle is merely a peculiar arrangement of aluminum atoms, nothing to see there...

      • by Entropius (188861)

        There are a lot more ways to arrange aluminium atoms than there are to arrange three quarks in a baryon.

        • by tenco (773732)
          Confirming that this particle actually exists, otoh, is a completely different kind of story.
          • by Entropius (188861)

            Confirming that the bottom quark existed -- now *that* was a big, huge deal. But once that was done, the existence of this thing is pretty much a given.

            All the quarks have the same strong-force interactions, so you can just as readily make a baryon out of any combination of them. This is where the quark model came from -- the need to understand the proliferation of baryons.

            Everyone's familiar with the thing you make out of two ups and a down (proton) and two downs and an up (neutron). But there are also fou

    • by Anonymous Coward

      sticking together a top, a strange, and a bottom quark to make a bound state.

      Sounds more like they are downloading gay porn.

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      One we theorized existed. Now we know. Not all physics is done with paper and pen.

    • by rubycodez (864176)
      No, in the 70s we had a model which might or might not have given useful physical results. Now we discover a neutral combination of strange, up and bottom quarks that further prove the model is useful (an ongoing endeavor for decades). this is a big deal, a fundamental discovery in physics that further validates a model that needs continued validation, not a mere "engineering accomplishment".
      • by Entropius (188861)

        No, that model very much does *not* need continued validation. Perhaps its detailed consequences do, simply because QCD is nonperturbative and requires large Monte Carlo calculations to solve, but what combinations of quarks you can stick together as a baryon is not one of those things.

        It turns out that you can start with that model (the phrase "SU(3) Yang-Mills theory" and an extremely vague idea of what the quark masses are) and a handful (read: less than five) experimental inputs -- not even the quark ma

        • by lennier (44736)

          Many of those measurements are fantastically precise, and are sometimes even better than those done by experiments.

          That is an interesting definition of the word "measurement". Don't you perhaps mean "prediction"?

          It ain't measured until it's actually measured, in my book. But perhaps I'm old-fashioned.

          • by adri (173121)

            No, you're not old fashioned. It's that a lot of physicists have been stuck in the realm of physical philosophy for a while, waiting for funding and techniques to catch up to actually do the experiments they're dreaming up.

            It does seem that the core ideas of science are again being confused with philosophy and religious dogma. Oh, how the old is new again..

        • by rubycodez (864176)
          so those QCD calculations tell you if the Higgs exists and if it is composed of two tops? My former employer sure is spending a lot of time and money on Top experiments, must be a wee bit those numeric methods can't do....
          • by Entropius (188861)

            No, because the point of those top experiments isn't to explore the behavior of the top itself, but to use it as a way to probe the electroweak sector. The Higgs is not composed of two tops, incidentally -- it's a new thing, or in some models a composite made of several new things.

            Lattice QCD is tremendously successful at simulating the behavior of quarks interacting with other quarks. Such interactions are responsible for lots of things: the structure and properties of hadrons, the equation of state of qua

            • by rubycodez (864176)
              One competing theory is that the Higgs is indeed composed of two tops, needs that funny thing called "experimental verification". And of course, the Standard Model itself has the Higgs, how you can say it needs no ongoing verification? Sounds like ivory tower recluse talk. Reality trumps theory.
    • by blair1q (305137)

      You are confusing hypothesis and knowledge. Science doesn't.

    • by VynlSol (1687610)
      "They haven't discovered a new fundamental particle." Nor did they discover a new way to produce tequila. The one thing these two statements have in common? Neither premise was stated in TFA. It is a big deal, and I remain fascinated.
    • by slew (2918)

      They haven't discovered a new fundamental particle. All they've done is to arrange some quarks into an arrangement we've already known about. This is an engineering accomplishment

      Well if your definition of "engineering" includes crashing 500 trillion particles together and finding 25 particular combination of quarks in the resulting rubble... I would probably call this a research discovery (similar to discovering a needle in a haystack)...

      On the other hand, if they figured out a repeatable process to crash say a billion particles together and almost always get a yield of at least 25 of a particular combination, the development of that repeatable processes might qualify as "engineer

  • The Xi-sub-b is categorized as are baryon, which are formed of three quarks.

    'Are' baryon... Really?

    Then again, quoting further:

    ...the Tevatron is not a dedicated bottom quark “factpory.”

    Sigh...

  • I've always wanted a particle named after me and feel entitled to it.
  • Useful? (Score:1, Flamebait)

    by michael_cain (66650)
    With no disrespect, does the observation of this very short-lived particle take us anywhere useful? Cleaner fission? Fusion? New nano materials that would change our lives? Speaking practically, we can't afford to fund every particle physics experiment that researchers can think of. Why was this a good one to have funded?
    • by cosm (1072588)

      With no disrespect, does the observation of this very short-lived particle take us anywhere useful?

      Since they hypothesized its existence prior to experimental evidence and discovery, it helps confirm developed notions and theories inherent in the standard model. Useful to who: particle physicist and folks needing some publicity to keep those kinds of programs alive in these days of spending cuts, not so useful for the general public in the short term. Long term, who knows, and for me it is more motivation for me to not drop out of my BS Physics program knowing that we don't know it all.

      • by lennier (44736)

        more motivation for me to not drop out of my BS Physics program knowing that we don't know it all.

        Um, but doesn't "we discovered a particle predicted by existing theory" rather suggest that we do know it all and there's nothing useful left to be done in particle physics?

        I hope that's not true, of course, but this seems the "yawn, next" kind of discovery rather than the "hmmmm, what the?" kind.

        • by cosm (1072588)
          Here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_unsolved_problems_in_physics [wikipedia.org]. We most definitely do not know it all, we know much, but there remain many unresolved questions that have real world implications outside of research labs. Even if we find out that all the particles in the standard model exist and behave as theories show they should, that still doesn't reconcile quantum mechanics with general relativity.
    • Re:Useful? (Score:4, Insightful)

      by blueg3 (192743) on Wednesday July 20, 2011 @04:37PM (#36828726)

      You're thinking of engineering or applied science at best. You won't know the benefits of fundamental research until later. You know, little things like electricity and semiconductors.

    • by Telvin_3d (855514)

      Yes. Based on our understanding of how the universe works we predicted this particle existed. We have now proven that it does exist. Thus we have additional evidence that things work the way we think they do at very, very low levels.

    • by diegocg (1680514)

      It's a step forward in the race against human ignorance.

      Also, the Fermilab is cheap. Their annual budget is equivalent to one day of war in Afganistan.

    • by NoSig (1919688)
      Number theory was known as the most useless of all branches of mathematics, yet now you couldn't pay your bills online without the public key cryptography it has made possible. By your standard of what should be investigated, we would still be banging big rocks together. Now we are banging tiny, tiny atoms together. That's progress.
      • by slew (2918)

        Number theory was known as the most useless of all branches of mathematics, yet now you couldn't pay your bills online without the public key cryptography it has made possible. By your standard of what should be investigated, we would still be banging big rocks together. Now we are banging tiny, tiny atoms together. That's progress.

        Public key cryptography for paying your bills online might not be the best example. Nearly all data encryption today is symmetric instead of PKC (other than session key). Session keys could have been created/distributed w/o PKC, but it's more problematic (might require tokens like RSA-secure ID or pads to validate identities instead of RNG+certificates), but PKC seems like a convenient way to do it for now (until we discover that factoring or discrete log problems aren't as secure as we think they are or

        • by Chris Burke (6130)

          Um, RSA SecureID or other multi-factor authentication does not solve the private key distribution problem nor does it try to. It still requires PKC to obtain a private session key, unless you have already exchanged keys off-line.

          It is true that it's more about trusting the infrastructure, but there'd be no infrastructure to trust without a way to solve the key distribution problem. PKC is the only method today to do it on the same untrusted network that you will be communicating over.

    • Re:Useful? (Score:4, Funny)

      by PPH (736903) on Wednesday July 20, 2011 @05:07PM (#36829044)

      Yes. Speaker cables.

      We haven't decided whether Xi-sub-b free cables or cables with a surplus of Xi-sub-b will sell better. But we'll be ready when marketing figures it out.

    • by blair1q (305137)

      I'm not sure we funded it on purpose.

      It's something that was found in data taken by the Tevatron, which we funded on purpose because it could tell us a lot of things.

      Given the enormous ratio of attempts to successes, it's likely that they never even did one run trying to cause these to appear. They were probably tiny gaps in tracks taken for other purposes, data-mined and correlated to the theoretical model.

      So we probably got it for free.

      • by lennier (44736)

        the Tevatron, which we funded on purpose because it could tell us a lot of things.

        And did the Tevatron, in fact, tell us those other things it was funded to find out? Or do they continue to be things that it could have told us but didn't?

  • Could someone more knowledgeable clarify the following to me?

    Was this particle made "by chance" (i.e. collisioning two particles and hoping something "new" will be made) or is was this made on purpose (i.e. We are trying to create the Xi_sub_b by colliding this stuff this and this way.. success! And this process would be repeatable)

    Pardon my ignorance, but what would be the big deal about discovering that particles that could exist in theory have been artificially created, maybe for a very short amount of t

    • by Tsiangkun (746511)
      Really ? You know, if one can't find particles that a model predicts, the model is likely to be crap. Being able to validate a model, lends credit to assumptions made in developing the model.
    • by blair1q (305137)

      They probably found anomalies in tracks in other experiments, and didn't figure out what they were until several of them had been observed. 2.5e1 hits out of 5e14 attempts suggests strongly though that someone went looking for any anomaly they could find in old data. It's hard to believe anyone would notice them in any particular plotted screenshot. Or maybe they took the catalog of predicted particles and tried to match it to existing data. Whichever, it's good science.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    considering the nice letters and abbreviations they use, you can also produce other interesting acronyms :
    CCD, BUT, TSS ...

  • Tommaso has a short piece [science20.com] up on this result and will be adding more. He is a member of CDF as well.

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