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Scientists Find Long-Sought Majorana Particle 128

Posted by Soulskill
from the checking-under-all-the-couch-cushions dept.
New submitter boner writes "In a follow-up to an earlier Slashdot story, scientists at the Technical University of Delft in the Netherlands yesterday published their findings that they have indeed found the Majorana particle. The announcement on the university website provides both a summary of the academic paper (PDF) and background of this groundbreaking discovery. Quoting: 'Majorana fermions are very interesting – not only because their discovery opens up a new and uncharted chapter of fundamental physics; they may also play a role in cosmology. A proposed theory assumes that the mysterious ‘dark matter, which forms the greatest part of the universe, is composed of Majorana fermions. Furthermore, scientists view the particles as fundamental building blocks for the quantum computer.'"
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Scientists Find Long-Sought Majorana Particle

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  • by gestalt_n_pepper (991155) on Friday April 13, 2012 @01:04PM (#39675833)

    Or was it just me?

    • by atsabig10fo (857922) on Friday April 13, 2012 @01:07PM (#39675887)
      it wasn't just you :)
      • In particular what the paper referees were smoking when they let the first sentence of the paper:

        All elementary particles have an antiparticle of opposite charge

        get published. That would be "all" except for the photon, gluon and Z which are their own anti-particle and possibly the neutrino which might actually be a majorana fermion (we just don't know yet - underground experiments are looking into this). The webpage article is no better because it gets hopelessly confused about the difference between a fundamental particle and a condensed matter excitation. However at l

        • by honkycat (249849) on Friday April 13, 2012 @10:36PM (#39682299) Homepage Journal

          The statement is perfectly true as written. Every particle has an antiparticle, not necessarily a distinct antiparticle, and its antiparticle has the opposite charge. (Hint: zero is its own opposite.)

          • Sorry - should have included more context. The full sentence reads:

            All elementary particles have an antiparticle of opposite charge (for example, an electron and a positron); the meeting of a particle with its antiparticle results in the annihilation of both.

            which requires a distinct antiparticle.

      • by Capsaicin (412918) *

        it wasn't just you

        Which just goes to show the detrimental effect that majorana can have on your cognitive abilitittties.

    • by bistromath007 (1253428) on Friday April 13, 2012 @01:09PM (#39675945)
      You found WHAT playing scientist? You tell Jimmy and the rest of those kids to get the hell out of my basement right now!
    • by srussia (884021)
      Relax, it's just oregano [wikipedia.org]
    • by Anonymous Coward

      Tripped me up for a minute, actually.

    • by ko9 (946154)
      the Marijuana particle: found in the Netherlands, of course
      as for the Hicks-Boozehound particle: they're looking in Switzerland, but if you ask me they'd be better of scouting the southern USA
      the names for these particles are a bit strange, but not without a certain charm imho.. ;-)
      • by chaim79 (898507)

        It's a pretty stiff competition between Switzerland and Wisconsin, USA for who will find the Hicks-Boozehound particle, for the moment I think WI is in the lead after formalizing the "Teeth to Tattoo" ratio, and important step in finding the Hicks-Boozehound particle.

        • by mcgrew (92797) *

          You guys are both wrong. If it's in Anerica it's obviously Kentucky, the only place you can make Bourbon, and home of Hicks and rednecks, and if it's in Europe it's obviously Irish.

          How many Irish does it take to change a light bulb? Three. One to hold the bulb and two to drink until the room spins. Obviously, the Irish will find the Hicks-Boozehound particle, particularly if it's an Irishman who's immigrated to Kentucky.

    • by digitig (1056110)
      It wasn't just you.
    • Well I read the damn thing as Majoram, as in the damn spice. Planning dinner right now and I just had to wonder what in hell these idiots are doing with majoram

    • While an associate researcher gave a quick tour of the 50 tonne target detetor reporters he drew out a small metal drawer in th side of the machine and said "...plus it has a place for your weed, man."
    • Or was it just me?

      Let me read this again at 4:20 Eastern and I will let you know what I find.

    • I did some serious research in Marijuana particles back when I was studying physics. :)
    • We should just call it the Munchies Particle.

    • I was like "a particle? Jeez they're desperate."

    • I suspect the word "marijuana" has a much higher probability in most people's minds, even among Slashdot readers, than "Majorana." Most people simply have not thought about it enough to make conditioning on "particle" sufficient to change this. Although after this article it should change for many Slashdot readers.
  • Not Fundamental (Score:5, Informative)

    by PvtVoid (1252388) on Friday April 13, 2012 @01:11PM (#39675973)
    This is not like finding the Higgs Boson. The majorana fermion they created was (hard to tell exactly how from TFA) a condensed matter excitation with the properties of a majorana fermion, not a fundamental particle. Pretty cool though.
    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by dintech (998802)

      This is not like finding the Higgs Boson

      That's just the bong talking man.

    • Right. So it's kind of misleading to mention dark matter in this context. This "quasiparticle" is not dark matter.

      • nah, man. but if you've put enough majorana particles in the air, it can get pretty hazy.
        • by kencurry (471519)

          nah, man. but if you've put enough majorana particles in the air, it can get pretty hazy.

          That would be purple haze... (jimi hendrix reference for you youngsters)

          • by dwye (1127395)

            nah, man. but if you've put enough majorana particles in the air, it can get pretty hazy.

            That would be purple haze... (jimi hendrix reference for you youngsters)

            Who is Jimi Hendricks, grandpa?

            And what was his unit, rank, and service number before he left the US Army? Seriously, if they don't recognize the reference to one of his most popular songs (as measured by radio play on FM radio, sponsored by stores with names like Heads Together) why would they recognize his name?

  • by Anonymous Coward

    My understanding is that what's been discovered is a pseudo-particle, a quantum excitation which behaves like a Majorana particle, not an actual particle like an electron or a neutron.

  • MS (Score:4, Interesting)

    by gadzook33 (740455) on Friday April 13, 2012 @01:15PM (#39676059)
    Did I read the article correctly that this was funded by Microsoft? That's sort of coolish...
    • Yep.
      Microsoft Corporation Station Q.

      (What's Station Q?)

    • by Anonymous Coward

      I know it is popular to view MS as if they eat babies... But they actually have some very cool research going on.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      Did I read the article correctly that this was funded by Microsoft? That's sort of coolish...

      So it's probably already patented.. That, and we'll all be forced to run Windows 9 on our quantum computers. How is that cool?

      • by Anonymous Coward

        You clearly don't understand quantum computing if you think it'll run Windows 9.

        A proper quantum computer will be running a superposition of Windows 0.8beta through Windows Finale. Unfortunately, it will usually waveform collapse into ME with a Metro interface.

        • the prophet speaks. that's exactly why microsoft wants this. then they can license the patent to facebook, to show you all of your potential friends from all the parallel universes in which you actually meet the people on your list.
      • by gadzook33 (740455)
        You're right, better that our quantum computers only be available in one model that's produced by one company. Or maybe it'll run an operating system that comes in 101 different flavors. Who wants a generic, hardware agnostic, fairly open and friendly OS after all?
        • You're right, better that our quantum computers only be available in one model that's produced by one company. Or maybe it'll run an operating system that comes in 101 different flavors. Who wants a generic, hardware agnostic, fairly open and friendly OS after all?

          ROFL Hardware agnostic? Fairly open? Friendly? You must be a Microserf.

          Have you ever heard of Windows Genuine DisAdvantage? Upgrade your graphics card and The Allseeing Eye of Redmond decides to cut you off from the eternal stream of XP patches.

          The only way to lift that spell that is to drop all of your XP licenses in the fires of Doom Mountain. Not easy, since "one does not walk simply into Redmond".

          • by gadzook33 (740455)
            Save it pal, I've coded on both linux and MS for years and you're not going to convince me that the experience on linux comes anywhere close to what it is on windows. Go sell crazy somewhere else, we're all stocked up here.
            • Save it pal, I've coded on both linux and MS for years and you're not going to convince me that the experience on linux comes anywhere close to what it is on windows.

              Hey, I think it's great you can write your Minesweeper clones in Visual Basic on XP! Too bad MS sends the *user* 'critical' XP updates that break 3rd party firewalls, break Wordpad backward compatibility, or install an unwanted new version of IE. It makes you hold your breath every time you boot, and keeps you on your toes.

              Oh, and by the way, I just LOVE flamewars about a soon-to-be obsolete OS with random slashdot posters!

              • by gadzook33 (740455)

                Oh, and by the way, I just LOVE flamewars about a soon-to-be obsolete OS with random slashdot posters!

                I can tell.

  • A particle that is its own anti-particle? Sounds pretty special! Of course, that would also describe photons, the commonest particle in the universe.

    Come on, science reporting.

    • by PvtVoid (1252388) on Friday April 13, 2012 @01:27PM (#39676255)

      A particle that is its own anti-particle? Sounds pretty special! Of course, that would also describe photons, the commonest particle in the universe.

      Come on, science reporting.

      Photons are bosons. Bosons being their own antiparticle is nothing unusual. A fermion that is its own antiparticle has never been observed in nature before.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by mark_osmd (812581)

        A fermion that is its own antiparticle has never been observed in nature before.

        There is one possible exception, the neutrino is a half spin fermion and if it really is zero mass it would be its own anti-particle. But recent evidence suggests a tiny but non-zero mass so if that's true it's not. Maybe one experiment would be to try to observe neutrino-antineutrino annihilation, if that occurs then they are Dirac fermions http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Majorana_fermion [wikipedia.org]

  • by jstave (734089) on Friday April 13, 2012 @01:27PM (#39676251)
    From one of the articles: "a particle that is its own anti-particle" Can one of the physics geeks on here explain how that works? I was under the impression that when particle and antiparticle meet, they go boom. How can this thing not annihilate? Or is it that this bit of matter *can't* turn into energy? The wikipedia entry on this didn't make any sense to me.
    • by ceoyoyo (59147) on Friday April 13, 2012 @01:38PM (#39676449)

      When two of them meet, they annihilate. Note from the article that there are two of these things, and they are at opposite ends of the nanowire. Presumably when you turn off the power or cooling they get together and turn back into energy.

      Dark matter is suspected to be the same - when two particles meet, they annihilate, potentially giving us a signal we can measure. They don't meet very often though, because dark matter barely interacts with anything, including itself.

      • by jstave (734089)
        OK, thanks. That makes some sort of sense (in the "I don't understand the math" kind of way). So what's the difference between two particles meeting and a single particle by itself? The former is the same as the latter, just double the amount, right?
        • by ceoyoyo (59147)

          Particles have all sorts of properties that may have to be conserved in any decay, including annihilation. Any stable Majorana particle would have to be only able to decay into energy if it meets another particle with complementary quantum numbers.

        • by dissy (172727)

          So what's the difference between two particles meeting and a single particle by itself? The former is the same as the latter, just double the amount, right?

          Wouldn't that be half the amount, not double?

          After all
          if particles = 1 then amount = 1
          if particles = 2 then annihilate =1 && amount = 0

          Of course zero can't be half of something, and you can't have twice of zero, so now I'm just more confused!

    • by History's Coming To (1059484) on Friday April 13, 2012 @02:23PM (#39677161) Journal
      Not a technical explanation, but a good one I heard: if you look at a Feynman diagram (they're pretty easy to understand for a layman) you'll find that you can read them in any direction - if you go "against the time arrows" you're just looking at the antiparticle versions interacting instead, it's still a valid diagram. However, the photons don't have arrows as they don't experience time, so they're identical in either time direction, and therefore their own antiparticles.

      The interesting thing here is that it's a massive particle with that property, rather than a massless one.
    • by blueg3 (192743)

      "Go boom" is just an inaccurate way of describing a particle-antiparticle interaction. Particle interactions generally involve some particles going in and some other particles, or particles in different states, coming out. If a particle and it's antiparticle interact, neither of them are products of the interaction. (Often the product is just photons.)

      It's in theory more impressive if you have bulk antimatter, since matter holds a ton of energy. Individual particles, though, have relatively little energy, s

  • I know that some sorts of proposed Majorana particles would require extending the Standard Model. Is this discovery consistent with the Standard Model or a conservative extension thereof?
  • by forand (530402) on Friday April 13, 2012 @01:38PM (#39676451) Homepage
    The summary makes it sound like there is a particle that physicists have been seeking called a Majorana particle when in fact a Majorana particle is named because of its quantum field theory behavior. In this case NO particle was discovered but an excitation of a novel condensed matter state which behaves in an analogous way to a Majorana fermion. So in conclusion this very interesting discovery was both summarized and publicized in a misleading way.
    • by Anonymous Coward

      NO particle was discovered but an excitation of a novel condensed matter state which behaves in an analogous way to a Majorana fermion.

      How perfect is the analogy? If there's no difference, there's no reason to say that it's not a particle. Maybe the "real" particles are similarly excitations of yet other phenomena.

  • It works like this, the more you find out the less you know because of exponential growth in knowledge does not gain wisdom does it now? No big deal. Higgs maybe bigger deal. They know nothing. It's the force, that is what holds it all together. Yoda--

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Can I make my own Tina Majorino?

  • (like myself), here is the Wikipedia link [wikipedia.org]

    A Majorana fermion is a fermion that is its own anti-particle.

    What the heck?! I am starting to think that my knowledge of physics will never reach even a mediocre level just because every time I start to think that I got some stuff covered, some smart-ass physicist comes by and pulls jet another particle out of his, ehem, hat.

  • LOL, that's how I first read it. I thought, "What have they been smoking" followed by "Cool, there's no stopping it now".

    I just thought I'd share that with all.

  • Oh. "Majorana", not "My Sharona" [wikipedia.org]. Never mind.
  • Why would anyone want to waste these particles on quantum computers, when they could be used to power spaceship engines for intergalactic delivery services?
  • I believe (in a metaphysical sense) that all particles will be found to be "quasiparticles" in sence that they are emergent from some other phenomena. So, stop hating on the fact that this is not a "fundamental" particle. The idea of the quasiparticle is one of the most significant physics developments evar.

    In other news:
    Condensed matter physicists enherit the earth!!!!!

  • by Camel Pilot (78781) on Friday April 13, 2012 @03:59PM (#39678529) Homepage Journal

    "Scientists Find Long-Sought Majorana Particle" and they had all raided the vending machines down the hall and where found in their lab coats sitting cross legged in a circle each in turn sharing there own far-out theories of reality... "hey man don't Bogart that marjorana particle pass in on man".

  • It was in this piece of unobtanium I had floating around
  • I parsed it as Marijuana Particle too.

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