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LHC Spies Hints of Infant Universe 311

techbeat writes "The big bang machine may already be living up to its nickname, writes New Scientist. Researchers on the Compact Muon Solenoid (CMS) experiment at CERN's Large Hadron Collider near Geneva, Switzerland, have seen hints of what may be the hot, dense state of matter thought to have filled the universe in its first nanoseconds."
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LHC Spies Hints of Infant Universe

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  • Misleading title (Score:5, Informative)

    by BobGod8 ( 1123841 ) on Tuesday September 21, 2010 @05:05PM (#33655694)

    They have spied indications of conditions such as those postulated to exist during the beginning of OUR universe.

    Sadly, they have NOT seen indications of a NEW infant universe.

  • by JoshuaZ ( 1134087 ) on Tuesday September 21, 2010 @05:29PM (#33655918) Homepage

    Didn't they tally up the numbers in 1650. So it's at LEAST 6360 years old now.

    Usher published his calculation the late 1648. Note that he gives the initial date of creation as 4004 BC, Sunday October 23rd. That makes the current year 6014. However, he's not the first person to make such a calculation. The traditional Jewish calendar which has been used for about 1500 years at minimum, puts the current year as 5771 since creation. Some Christian denominations with literalist leanings have gotten other numbers as well. In general, a literal reading of the Bible gets you an age somewhere between 5400 and 7000 or so but the exact time span is complicated. For example, the book of Judges has irregularities and vague parts so working out how much time it is supposed to be is difficult (most likely Judges is a compilation of different stories from each of the tribes in the pre-monarchical period that then became ascribed to leaders of the united tribes. Some of the stories in Judges explicitly have leaders who only control a handful of the Twelve tribes). There are other issues. For example, the sections in Kings and Chronicles have different chronologies, giving different lengths of reign for some kings. Also, working out the chronology from the end of the First Kingdom to the middle of the Second Kingdom is frat with difficulties, including serious contradictions between the Biblical text and other extant texts from that time period. This is annoying to not just Biblical literalists but also historians and archaeologists.

  • by RAMMS+EIN ( 578166 ) on Tuesday September 21, 2010 @05:31PM (#33655938) Homepage Journal

    I am not an expert on this matter, but perhaps Wikipedia can help. Apparently,

    Under sufficiently extreme conditions, quarks may become deconfined and exist as free particles. [] In the course of asymptotic freedom, the strong interaction becomes weaker at higher temperatures. Eventually, color confinement would be lost and an extremely hot plasma of freely moving quarks and gluons would be formed. This theoretical phase of matter is called quark-gluon plasma [].

  • by Z00L00K ( 682162 ) on Tuesday September 21, 2010 @06:11PM (#33656254) Homepage

    Recursion: See Recursion

  • by wowbagger ( 69688 ) on Tuesday September 21, 2010 @07:23PM (#33656876) Homepage Journal

    It's called "asymptotic freedom".

    In a QGP, for the time and distance scales in question (very short and very small), a quark can act as though it is free to move, like a dog on a rope in the yard - as long as it doesn't go very far, it can move freely without the rope (a string of gluons) yanking it around. Since the density of the QGP is very high, just being able to roam his yard is enough - there's plenty of things to chase/bark at/hump in his yard, he doesn't NEED to go beyond it, and his rope doesn't change his behavior.

    However, as the QGP cools and expands, all the good stuff leaves the yard, and poor ol' DownBoy can't get at anything without running into the end of his rope.

    So as long as all the neighborhood UpBitches, LeptonCats, W-kids, Z-leaves, and other things are squeezed into his yard, DownBoy has asymptotic freedom. Let things cool, and his gluon leash is cramping his style again.

  • by Bootsy Collins ( 549938 ) on Tuesday September 21, 2010 @07:56PM (#33657230)

    I'm not sure I understand the questions in your post; so rather than trying to answer them, I'll just post what they're actually doing at the LHC and hope that it answers your questions.

    The LHC is a ring-shaped particle accelerator. It accelerates counter-rotating beams of subatomic particles (normally, protons) to extremely high energies, and arranges for the particles in the beams to "collide" in several collision halls located at various places around the ring. Fundamental particles can interact with each other in a number of ways which can result in (for example) the annihilation of the original particles and the creation of new ones. As the energy of the interaction/collision goes up, the manner of interactions available change -- that is, the nature of the fundamental forces between particles depends on the energy of their interaction. This is not speculation: we've already observed this sort of thing. At LEP (an earlier particle accelerator, also located at CERN like the LHC is), for instance, back in the 80s, we saw that at high enough energies, two fundamental forces (the electromagnetic force and the weak force) unify and become the electroweak interaction, as theorized years earlier. There are a number of reasons, mostly theoretical in nature, for why we expect similar changes to the fundamental interactions at even higher energies. So, we build accelerators that get particles moving to higher and higher speeds (energies) before allowing them to come together and interact, in order to see how they interact and whether there's evidence for the kind of new physics that people expect.

    The Big Bang comes in when you consider that the expansion of the Universe reduces the energy of the particles within it. If you imagine running the film backwards, looking into the past of the Universe, you get to a state where it was so hot that the atoms in the Universe would be ionized -- we had a sea of simple nuclei and electrons, with photons interacting with them. Run the film a little forward again, and as the Universe expands and the stuff within it cools, the electrons and nuclei combine to form atoms while around the same time, the likelihood of any one photon interacting with matter drops to where most photons in the Universe are likely to fly freely through it. Those photons are what we see in the Cosmic Microwave Background -- you may have heard of that. Now, consider still earlier times in the Universe. As you run the film backward, you'll eventually get to a point where the typical energies of matter are comparable to the binding energies of nuclei. Earlier than this in the Universe's history, nucleons (protons and neutrons) could come together and form simple nuclei, while nuclei could also break up as the energies of the nucleons typically exceeded the nuclear binding energies. As the Universe expanded and cooled, it passed through this transition where the nuclei that had formed stuck around. People call this era "Big Bang Nucleosynthesis" and have done calculations of how much hydrogen, helium, lithium, etc., should have been produced that do a pretty good job of matching what astronomical observations tell us. Now consider even earlier times. As you look further back, you'll get to a time where the average energies in the Universe are comparable to the binding energies of the nucleons themselves. People use the expression "quark-gluon plasma" to refer to the state of the Universe immediately preceding the transition when nucleons form for good. This is the state of matter they're talking about in TFA. In principle, if we collide subatomic particles together at sufficiently high energies, we can recreate (in a very very very small volume of space) the conditions that existed in the Universe at that time; observing the results of the collision will hopefully tell us whether such a state can indeed exist, as we think, and what it might have been like.

    But it's incorrect to think of this state as being the state of matter "immediately" after the Big Bang, because "immedia

  • by wrook ( 134116 ) on Wednesday September 22, 2010 @04:12AM (#33659720) Homepage

    It is an insightful comment, but it lacks enough information for some people to share the insight. Personally, I don't specifically blame people for an ignorance of scientific methods. It is extremely poorly taught (and very widely misunderstood by the majority of the population).

    To be succinct, a scientific "theory" can't be proven at all. We can observe the universe, but there is no way of knowing whether or not the universe is *actually* behaving in the same way we observe it. The Flying Spaghetti Monster may be altering our perception of the universe so it only *seems* be be working that way. Or something more subtle.

    Science makes observations. It then makes a model based on the observations. It then makes predictions based on the model. Finally it makes more observations and if they follow the predictions of the model, then we say the model is a good one. This is a scientific "theory". It's not the same as somebody's "theory" that rocks taste like marshmallows. It's something that has a simple model that is consistent with ongoing observations. Note that it is important that a scientific model makes predictions that can be observed. Without such observable predictions it is not a scientific theory. This is why many people object to calling String Theory a "theory". It currently has no predictions that we are in a position to observe.

    If a scientific model remains useful (i.e., it's predictions are still consistent with observation) for a very long period of time, we upgrade the "theory" to a "law". Does this mean it's proved at this point? No. For example, Newton's "laws" of gravitation are almost certainly wrong in certain situations. But they have been and remain extremely useful in other situations. Whether a "theory" or "law" of science is truth is not a topic that science tackles. We are only interested in consistent observable results.

    Before I conclude I want to quickly talk about the so called Occam's razor. If you have two equivalent models and one is more complex than the other, you should choose the simpler one. In other words, if you have two different models that explain the same observations and make the same observable predictions, then you should use the simpler one. Is that because it is more likely to be true? No. It's because it is simpler. Using a complex model when a simple one will do is just stupid.

    How does this relate to evolution vs creationism? Evolution is a set of scientific theories (it's not just one -- there are many many theories relating to evolution). There are models that explain the observations to date. There are predictions that can be observed. Those predictions have been observed. (For example, if you give a disease to a large population of rabbits in Australia, those who are susceptible to the disease will die and those that aren't will live. You will end up with a population of rabbits which is immune to the disease). We use the theories in evolution every day to deal with environmental issues, medicine, etc, etc.

    Creationism says that something created everything (what created everything, how it happened, etc, is dependent upon your belief system -- I won't try to go into more detail). Some observations are explained, but there is no model that I'm aware of. Using the bible (for instance) to make predictions about whether or not it is a good idea to try to wipe out Australian rabbits with a disease isn't going to get me anywhere.

    Creationism is an extremely poor scientific model. The theories related to evolution are actually extremely robust and very useful. When we are talking about science, we must talk about evolution. When we are talking about religion, I don't suppose it really matters if we talk about evolution or not. You are free to believe whatever you like -- this is known as freedom of religion. But it is very unproductive (in the extreme) to impose religious viewpoints on the scientific method. The two are not related in any way.

    I hope that helps some people who have a poor understanding of the scientific method (very likely not through their own fault).

  • by Bootsy Collins ( 549938 ) on Thursday September 23, 2010 @04:55PM (#33680218)

    No, sir, I disagree with that. It isn't just about models that can predict things.

    You would agree with me that archeology is a part of science, is it not?

    No, I would say it is not; although archaeologists certainly use some tools of science in their work. Archaeology to me is a branch of anthropology, and is no more a science than history is. Paleontology, OTOH, can be science.

    Evolution only explains how we got here, it makes no prediction about where we will be (and it can't).

    That's not how scientists use the word "prediction." In science, a prediction simply means "if I go and do this experiment or conduct this observation, what would my theory tell me I should find?" Evolutionary theory has made predictions about what we would expect to see in the fossil record, the comparative anatomy of genetically similar species (or, similarly, the genetic sequences present in morphologically similar species), the geographical distribution of species, etc.

    And I have no idea what the Big Bang predicts exactly. Maybe you can enlighten me.

    The dynamic nature of space (i.e. that it's not static). (observed)

    The existence of the cosmic microwave background, with a blackbody spectrum (observed) and an energy density that scales with redshift in a specific way (observed at multiple redshifts).

    The existence of the cosmic neutrino background, with an energy density that relates to the energy density of the CMBR in a specific way. (this is a prediction that hasn't yet been observed, by the way; but experimentally we're a long way away from being able to try.)

    The cosmic abundances of hydrogen, helium and lithium. (observed)

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