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Physicists Test Symmetry Principle With an Antimatter Beam 106

Hugh Pickens DOT Com writes "Jon Butterworth has an interesting article at The Guardian about the idea of standpoint-independence in physics and the absence of 'privileged observers.' The ASACUSA experiment at CERN plans to make a beam of antimatter, and measure the energy levels as the beam travels in a vacuum, away from the magnetic fields and away from any annihilating matter. The purpose of the experiment is to test CPT (Charge/Parity/Time) inversion to determine if the universe would look the same if we simultaneously swapped all matter for antimatter, left for right, and backwards in time for forwards in time. In string theory for example it is possible to violate this principle so the ASACUSA people plan to measure those antihydrogen energy levels very precisely. Any difference would mean a violation of CPT inversion symmetry. Physicist Ofer Lahav has some interesting observations in the article about how difficult it is these days for physicists to develop independent points of view on cosmology. 'Having been surrounded by a culture in which communication is seen as generally a good thing, this came as a surprise to me, but it is a very good point,' writes Butterworth. 'We gain confidence in the correctness of ideas if they are arrived at independently from different points of view.'

A good example is the independent, almost simultaneous development of quantum electrodynamics by Richard Feynman, Julian Schwinger and Sin-Itiro Tomonaga. They all three had very different approaches, and Tomonaga in particular was working in wartime Japan, completely cut off from the others. Yet Freeman Dyson was able to prove that the theories each had provided for the quantum behavior of electrons and photons were not only all equally good at describing nature, but were all mathematically equivalent — that is, the same physics, seen from different points of view. Whether we are using thought experiments, antimatter beams, sophisticated instrumentation, or sending spaceships to the outer solar system, Butterworth says the ability for scientists to loosen the constraints of our own point of view is hugely important. 'It is also, I think, closely related to the ability to put ourselves into the place of other people in society and to perceive ourselves as seen by them — to check our privilege, if you like. Imperfect and difficult, but a leap away from a childish self-centeredness and into adulthood.'"
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Physicists Test Symmetry Principle With an Antimatter Beam

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  • Cambridge Dogma (Score:2, Insightful)

    by globaljustin ( 574257 ) on Monday March 03, 2014 @09:35AM (#46386959) Journal

    What I found most interesting is what the head researcher found interesting:

    Physicist Ofer Lahav has some interesting observations in the article about how difficult it is these days for physicists to develop independent points of view on cosmology

    In other words: Cambridge (Hawking) Dogma

    Cosmology has become a branding exercise for universities & their long research grant coat tails. It has been, in my view, hijacked by ideologically/branding driven pseudo-science that seeks to purvey an institutional view rather than reflect accurate science.

    Stephen Hawking is a main offender. It's all about him being right that the universe does *not* end in heat death

  • Re:Culture Dogma (Score:5, Insightful)

    by the eric conspiracy ( 20178 ) on Monday March 03, 2014 @10:25AM (#46387207)

    > For instance, the belief that the world began in flames is a religious ideology that is thousands of years old, yet persists to this day veiled beneath the Big Bang theory.

    Correlation does not imply causation.

  • by Culture20 ( 968837 ) on Monday March 03, 2014 @10:28AM (#46387221)

    I am STILL stymied by a question he asked once:

    "Why does a mirror reverse left-and-right but not up-and-down?"

    Turn your head 90 degrees so that one eye is higher than the other. Ta Da, it now "reverses up and down."

  • Re:Cambridge Dogma (Score:3, Insightful)

    by UnknownSoldier ( 67820 ) on Monday March 03, 2014 @10:38AM (#46387273)

    Max Plank back in 1984 noticed how Science had become Dogmatic / Religious when he said:

    A new scientific truth does not triumph by convincing its opponents and making them see the light, but rather because its opponents eventually die, and a new generation grows up that is familiar with it.

    Which can be paraphrased as:

    "Science advances one funeral at a time."

    Science was never about the pursuit of Truth, but about the Removal of Falsehood. Unfortunately far too many scientists have their sacred cows that they are unwilling to give up: Standard Model, Big Bang, etc.

    > Stephen Hawking is a main offender

    Don't worry about him. He will be made a fool of in 10 years with his xenophobia.

    Dark Matter / Dark Energy is the Ether of the new millennium.

  • Re:Cambridge Dogma (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Baloroth ( 2370816 ) on Monday March 03, 2014 @11:18AM (#46387543)

    Except that's not really true. Our current Big Bang cosmological theory rose into the forefront (despite being derisively named the "Big Bang" by the proponents of the earlier reigning cosmological theory of the steady-state universe) when the cosmic microwave background was discovered. Quantum mechanics is the reigning theory for explaining particle behavior at very small scales, despite Einstein's well-known dislike for the theory. The fact is: you don't have to convince your opponents, you have to convince everyone else. It doesn't matter if you have a bunch of scientists unwilling to give up their "sacred cows", because you have a bunch of other scientists who have no stake in one theory or the other but are perfectly capable of judging between the evidence. Thats really the key: scientific progress is made by the community testing and accepting theories. Of course, some people (like Hawking) have a significant influence, but it's not like Hawking is never willing to admit he's wrong either: he has famously made several bets with John Preskill/Kip Thorne about singularities and black holes, which he has lost (and admitted to losing).

  • by Sockatume ( 732728 ) on Monday March 03, 2014 @12:47PM (#46388107)

    I think that says more about your misconceptions regarding "check your privilege": the idea is that you become aware of your own observer biases and account for them. It's an idea that's practically created for scientists.

  • Re:Culture Dogma (Score:5, Insightful)

    by ceoyoyo ( 59147 ) on Monday March 03, 2014 @01:20PM (#46388339)

    Another "science" critic that doesn't understand what science is.

    If you take a fuzzy creation story or prophecy you can make it fit anything you want. The myths that survive ARE the fuzzy ones that can be made to fit anything. It IS kind of like science actually: the scientific theories that survive are the ones that fit. Except science has the additional criteria that they have to also be as simple as possible and make specific predictions.

1 Angstrom: measure of computer anxiety = 1000 nail-bytes