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Thursday, 5 July 2012

Higgs Boson Discovered

Read the Report on the Higgs Discovery

Tuesday, 13 December 2011

Higgs Signal Seen at CERN

CERN researchers speaking at the seminar (happening now - watch at have reported on a signal recorded by the ATLAS experiment that is indicative of the Higgs boson.

The results appear to show a Higgs particle decaying into two photons.

The signal is far bigger than the calculated background signal (i.e. it's very unlikely to have occurred purely by coincidence). This is the clearest evidence so far of a Higgs particle.

The signal has been detected at an energy of 126 GeV - a plausible estimate of the Higgs mass. Further results from ATLAS (currently being discussed) show a signal at a similar energy for the decay of the Higgs boson into leptons. This second piece of evidence backs up the significance of the strong 126 GeV two-photon-decay signal

Stay tuned to find out how conclusive the findings are. The big question is whether the CMS experiment has observed the same signals.

What is the Higgs?

A simple but charming explanation of the basic principle of the Higgs theory.

LHC Higgs Results Seminar 13/12/11

Researchers at the Large Hadron Collider at CERN will hold a special seminar today, at which they are expected to discuss new evidence regarding the existence of the Higgs Boson.

Will this be the confirmation the scientific community has been waiting for since Peter Higgs first came up with the iconic Higgs theory to explain how particles get their mass? Or just another false alarm?

Watch this space for further news.

Tuesday, 13 September 2011

New (Earth-like?) Planet Found

Vela Constellation
Credit: IAU and Sky & Telescope magazine
A new exoplanet, labelled HD85512b,  has been found in the "Goldilocks Zone" around a star in the Vela constellation.

The "Goldilocks Zone" refers to the region around a star whose distance from the star means that the temperature is in the correct range for liquid water to be present. Our own planet, of course, inhabits this zone. If we are hoping to find another Earth-like planet out there, the "Goldilocks Zone" is the place to look.

The new exoplanet, HD85512b, is thought to be slightly warmer than Earth - around 30 to 50 degrees celsius, and very humid. For it to retain liquid water on its surface, and therefore be habitable, it would need to have at least 50 % cloud cover. It is not yet known whether this is the case. However, out of the 562 exoplanets discovered so far, HD85512b appears to stand the best chance of being habitable.

arXiV: 1108.3561

Read more about the search for exoplanets

Wednesday, 31 August 2011

Controlling the Weather with Laser Beams

Researchers at the University of Geneva have developed a technique for making rain using a laser beam. Field experiments have been carried out close to Lake Geneva, with encouraging results.

So far, the technology has succeeded in creating tiny droplets of water, less than 0.01 millimeters in diameter. For the particles to be heavy enough fall as rain, they would have to be at least one hundred times bigger. However, it may be possible to induce these tiny droplets in water that is headed towards a natural feature such as a mountain range. As the air is forced to rise over the mountain range, it will cool, causing the droplets to grow larger until they are eventually heavy enough to fall as rain.

So how does it work? The laser beam causes particles of nitric acid to form in the cloud. Nitric acid forms bonds with water vapour in the air, acting as a means of bringing water molecules together so that condensation into liquid water takes place. The nitric acid-bonded water droplets have increased stability, so are less likely to re-evaporate than naturally formed droplets.

To read more about the significance of the technology, and the old silver iodide method that it could potentially replace, follow this link:

Making Rain With Laser Beams

*Image courtesy of Flickr user openuser