Nanotechnology Now

Our NanoNews Digest Sponsors



Heifer International

Wikipedia Affiliate Button


android tablet pc

Home > Press > For One Tiny Instant, Physicists May Have Broken a Law of Nature

This image of a full-energy collision between gold ions shows the paths taken by thousands of subatomic particles produced during the impact.
This image of a full-energy collision between gold ions shows the paths taken by thousands of subatomic particles produced during the impact.

Abstract:
For a brief instant, it appears, scientists at Brook­haven National Laboratory on Long Island recently discovered a law of nature had been broken.

By Suzanne Taylor Muzzin

For One Tiny Instant, Physicists May Have Broken a Law of Nature

New Haven, CT | Posted on March 24th, 2010

Action still resulted in an equal and opposite reaction, gravity kept the Earth circling the Sun, and conservation of energy remained intact. But for the tiniest fraction of a second at the Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider (RHIC), physicists created a symmetry-breaking bubble of space where parity no longer existed.

Parity was long thought to be a fundamental law of nature. It essentially states that the universe is neither right- nor left-handed — that the laws of physics remain unchanged when expressed in inverted coordinates. In the early 1950s it was found that the so-called weak force, which is responsible for nuclear radioactivity, breaks the parity law. However, the strong force, which holds together subatomic particles, was thought to adhere to the law of parity, at least under normal circumstances.

Now this law appears to have been broken by a team of about a dozen particle physicists, including Jack Sandweiss, Yale's Donner Professor of Physics. Since 2000, Sandweiss has been smashing the nuclei of gold atoms together as part of the STAR experiment at RHIC, a 2.4-mile-circumference particle accelerator, to study the law of parity under the resulting extreme conditions.

The team created something called a quark-gluon plasma — a kind of "soup" that results when energies reach high enough levels to break up protons and neutrons into their constituent quarks and gluons, the fundamental building blocks of matter.

Theorists believe this kind of quark-gluon plasma, which has a temperature of four trillion degrees Celsius, existed just after the Big Bang, when the universe was only a microsecond old. The plasma "bubble" created in the collisions at RHIC lasted for a mere millionth of a billionth of a billionth of a second, yet the team hopes to use it to learn more about how structure in the universe — from black holes to galaxies — may have formed out of the soup.

When the gold nuclei, traveling at 99.999% of the speed of light, smashed together, the plasma that resulted was so energetic that a tiny cube of it with sides measuring about a quarter of the width of a human hair would contain enough energy to power the entire United States for a year.

It was the equally gargantuan magnetic field produced by the plasma — the strongest ever created — that alerted the physicists that one of nature's laws might have been broken.

"A very interesting thing happened in these extreme conditions," Sandweiss says. "Parity violation is very difficult to detect, but the magnetic field in conjunction with parity violation gave rise to a secondary effect that we could detect."

Sandweiss and the team — which includes Yale physics research scientists Evan Finch, Alexei Chikanian and Richard Majka — found that quarks of a like sign moved together: Up quarks moved along the magnetic field lines, while down quarks traveled against them. That the quarks could tell the difference in directions suggested to the researchers that symmetry had been broken.

The results were so unexpected that Sandweiss and his colleagues waited more than a year to publish them, spending that time searching for an alternative explanation. The physicist is still quick to point out that the effect only suggests parity violation — it doesn't prove it — but the STAR collaboration has decided to open up the research to scrutiny by other physicists.

"I think it's a real effect, but we'll know more in the upcoming years," Sandweiss says.

Next, the team wants to test the result by running the experiment at lower collision energies to see if the apparent violation disappears when there is not enough energy to create the necessary extreme conditions.

If the effect proves to be real, it could help scientists understand a similar asymmetry that led to one of physics' most fundamental mysteries — namely, why the universe is dominated by ordinary matter today when equal amounts of matter and antimatter were created by the Big Bang.

Sandweiss, for one, is looking forward to some answers. "I'd really like to see this evolve and find out exactly what's going on," he says.

####

About Yale University
Yale University comprises three major academic components: Yale College (the undergraduate program), the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, and the professional schools. In addition, Yale encompasses a wide array of centers and programs, libraries, museums, and administrative support offices. Approximately 11,250 students attend Yale.

For more information, please click here

Contacts:
Suzanne Taylor Muzzin
203-432-8555

Copyright © Yale University

If you have a comment, please Contact us.

Issuers of news releases, not 7th Wave, Inc. or Nanotechnology Now, are solely responsible for the accuracy of the content.

Bookmark:
Delicious Digg Newsvine Google Yahoo Reddit Magnoliacom Furl Facebook

Related News Press

News and information

PetLife Comments on CNN Story on Scorpion Venom Health Benefits August 27th, 2014

Nanodiamonds Are Forever: A UCSB professor’s research examines 13,000-year-old nanodiamonds from multiple locations across three continents August 27th, 2014

Aspen Aerogels, Inc. to Present at Barclays CEO Energy-Power Conference August 27th, 2014

Nanotech Security Corp. to Acquire Fortress Optical Features Ltd., a Leading Producer of Banknote Security Features August 27th, 2014

Physics

Creation of a Highly Efficient Technique to Develop Low-Friction Materials Which Are Drawing Attention in Association with Energy Issues August 26th, 2014

X-ray Laser Probes Tiny Quantum Tornadoes in Superfluid Droplets: SLAC Experiment Reveals Mysterious Order in Liquid Helium August 25th, 2014

Rice physicist emerges as leader in quantum materials research: Nevidomskyy wins both NSF CAREER Award and Cottrell Scholar Award August 20th, 2014

Promising Ferroelectric Materials Suffer From Unexpected Electric Polarizations: Brookhaven Lab scientists find surprising locked charge polarizations that impede performance in next-gen materials that could otherwise revolutionize data-driven devices August 18th, 2014

Possible Futures

Air Force’s 30-year plan seeks 'strategic agility' August 1st, 2014

IBM Announces $3 Billion Research Initiative to Tackle Chip Grand Challenges for Cloud and Big Data Systems: Scientists and engineers to push limits of silicon technology to 7 nanometers and below and create post-silicon future July 10th, 2014

Virus structure inspires novel understanding of onion-like carbon nanoparticles April 10th, 2014

Local girl does good March 22nd, 2014

Discoveries

The thunder god vine, assisted by nanotechnology, could shake up future cancer treatment: Targeted therapy for hepatocellular carcinoma using nanotechnology August 27th, 2014

Creation of a Highly Efficient Technique to Develop Low-Friction Materials Which Are Drawing Attention in Association with Energy Issues August 26th, 2014

Competition for Graphene: Berkeley Lab Researchers Demonstrate Ultrafast Charge Transfer in New Family of 2D Semiconductors August 26th, 2014

Symphony of nanoplasmonic and optical resonators leads to magnificent laser-like light emission August 26th, 2014

Announcements

Nanodiamonds Are Forever: A UCSB professor’s research examines 13,000-year-old nanodiamonds from multiple locations across three continents August 27th, 2014

Aspen Aerogels, Inc. to Present at Barclays CEO Energy-Power Conference August 27th, 2014

Nanotech Security Corp. to Acquire Fortress Optical Features Ltd., a Leading Producer of Banknote Security Features August 27th, 2014

Malvern specialists to deliver inaugural short course on polymer characterization at Interplas 2014 August 27th, 2014

NanoNews-Digest
The latest news from around the world, FREE



  Premium Products
NanoNews-Custom
Only the news you want to read!
 Learn More
NanoTech-Transfer
University Technology Transfer & Patents
 Learn More
NanoStrategies
Full-service, expert consulting
 Learn More














ASP
Nanotechnology Now Featured Books




NNN

The Hunger Project







© Copyright 1999-2014 7th Wave, Inc. All Rights Reserved PRIVACY POLICY :: CONTACT US :: STATS :: SITE MAP :: ADVERTISE