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Tag archives: particle physics

Paul Frampton: the movie

By Matin Durrani

Photograph of Paul Frampton

The strange story of physicist Paul Frampton could be made into a film.

The story of Paul Frampton is so incredible that it’s hard to believe it really happened. How could anyone have been so foolish and left his family, colleagues and students in the lurch?

In case you don’t remember, Frampton is the 69-year-old British-born US-based theoretical physicist who in early 2012 travelled to Bolivia expecting to meet a 32-year-old woman he’d struck up a correspondence with on the Internet, who claimed to be the Czech-born lingerie model Denise Milani.

But when he arrived in Bolivia, Milani was nowhere to be seen and Frampton was instead met by a man who asked him to take what was supposedly Milani’s suitcase to Buenos Aires, where she would then meet him.

When Milani didn’t show up at Buenos Aires Airport either – and there has been no suggestion that she knew that her identity was being used – Frampton tried to board a plane back to the US but was arrested after airport-security officials discovered 2 kg of cocaine in his checked luggage. Although he insisted the drugs were not his, Frampton was sentenced in November 2012 to 56 months in jail, despite a campaign by physicists to clear his name.

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Particle art lights up Victorian ice well

By James Dacey

Photograph of art installation Covariance

Covariance includes 28,000 glass beads and 36,000 diamantés. (Courtesy: Richard Davies)

“The finished work is everything I had hoped for and more – it takes my breath away!”

That was the reaction of artist Lyndall Phelps upon seeing her physics-inspired installation in London, which will open to the public this Saturday. Entitled Covariance, the work was inspired by the SuperKamiokande neutrino observatory in Japan – reflecting the machinery of particle detectors and the way in which particle physicists visualize their data. The kaleidoscopic artwork is housed in a Victorian ice well beneath the London Canal Museum, in reference to the subterranean location of many large particle-physics experiments.

Phelps is an artist who often creates works inspired by science, where she looks in particular for the personal and emotive themes that can exist within academia. For this latest project, she worked in collaboration with Ben Still, a particle physicist from Queen Mary, University of London. The pair was commissioned to work on the project by the Institute of Physics (IOP) as the first in a programme of artists-in-residence called Superposition.

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Close encounters of the muon kind

Photo of g-2 magnet

G-2 electromagnet at the Hidden Lake Forest Preserve. (Courtesy: Reidar Hahn/Fermilab)

By James Dacey

Don’t worry, the aliens haven’t landed. The people in this photo are watching with excitement shortly before this giant electromagnet completed its 5000 km journey on Friday to arrive at Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory just outside Chicago. The 15 m-wide ring that weighs more than 15,000 kg has been travelling for the past five weeks by land and sea from its previous home on Long Island in New York State.

The giant electromagnet has served as part of the Muon g-2 experiment at Brookhaven National Laboratory. This experiment – to describe it crudely – is designed to measure how muons wobble in a magnetic field, as many believe this will provide clues to new physics beyond the Standard Model. This experiment is now relocating to Fermilab, which offers a more intense and pure beam of muons than the Brookhaven lab.

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T2K discovery puts neutrino oscillation beyond doubt

The SuperKamiokande detector lies 1 km underground in the Mozumi mine in the city of Hida. (Courtesy: Kamioka Observatory, Institute for Cosmic Ray Research, University of Tokyo)

The SuperKamiokande detector lies 1 km underground in the Mozumi mine in the city of Hida. (Courtesy: Kamioka Observatory, Institute for Cosmic Ray Research, University of Tokyo)

By Hamish Johnston

Physicists working on the Tokai to Kamiokande (T2K) experiment have confirmed what many have suspected for nearly three decades – over time, a neutrino of one flavour will change into a neutrino of another flavour in a process called neutrino oscillation.

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GERDA puts new limit on neutrinoless double beta decay

The GERDA experiment at Gran Sasso (Courtesy: INFN)

The GERDA experiment at Gran Sasso. (Courtesy: INFN)

By Hamish Johnston

This stylish chap is looking for an incredibly rare nuclear process called neutrinoless double beta decay. The picture was taken deep under a mountain at Italy’s Gran Sasso National Laboratory, which is about 160 km north-west of Rome. He is standing in a cavern containing the GERDA experiment, which has been searching for the rare decay since 2011.

GERDA hasn’t actually detected a decay event, but the collaboration claims to have measured the best value yet of the lower limit on its half-life in germanium-76. They researchers say that it’s about 2.1 × 1025 years – or 21 yottayears!

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Explaining CERN, the Higgs and the LHC

By Matin Durrani

 

How well would you do if someone asked you to explain the Higgs boson or the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) at CERN?

If you’re a physicist, you’ll probably find it hard enough. But if you’ve never done any physics in your life, things must surely be trickier still, more so if a film crew from Physics World has shoved a camera up your nose.

These two short videos show the results of a straw poll of randomly selected visitors at last summer’s Bristol International Balloon Fiesta when we asked them to describe the Higgs boson and the LHC.

The reason we were at the fiesta is that we were making a separate film about a project by Bristol University physicist Dave Cussans where school students were measuring cosmic rays during a hot-air balloon flight – it being the centenary of Victor Hess’s discovery of these rays in a balloon flight in central Europe.

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Nigel Lockyer to take the reins at Fermilab

Nigel lockyer

TRIUMF’s Nigel Lockyer will soon be Chicago bound. (Courtesy: TRIUMF)

By Hamish Johnston

The particle physicist Nigel Lockyer will take over as director of Fermilab in September this year. Lockyer is currently in charge of TRIUMF in Vancouver, Canada. He will succeed Pier Oddone, who is stepping down after heading Fermilab for eight years.

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The race to find the electric dipole moment

The University of Montreal actually has an ivory tower!

Congress HQ: the University of Montreal actually has an ivory tower!

By Hamish Johnston at the 2013 CAP Congress in Montreal

Yesterday I had lunch with Jeff Martin of the University of Winnipeg, who is a member of an international team that aims to measure the electric dipole moment (EDM) of the neutron at TRIUMF in Vancouver.

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BBC radio celebrates 101 years of cosmic rays

By Hamish Johnston

AMS is a modern version of Hess's balloon experiment. (Courtesy: NASA)

AMS is a modern version version of Hess’s balloon experiments. (Courtesy: NASA)

The BBC’s Melvyn Bragg has lots to talk about. Over the past few months he has chatted about the Icelandic sagas, water, Gnosticism, and much more on his Radio 4 programme In Our Time. So he can be forgiven for missing a centenary and celebrating cosmic rays 101 years after they were discovered by the Austrian physicist Victor Hess.

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Cash sought to finish Salam film

By Matin Durrani

I have always felt a bit uncomfortable about the “heroic” view of science – the idea that the most significant progress depends on the work of individual geniuses. Unfortunately, this is the way in which many people view scientific history, with the contributions of lesser mortals dismissed and swept aside.

However, it is fair to say that some physicists do stand head and shoulders above all others – none more so than Abdus Salam, who was (and still is) Pakistan’s only Nobel prize-winner.

Now two Pakistani film producers, Omar Vandal and Zakir Thaver, are creating a feature-length documentary about Salam’s scientific contributions – but they need your help to finish the job.

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