Finding the God Particle
Number one on many scientists' 2011 to-do list is to find the Higgs boson—a particle so important to science that it's been dubbed the "God particle."
This fundamental particle, thought to give mass to all particles, has been theorized since 1964, but never detected. That, however, could soon change. "If nature is kind to us we will find it next year," particle physicist Christoph Rembser told LiveScience. Where is this confidence coming from? Rembser works at the European Laboratory for Particle Physics (CERN) in Geneva, where the world's largest atom smasher, the Large Hadron Collider, went online in September 2008. Part of the motivation for building this behemoth machine (its underground ring spans 17 miles, or 27 kilometers, in circumference) was to find the Higgs boson.
Here's the science of black holes, from supermassive monsters to ones the size of ping-pong balls.
- There's more than one way to make a black hole, says NASA's Michelle Thaller. They're not always formed from dead stars. For example, there are teeny tiny black holes all around us, the result of high-energy cosmic rays slamming into our atmosphere with enough force to cram matter together so densely that no light can escape.
- CERN is trying to create artificial black holes right now, but don't worry, it's not dangerous. Scientists there are attempting to smash two particles together with such intensity that it creates a black hole that would live for just a millionth of a second.
- Thaller uses a brilliant analogy involving a rubber sheet, a marble, and an elephant to explain why different black holes have varying densities. Watch and learn!
- Bonus fact: If the Earth became a black hole, it would be crushed to the size of a ping-pong ball.
Protected animals are feared to be headed for the black market.
In a breakthrough for nuclear fusion research, scientists at China's Experimental Advanced Superconducting Tokamak (EAST) reactor have produced temperatures necessary for nuclear fusion on Earth.
- The EAST reactor was able to heat hydrogen to temperatures exceeding 100 million degrees Celsius.
- Nuclear fusion could someday provide the planet with a virtually limitless supply of clean energy.
- Still, scientists have many other obstacles to pass before fusion technology becomes a viable energy source.
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