Thursday, August 16, 2012

Writers' Residence, Last Week, Day Four

A break from writing in our rooms and wandering through the vineyards to visit CERN, where they are slamming protons together deep under the earth to find the answers to such questions as 

What gives particles mass? (It is all the work of the Higgs-Boson, apparently.)

Why can't quarks be pried apart? (The quark-gluon plasma that existed just after the Big Bang was a soup so hot the quarks wouldn't stick together. It cooled. They stuck. So far they haven't been unstuck.)

Why is there something rather than nothing? (If matter and anti-matter immediately annihilate each other, why is the universe made mostly of matter? Where has all the anti-matter gone?)

The equipment -- tunnels, magnets, pipes, coils -- is ugly. The graphs are incomprehensible. But the names are often poetry.

Quark is from Finnegan's Wake: "Three quarks for Muster Mark."

Quarks have flavours. The names of their flavours are up, down, strange, charm, truth and beauty.

Truth and beauty quarks are now more commonly known as top and bottom quarks. This was a bad marketing decision.

"Strong interactions conserve all flavours."

Gluon: not beautiful, but at least its function is clear.

Cold Dark Matter: perhaps the most beautiful name of all.

No comments:

Post a Comment