The Glue that Binds Us All

Think of the proton as a black night with the gluons like fireflies blinking on and off,” Venugopalan said. “A snapshot with the proton at rest will reveal an ephemeral and diffuse glow from the fireflies whose flicker is barely visible in the darkness. With finer resolution snapshots, one may be able to determine the density of fireflies, localize them better spatially, and even extract details about their motion as they whirl about.

Very interesting results coming out of work on quark-gluon plasma from colliding heavy ions (in this case, gold nuclei) at almost light speed. Photons, which carry the electromagnetic force, do not interact with each other, and a dense concentration of photons behaves somewhat like an ideal gas. Gluons, which carry the strong force, do interact with each other, and the dense concentration of gluons behaves somewhat like an ideal liquid, and not a gas as was expected. The gluon-gluon interactions makes a significant different, and makes strong force calculations much harder than one finds with the electromagnetic force.

As usual, more questions are raised which require a bigger, more powerful machine to whip particles ever closer to the speed of light, reducing their wavelength and enabling finer and finer resolution of what happens at the amazingly small scale of quarks in hadrons.

The quote above paints a beautiful picture, to me, of how virtual gluons–really, the smallest disturbances in the strong force field–wink into existence briefly due to the Heisenburg uncertainty in system energy. Nature is both subtle and beautiful in ways that challenge human understanding.


B612 Foundation plans privately funded Sentinel Space Telescope

The nonprofit B612 Foundation says it’s planning the first privately funded deep-space mission, with the goal of launching an instrument known as the Sentinel Space Telescope to look for potentially hazardous asteroids from a vantage point inside Earth’s orbit around the sun.

The foundation, headed by former NASA astronaut Ed Lu, tipped its hand today in an advisory alerting journalists about a press conference to be conducted at 8:30 a.m. PT June 28 at the California Academy of Science’ Morrison Planetarium in San Francisco.

The B612 website is prepping for the 28 June press conference. I’d really like to learn more about the B612 Foundation. I think it is a very worthy goal to start monitoring for possible asteroid dangers to Earth, and to develop methods of dealing with the threats. This is perhaps the most solvable of the existential threats to humanity. It won’t take a huge amount of money to push this effort forward.

I’m looking forward to learning more on 28 June!

James Lovelock: The evolution of an intelligent man.

Damp winters on the edge of Dartmoor were taking their toll, so in recent years he has overwintered in St Louis, his wife’s hometown in Missouri. The experience altered his attitude to the politics and economics of energy.

Read the whole thing. The infirmities of age, combined with wintering over in the US, have changed many of his ideas.

I liked this quote, too. “He says he largely dismantled his home laboratory 10 years ago when he ended his life as a practising scientist: “I have become a thinker since then. There is so much more to do. I think retirement means death.”

The Key to Science, a mini lecture by Richard Feynman

This lecture snippet is really, really good.

The test of theory is observation. Use the theory to predict what happens, and look to see if that happens. If it doesn’t, the theory is wrong. No matter who came up with the theory, no matter their qualifications and credentials, no matter how lovely the math, if theory disagrees with Nature, it is nothing more than pretty math. If the theory’s predictions are observed in Nature, the theory is Not Wrong. Science never proces a theory correct, it just provides a method for weeding out incorrect theories.

Watch the whole thing.