This Week in the Universe: October 5th – October 11th

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Astrophysics and Gravitation:

Early Universe was Overheated, says NASA

Michael Shull, Kevin France, Charles Danforth, Britton Smith, & Jason Tumlinson (2010). Hubble/COS Observations of the Quasar HE 2347-4342: Probing the Epoch of He II Patchy Reionization at Redshifts z = 2.4-2.9 arXiv arXiv: 1008.2957v1

Credit: NASA/Michael Shull, University of Colorado

From the Press Release:

During a period of universal warming 11 billion years ago, quasars — the brilliant core of active galaxies — produced fierce radiation blasts that stunted the growth of some dwarf galaxies for approximately 500 million years.  This important conclusion comes from a team of astronomers that used the new capabilities of NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope to probe the invisible, remote universe. The team’s results will be published in… The Astrophysical Journal.

For more, see Hubble Astronomers Uncover an Overheated Early Universe.

Dark Matter, Neutron Stars, and Strange Quark Matter, Oh My!

Perez-Garcia, M., Silk, J., & Stone, J. (2010). Dark Matter, Neutron Stars, and Strange Quark Matter Physical Review Letters, 105 (14) DOI: 10.1103/PhysRevLett.105.141101

The abstract:

We show that self-annihilating weakly interacting massive particle (WIMP) dark matter accreted onto neutron stars may provide a mechanism to seed compact objects with long-lived lumps of strange quark matter, or strangelets, for WIMP masses above a few GeV. This effect may trigger a conversion of most of the star into a strange star. We use an energy estimate for the long-lived strangelet based on the Fermi-gas model combined with the MIT bag model to set a new limit on the possible values of the WIMP mass that can be especially relevant for subdominant species of massive neutralinos.

For more, see Does dark matter trigger strange stars?.

High Energy Physics and Particles:

Hey, this isn’t research news!

Yeah, it’s not… But, for anyone who will be in Manchester from October 23rd – 27th, 2010 should make sure they check out Super K Sonic Booooum!

This large installation consists of a 22 meter long ‘river’ of water running through a tunnel lined with thousands of silver balloons (photomultiplier tubes). Members of the public embark on a boat, pulled through the tunnel on a submerged track using a pulley system, with sound and lighting effects, and with an expert particle physicist navigator as a guide. On the journey they learn of neutrinos, their role in the Universe and how scientists detect them. All crew members must first don white Tyvek suits, wellies and hard hats or else face the wrath of Nelly the security chief, at the entrance of the tunnel. This installation is designed to deliver physically thrilling experiences; emerging the audience on a journey through the physics of the Universe.

Workshop on Sunday 24 October – 2pm – 4pm
Capture the Invisible: Craft and Science in particle physics.

In this workshop you will get the chance to make your own photomultiplier tube to capture the invisible in your own bedroom! Designed by Nelly Ben Hayoun in collaboration with Dr Jonathan Perkin, physicist and glassblower Jochen Holz

For more, see Super K Sonic Booooum.

SuperB Project Preparing for Construction!

SuperB Collaboration, E. Grauges et al., Francesco Forti, Blair N. Ratcliff, & David Aston (2010). SuperB Progress Reports — Detector arXiv arXiv: 1007.4241v1

It looks like funding for the SuperB Collaboration will come through and see the new experiment built in Frascati.  I hope the Italians take this great opportunity to make many “flavour country” jokes.

From the press release:

The most elementary components of matter, quarks and leptons, have been found, as the result of 100 years of research, to be organized into three replicating “families”. The reason for this specific number or organization remains a full mystery. Flavor physics, the detailed understanding of the relationship between these families and the comparison between properties of matter and antimatter, is one of the most promising ways to explore new physics, quite complementary to the energy frontier research most notably pursued at the CERN LHC collider. Different kinds of new physics have different effects on rare decays of bottom and charmed quarks and of heavy tau leptons. These particles are all produced at SuperB in unparalleled abundance, making possible for the first time measurements of the precision required to be sensitive to the details of new physics uncovered at CERN.

For more, see SuperB project moves forward, preparing for construction.

Bonner Nuclear Lab to Study Quark-Gluon Plasma

Credit: Frank Geurts/Rice University

It was a good week to get funding for high-energy experiments.

From the Press Release:

Rice University’s Bonner Nuclear Lab has won a $1.175 million grant that will support its research on high-density and hot nuclear matter.  Rice physicist Frank Geurts, who has spent his career looking for clues to the basic elements of the universe by smashing the nuclear contents of gold, lead and other heavy atoms, said the Department of Energy grant will facilitate his group’s transition from constructing and commissioning a highly complex detector system to using that machinery to do basic research.

Video: Quark gluon plasma (QGP)

For more, see Grant advances quark-gluon plasma studies.

General Relativity, Quantum Gravity, et al.:

Curved Space, from the Comfort of Your Home Computer

Gary Felder, & Stephanie Erickson (2010). CurvedLand: An Applet for Illustrating Curved Geometry without Embedding arXiv arXiv: 1010.1426v1

We have written a Java applet to illustrate the meaning of curved geometry. The applet provides a mapping interface similar to MapQuest or Google Maps; features include the ability to navigate through a space and place permanent point objects and/or shapes at arbitrary positions. The underlying two-dimensional space has a constant, positive curvature, which causes the apparent paths and shapes of the objects in the map to appear distorted in ways that change as you view them from different relative angles and distances.

A great, great, Java applet for simulating curved spaces is now online from Erickson and Felder at Smith.  It’s a lot of fun.

For more, see CurvedLand: An Applet to Simulate Curved Space.

Primordial Magnetic Fields and Quasar Axes

Poltis, R., & Stojkovic, D. (2010). Can Primordial Magnetic Fields Seeded by Electroweak Strings Cause an Alignment of Quasar Axes on Cosmological Scales? Physical Review Letters, 105 (16) DOI: 10.1103/PhysRevLett.105.161301

The abstract:

The decay of nontopological electroweak strings may leave an observable imprint in the Universe today in the form of primordial magnetic fields. Protogalaxies preferentially tend to form with their axis of rotation parallel to an external magnetic field, and, moreover, an external magnetic field produces torque which tends to align the galaxy axis with the magnetic field. We demonstrate that the shape of a magnetic field left over from two looped electroweak strings can explain the observed nontrivial alignment of quasar polarization vectors and make predictions for future observations.

For more, see Cracks in the Universe: Physicists are searching for the fingerprints of cosmic strings.

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