Wednesday, February 20, 2008

That's Snow Honeycomb

I took this picture awhile ago when we got snow. I thought it made the coolest pattern on our back patio - it's never done that before. Unfortunately Jazz walked through it on her way out to pee, but her paw prints just add to the artwork I guess.

"I still wish on them stars above..."

I so wish I had a camera that could've captured the lunar eclipse tonight. It was AWESOME and for once our sky was totally clear. Truly an amazing night to look out from our respective places on Our Rock.

Edit to add: Click here for a fantastic picture of the eclipse from Astronomy Picture of the Day. I knew they wouldn't let me down!

Figuring there is some powerful energy going on tonight, I sat and wrote down my intentions for the next year next to my thank yous. As my mother always said: Decide, Define, Do.

Of course, you have to be careful what you wish for. When I moved into this new job as graphic designer last November they told me I should have an office with a door, but that there weren't enough in our area so I would have to wait until we moved. (They're shuffling everyone in our building right now because they closed branch offices and are moving people into headquarters.)

No problem. I waited. I thought about it. I was excited. I decided I was going to manifest it a little sooner (especially since it's rather loud where I sit now and sometimes hard to think).

We were recently shown the floor plan for the new area we're moving to and I found out I still don't get an office with a door. Not sure why, but whatever. I was disappointed, but only because I've never had an office with a door and I guess somewhere in the recesses of my mind I still attach some self worth to that even though I know better.

So I went upstairs yesterday to say hi to some of the people I used to work with as a project manager. The Powers That Be had reconfigured the row where my former cubicle was (and only that row - nothing else). Guess what? My old office now has a door. What else can I do but laugh? It was a good Cosmic Joke. :D

Monday, February 18, 2008

Expanding My Brane Again

I'm proofing a chapter on particle physics in a new textbook. The author is talking about the Large Hadron Collider at CERN and as usual, I look up one fact on the net to verify it and several clicks later I'm reading about supersymmetrical particles and the hierarchy problem of the Higgs boson mass. (Not to mention it's suddenly hours later and I still only have four pages proofed where I should have twenty. The Trayce Theory states that reading about physics bends time, if not space, and not in a good way.)

So the way I understand the whole supersymmetry (abbreviated SUSY) thing is that there are two states for particles: spin up and spin down. If they can prove SUSY, they will be proving particles actually have four states: spin up, spin down, and 1/2 of each, or 1/2 spin up and 1/2 spin down.

The hierarchy problem of the Higgs boson mass is a question of why the weak force is 10^32 times stronger than gravity. In other words, we think of gravity as a very strong force since it keeps us humans (among other things) from flying off our big blue marble as we whirl around the Sun at about 1000 MPH, and indeed it keeps our whole planet from being ejected out of our galaxy as we do our celestial do-se-do here in the Milky Way. You'd think a force like gravity must be really strong, right?

Then consider a regular paperclip and a refrigerator magnet. If you put the paperclip on the table (or the floor, or outside on the ground directly) and hold the magnet above it, what happens? The paperclip defies gravity and shoots up to cling to the magnet. So how does a simple frig magnet (the weak force) overcome a force like gravity, so "strong" it keeps us all grounded and maintains the orbit of our planet?

I can't do the math, but I get why this is a helluva question.

As a very stripped down (and perhaps completely wrong) explanation: According to modern physics, the interaction of all matter in our universe can be explained by the math that describes four forces: gravity, electromagnetism, the weak force (Electroweak theory), and the strong force (Quantum chromodynamics). It seems that when you apply the math to everything except gravity, it works out okay and they reach conclusions that match up in any of those forces. However, when you apply the same math to gravity, things get screwed up.

An equation called Fermi's constant explains the weak force (that which causes the magnet to attract the paperclip). An equation called Newton's constant explains gravity, as we've been taught since grade school. Theoretically, you should be able to plug in appropriate numbers (measurements) for your paperclip experiment to each of these equations and come up with a logical conclusion of why a magnet can defy gravity, but the numbers don't work the way we expect, hence our problem.

The Standard Model is a quantum field theory where all the numbers balance out for quantum mechanics (electromagnetism) and special relativity (the strong and the weak forces). However, plug those same numbers into the Newtonian equations for gravity (general relativity), and the answers are all messed up. So instead of saying our Standard Model must be wrong, they've kept looking for "the missing link" that unifies all four forces.

Enter the Higgs boson. If we prove this little baby exists, it would also prove that particles have four states and not just two (as I understand it), which would balance the math properly in the Standard Model for all four known fundamental interactions of particles. Mmmm. Can you smell the Nobel Prize?

I've read that some say it's pointless to try to unify the four forces because three of the forces work on the charge that passes between particles (or massless particles like photons), and gravity works on particles with physical mass, so it's like comparing apples to oranges (unless you can prove the Higgs boson exists, which would allow the math to assign mass to currently massless particles).

Personally, it reminded me of comparing what affects your soul (something non-physical or massless) to what affects your body (which has physical mass).

The theory of supersymmetry lays out the math necessary to make everything work out right, but so far we've been unable to prove supersymmetry in real life experiments because we do not have an instrument capable of creating the level of energy required to detect an actual Higgs boson. That is what they're hoping the Large Hadron Collider at CERN is going to do (bringing me back to what I was originally looking up on the net). According to the CERN web site, they fire that beast up in a few months. Should be interesting if they don't create a black hole that sucks in our galaxy. I hope Stephen Hawking checked that math three times. I'm just sayin...

We're planning to make something appear out of (seemingly) nothing, but really it was there all along (or so we hope). Is this not like MAGIC?

And just to jump down a totally bizarre sci-fi rabbit hole, suppose they define what gives massless light particles mass (however small) - what if that definition also describes how humans come into physical form here on Earth from souls (or alien beings) floating around in some other dimension? Remember that movie K-Pax where Kevin Spacey is a mental patient who claims he traveled in on a beam of light? What if that really happens? What if God turns out to be gravity that pulls light particles into a concentrated physical mass through interference patterns created by genes expressing chromosomes? (I mean why are they fucking around with genetic engineering anyway? Just be who you are for pete's sake.)

Even worse - what if our government already knows this is how humans happen and is looking for that boson so they can figure out how to build a machine that pulls souls into cloned bodies to make them functional (like putting an engine in a car)? Would that be bad or good? Just like bad teleporting turned that dude into the Fly, what if erroneous soul-porting made evil people?

Don't laugh. How many people thought Newton's ideas were nuts (not apples, haha), or that Galileo was off his rocker, or even that Einstein was a bit whacked? Many string theory physicists thought Dr. Michael Duff from Michigan was nuts talking about 11 dimensions instead of 10, then guess what? Hey! They found out 11 dimensions advanced string theory into M theory (aka brane theory)! "Oh, gee, sorry we thought you were talking out your ass Prof. Duff, you were right all along."

It's never the well-behaved people (or particles) that make the history books, trust me.

I had another weird idea while reading all this stuff too. You know how you can draw a line on a piece of paper with a point at either end, and it's just a line, but if you add two more points to the right and above the first two, then connect all the dots, you may just see a flat diamond, but if you shift your perception, you see the illusion of a square that is 3-D. Okay, now think about the fact that you have two eyes, but you only see one image at any given time. If you cover one eye or the other, the image moves in the same way those dots move from 2-D to 3-D - separate them and they are individual images (or lines), but connect the dots and they move into another dimension.

Now consider if they unify the three electromagnetic forces with gravity, would it be like connecting the dots so we end up seeing another dimension? Or perhaps the reason we can't see what we're looking for is because we have one eye covered (perhaps our third eye? Haha).

Science. ::snort:: It's like that damn TV show, Lost. The more answers you find, the more questions you create.