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Friday, April 12, 2024

Science Scene

Leading physicists say “God particle” soon to be found

Forty years ago, British physicist Peter Higgs argued that there was a force that gave mass to the universe, enabling life to exist. From this invisible force, named the Higgs field, comes a particle called the Higgs boson. Now, as a particle accelerator in Geneva is nearly ready to begin functioning in May, Higgs says he is 90 percent sure that the particle will be found.

CERN, or the European Organization for Nuclear Research, has built the world’s largest particle accelerator, called the Large Hadron Collider. The underground accelerator, approximately 16 miles long, will accelerate protons close to the speed of light in order to answer questions about the composition of the universe and how it came to be. At four intersection points, the particles will collide at speeds that have never yet been reached, which scientists hope will mimic the conditions of the Big Bang.

Today, the Higgs field is generally accepted by scientists and is thought to have come into existence milliseconds after the Big Bang, which occurred around 15 billion years ago. Higgs came up with the theory to explain why matter loses its mass as it is broken into smaller pieces. He postulated that at the instant of the Big Bang, matter was massless, but that it became heavy as it stuck to a field.

Higgs cautioned that the “God particle,” a nickname which displeases atheist Higgs, might not show up in the data immediately. (canada.com and public.web.cern.ch/public/)


Lungless frog discovered

For 30 years, researchers have been trying to find populations of the aquatic frog, Barbourula kalimantanensis, which, based on the prior discovery of two specimens, has demonstrated the total lack of lungs. Researchers from the National University of Singapore have succeeded at locating two populations in the portion of Borneo that belongs to Indonesia.

Lunglessness has only been found to occur in amphibians and is a trait common to salamanders. It also occurs in a single species of caecilian, a limbless amphibian resembling an earthworm. Otherwise, the complete loss of lungs is a rare evolutionary event, probably occurring only three times.

Instead of lungs, B.kalimantanensis respires through its skin. This may be an adaptive trait because the frog’s environment is oxygen-rich, fast-flowing, cold water. The frog’s flattened body may increase surface area available for respiration but it also causes the frog to have a tendency to sink rather than float in water. (sciencecentric.com)


United States CO2 emissions mapped in detail

On Monday, the Vulcan Project, a two-year effort funded by NASA and the Department of Energy, released its data containing maps that track down carbon dioxide emissions to their places of origin with 100 times more detail than previous data. Previously, total carbon emissions were known but their locations within the United States were not.

The collaborative project was conducted at Purdue University, Indiana, Colorado State University and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. The researchers pooled 2002 CO2 emissions data from power plants, roads, factories, businesses and homes and illustrated it using computer models.

The data can be accessed at purdue.edu and the maps can be found on youtube.com. (cnet.com)


Science Scene is compiled by JENNIFER WOLF, who can be reached at science@californiaaggie.com.XXX


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