The Ph-word                

                                            Particles, cosmology and everything

Hi <<First Name>>. Thanks for reading the fifteenth issue of this newsletter, which strives to bring you the trendiest in physics each month :p
May '19: The latest in ph-word

May was a quiet month in particles and cosmology. But still some people (astronomers) had a field day with...

...New tricks for old data and fun with asteroids

Kepler, the spacecraft-telescope responsible for making "exoplanet" a household word (well, at least in certain households) finished its career long ago, after discovering a couple thousands planets orbiting stars other than the sun.
However, very few of those are of a size comparable to earth, because the discoveries depended on the dimming of the stars' brightness when their planets pass in front of them: earth-sized ones aren't big enough to "make a dent", particularly in front of the stars’ edges which appear less bright.
But all this belongs to the past as a new way of looking at the existing data turns this drawback into an asset. By looking for dimming that does not start abruptly, astronomers re-analyzed a fraction of the Kepler measurements and already found 18 earth-sized exoworlds, with a lot more waiting inside the rest of the data.

Another re-analysis that made headlines was that of rock samples from asteroid Itokawa, collected and returned to earth almost a decade ago by the Hayabusa mission (if the name rings a bell, Hayabusa 2 is sampling asteroid Ryugu right now). Itokawa was considered to be a particularly stony and dry place, but now minerals with encapsulated water molecules were found in its dust. This marked the comeback of the theory that half of earth's water might have landed from space, inside crashed asteroids.

And talking about crashed asteroids. Asteroid 1999 KW4 flew by us at about thirteen times the distance to moon, successfully monitored the whole time by the International Asteroid Warning System. What's the big deal, you say? Its observation was part of the preparations for something you're gonna like: NASA's DART mission.
In 2022 a quite similar asteroid, Didymos, will fly by at a similar distance and NASA is planning to crash a spacecraft on it. Didymos' speed is expected to change by 1% and the goal is to determine if the impact will deflect it off its course, preparing for the case that some random silly "near-earth object" will try to get intimate with us in the future. Because after you've reached the capacity to self-destruct, you can't let nature do the task for you as if you were a mere dinosaur.
The kickin' link
It's an offer you can't refuse. You can now classify instrument glitches by hand from the comfort of your couch and, simply put, "help scientists at LIGO search for gravitational waves, the elusive ripples of spacetime". You know you want to.

It was mentioned here before that two special categories of betting in physics had been so frequent that each deserves its own article. So, after Stephen Hawking’s losing streak, now it’s bets involving susy.

Susy is an acronym for supersymmetry, a popular hypothetical theory that could expand the current knowledge on elementary particles. Thanks to its mathematical appeal and possible solutions to open questions, it’s been gathering fans since the ’70s. In the meantime however it also gathered critics – when it became obvious that in order to work it needs several sophisticated add-ons, and that it cannot make definite predictions due to the large number of its different versions. Bets were only begging to happen.
So some were placed on whether experiments at the Large Hadron Collider will see susy particles. And enough data was amassed by 2016 to settle them, with no new particles.

In the most populated bet 24 prominent physicists bet against 20 of their colleagues that no susy signs will be found and eventually received “a bottle of good cognac at a price not less than $100” from each of them.
Then there was theorist Garrett Lisi against nobelist Frank Wilczek, with the latter ending up $1,000 lighter. Two other bets involved five well-known bloggers of particle physics, with Tommaso Dorigo earning $1,000 from Jacques Distler and Gordon Watts, and Adam Falkowski getting $100 from Lubos Motl, whom he had given 100-to-1 odds.
Last but not least, Kenneth Lane’s win over David Gross is remarkable because its prize, a dinner at the posh Swiss restaurant “Girardet’s”, can’t be fulfilled: “Girardet’s” shut down and was outlived by the Large Hadron Collider. However, both will be outlived by susy, as most of the defeated parties mentioned here, as well as many other theorists, have explicitly not given up on susy despite the negative results on their own predictions.
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...Till next month.

The café and the fusion lab, Daejeon, S.Korea.
(from Blossom City Hotel, my photoblog)
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