Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Right On The Nose

Another successful day passes by in physics class.  Today we discussed general relativity, the Higgs Boson, and repeated our speed of light experiment using better equipment.  It was another day where you leave the class with more questions than you do answers, but that is a good thing because that means that you've been actively trying to understand the material despite the fact that modern science still doesn't understand it. 

In the morning we discussed Albert Einstein’s theory of general relativity.  This is similar to special relativity but general relativity manages to incorporate gravity into the equations that were left out in special relativity.  In general relativity, all objects that have mass will cause a depression in space that alters the path of any object moving through the depression.  This property is used by astronomers to see stars and galaxies from behind other star and galaxies by using gravitational lensing.  I found myself a little confused about the space-time relationship which states that time and space are one together instead of separate.  All of the space and science shows that I've watched over the years were all clashing together which made it difficult to make sense and visualize everything.   I plan on bombarding my instructors with questions tomorrow so that I make sure that I’m telling people the correct from of the theory.

We also had a guest speaker today Dr. Elliot lipelese.  He came to tell us about the Higgs Boson discovery at the CERN Super-Collider in Europe and what his role was in that discovery.  The topic of the Higgs Boson was immensely complicated and involved dozens of new particles that I have never even heard of.  There were things like Gluons, Muons, Bosons, and Leptons which apparently help to build the Standard Model of the atom.  All of these new particles that I mentioned had to be created in a laboratory using a massive particle accelerator and particle collider.  Basically, protons are fired at each other at speeds close to the speed of light and crash into each other which creates the new particles for only fractions of a second.  I found out that most of these particles  don’t exist in an atom, but are created when the protons decay after being smashed together.  It is remarkable how much scientist are able to conclude with this new data after only obtaining it just one year ago.   Science has been on the hunt for the last elementary particle the Higgs Boson for decades now, and it is only now that we have actually found it.  

During our interest groups today, my group performed yesterday’s speed of light experiment again using more sophisticated oscilloscopes in an effort to gain even more accurate data.  The original oscilloscope that we used yesterday was worth about one thousand dollars, while the oscilloscopes that we used today we worth anywhere from ten to thirty thousand dollars.  It was some pretty remarkable machinery which ended up being well worth the price.  After about an hour of collecting data and trying to find the most accurate ranges, we finally found an answer.  We calculated that the speed of light was 2.99 x 10E8 which was exactly what the excepted value for light speed is in the scientific community.  We didn't think that we could find the absolute point on the graphs where the light pulse was measuring, but apparently we hit it right on the nose. 

I thought that using the better more sophisticated equipment was well worth performing the experiment again.  On the other machines, we had reached the limitations of the recording devices making it impossible to obtain a more accurate value.  Although, I must say that using the better equipment should only be used by a group of people who actually care about obtaining the most accurate figure and not just any group who only cares about getting a result that meets the bare minimum of data.  With that said, I think that my group should have no problem at all when producing a presentation for the class.  The rest of the class will do this same experiment next week.  We've managed to set the bar so high that it cannot be beaten, only tied.  So I bid them good luck in trying to out perform us.

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