Physics News of the Week (December 9-16)

| December 17, 2012 | 0 Comments

So once again (even though a little bit late this time) we’re gonna do a short overview of the most important, interesting or simply fun news from the world of physics. If you would like to receive these news straight to your email every week, please register for our email newsletter.

1. Do we live in a computer simulation? Scientists Think it Might Be Possible to Test this Idea (December 10)

A decade ago, a Swedish philosopher Nick Bostrom, put forth the notion that the universe we live in might in fact be a computer simulation. As interesting as the idea is, at first sight, it seems untestable. Despite this a team of physicists at the University of Washington has come up with a potential test to see if the idea holds water.

Currently, supercomputers using a technique called lattice quantum chromodynamics and starting from the fundamental physical laws that govern the universe can simulate only a very small portion of the universe, on the scale of one 100-trillionth of a meter, a little larger than the nucleus of an atom, said Martin Savage, a UW physics professor. Eventually, more powerful simulations will be able to model on the scale of a molecule, then a cell and even a human being and even the whole universe. And despite that the current simulations are very primitive, they should hold one crucial similarity to the future simulations — the imprint of an underlying lattice if one is used to model the space-time continuum.

The supercomputers performing lattice quantum chromodynamics calculations essentially divide space-time into a four-dimensional grid.”If you make the simulations big enough, something like our universe should emerge,” Savage said. Then it would be a matter of looking for a “signature” in our universe that has an analog in the current small-scale simulations.” Read the full report here.

2. Contradictory Results Show Up at LHC (December 14)

Ever since physicists found a particle that looks very much like the Higgs boson in July, they have been probing its properties, essentially running their experimental hands all over it to check out its features. The LHC can detect the Higgs decaying in two different ways. One channel produces two characteristic photons while another creates four particles known as leptons. The two decay paths each give scientists a distinct value for the mass of the Higgs. “There turns out to be a slight tension between the two masses,” said physicist Beate Heinemann of the University of California, Berkeley, who works on ATLAS, one of the LHC’s Higgs-searching experiments. “They are compatible, just not super compatible.” Full article here.

3. Decay — a Zombie Flick Filmed at the LHC (December 16)

Making a zombie horror film isn’t rocket science but if Decay is anything to go by, it has a close link to particle physics. Or at least Luke Thompson, writer and director of this new zombie flick, thinks so — the film was written, acted and produced by physics students at the Large Hadron Collider, the world’s most powerful particle accelerator, which lies underground at CERN near Geneva, Switzerland. In this version of the zombie creation myth, the epidemic is started by “Higgs radiation” which, once released through the LHC’s tunnels, neatly explains the transformation of a group of scientists into a rampaging horde of zombies. Given the reported budget of $3000 the movie is definately worth a look. For the full article and the movie check out this link.

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