Friday, November 18, 2011

Three Science Stories Making Me Say Holy Crap!

So as I peruse my reader this morning I’ve been presented with stories one after the other that are just tickling me to death!

There are seismic shifts going on in the realm of science and in a sense I feel like Salieri looking at Mozart, except I don’t think I’m fully appreciating what’s going on, but I know it’s tremendous.

So here we go.

They really think water may exist on the Jovian moon Europa.

We’ve known for years that Jupiter’s moon Europa almost certainly has an ocean of liquid water deep under its frozen surface. For one thing, the surface is almost all water ice. We also know that it’s covered in thousands of cracks that look very much like the type we see in ice floes floating on liquid water here on Earth. And we have a heating mechanism: tides from Jupiter as well as from the other moons flex Europa, causing its interior to warm up.

A nagging question has been how thick is the solid ice shell over that ocean: is it many kilometers thick, or much thinner? Evidence supports both arguments, which is maddening. However, that problem may now be solved: astronomers studying Europa’s terrain think the ice shell is generally very thick, but — and this is the cool part — may have vast underground lakes of water!

Humanity there’s our filling station right there! Let’s go and exploit that instead of each other!

The scientist that detected neutrinos travelling faster than the speed of light have re-done their experiment with the calibration fixed that cast their previous results into doubt, and the results were? Confirmed?

New high-precision tests carried out by the OPERA collaboration in Italy broadly confirm its claim, made in September, to have detected neutrinos travelling at faster than the speed of light. The collaboration today submitted its results to a journal, but some members continue to insist that further checks are needed before the result can be considered sound.

OPERA (Oscillation Project with Emulsion-Tracking Apparatus) measures the properties of neutrinos that are sent through the Earth from the CERN particle physics laboratory in Geneva, Switzerland, and arrive in its detector located under the Gran Sasso mountain in central Italy. On 22 September, the collaboration reported in a paper on the arXiv preprint server that it had measured neutrinos arriving some 60 nanoseconds earlier than they would have if travelling at light speed. The researchers obtained that result by statistically comparing the temporal distribution of protons within the 10.5 microsecond pulses that produce the neutrinos at CERN with that of the neutrinos observed in its detector.
The new tests, completed 6 November, did away with the statistical analysis by splitting each pulse into bunches just 1- to 2-nanoseconds long, allowing each neutrino detected at Gran Sasso to be tied to a particular bunch produced at CERN. These tests were carried out over 10 days and provided 20 events. The researchers confirmed that the neutrinos arrived 60 nanoseconds early, with an uncertainty of about 10 nanoseconds, comparable to that of the initial result.
This is the day of the expanding man
That shape is my shade there where I used to stand!

The hits just keep on coming

three physicists have produced a theorem implying that the quantum wavefunction is not merely a mathematical abstraction that tells us the probability of subatomic particles being in certain locations and having certain properties. The Copenhagen interpretation, they say, is wrong. The wavefunction is an actual physical thing:
“I don't like to sound hyperbolic, but I think the word 'seismic' is likely to apply to this paper,” says Antony Valentini, a theoretical physicist specializing in quantum foundations at Clemson University in South Carolina.
Valentini believes that this result may be the most important general theorem relating to the foundations of quantum mechanics since Bell’s theorem, the 1964 result in which Northern Irish physicist John Stewart Bell proved that if quantum mechanics describes real entities, it has to include mysterious “action at a distance”.
Action at a distance occurs when pairs of quantum particles interact in such a way that they become entangled. But the new paper, by a trio of physicists led by Matthew Pusey at Imperial College London, presents a theorem showing that if a quantum wavefunction were purely a statistical tool, then even quantum states that are unconnected across space and time would be able to communicate with each other. As that seems very unlikely to be true, the researchers conclude that the wavefunction must be physically real after all.
....Their theorem effectively says that individual quantum systems must “know” exactly what state they have been prepared in, or the results of measurements on them would lead to results at odds with quantum mechanics. They declined to comment while their preprint is undergoing the journal-submission process, but say in their paper that their finding is similar to the notion that an individual coin being flipped in a biased way — for example, so that it comes up 'heads' six out of ten times — has the intrinsic, physical property of being biased, in contrast to the idea that the bias is simply a statistical property of many coin-flip outcomes.
So if this is true, what does it mean? In my vague and probably confused understanding of things, I always understood that the wavefunction of Bell's Theorem traveled faster than light. However, that was OK since it wasn't a physical thing and didn't convey any information. But if it's a physical thing, even a massless physical thing, how can that be?

Don't you guys remember me talking about this next week?

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