What’s CERN twittering about?

By Marcus Wilson 14/02/2011

A quick skim of CERN’s Twitter site, www.twitter.com/cern tells me that the LHC is going to be pootling on for the next two years at 3.5 TeV per beam, before it is prepared for running at 7 TeV, starting hopefully in 2014

"…[This] gives the LHC’s experiments a good chance of finding new physics in the next two years…"

There used to be a time when new physics was discovered by people. Now, it seems, all we need to do is build a machine to do it for us.  (By ‘new physics’, they mean things like finding the elusive Higgs Boson, or dark matter, or something else that we just don’t know about yet.)

A less high-impact story, but just as interesting, is that the ‘anti-hydrogen’ research group at CERN has just won an award for their work.  Anti-hydrogen is the simplest atom of anti-matter, made up of a single anti-proton and an anti-electron (positron). Anti-hydrogen behaves, as far as anyone can tell, pretty much like normal hydrogen, but with the annoying drawback that it is a touch tricky to contain (what with positrons disappearing when they come close to an electron). So simply studying anti-hydrogen is a major achievement in iteself.   As of November last year, the ALPHA group had trapped 38 anti-hydrogen atoms for 170 milliseconds – not long but long enough to start doing useful measurements on them. (Rest assured that the ‘Angels and Demons’ scenario is a long way off yet.)

Any subtle differences in the properties of anti-hydrogen compared to hydrogen (e.g. in its energy levels) may help solve that mysterious question as to why there is so much more matter in the universe than antimatter.

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