back to article CERN also has a particle decelerator – and it’s trying to break physics

Sorry, new physics fans, CERN has once again failed to break the old physics, this time using a particle decelerator that chilled helium atoms close to absolute zero. The organisation is checking the mass of the proton's antimatter twin, the antiproton, using a specialised spectrograph. The measurement is an important test …

  1. Dazed and Confused
    Joke

    Breaking physics

    Surely to break physics you'd just need to find the right sort of a thing I believe is known as a "Kim's Bottom". We keep being told that these break the Internet so surely they can break physics too.

    1. Mark 85 Silver badge
      Pint

      Re: Breaking physics

      Have a cold one for coming up with a "Kim's Bottom". You've just named the particle.

      1. Esme

        Re: Breaking physics

        @ Mark 85 - Hmmn - might need to call it a kimarse or some such to avoid confusion with bottom quarks (quarks come in strange,charmed, up, down, top and bottom varieties. Top and Bottom used to be called Truth and Beauty, I've no idea why their names were changed though).

        1. Dazed and Confused

          Re: Breaking physics

          > Hmmn - might need to call it a kimarse or some such to avoid confusion with bottom quarks

          No need for confusion, one would be a bottom quark while the other would be a bottom quirk. Naming them kimarses would lead to a linguist battle with the inevitable discoverers of the kimass.

    2. MyffyW Silver badge

      Re: Breaking physics

      What I want to know is: how daft does your voice sound when you've inhaled a lungful of anti-protonic helium?

      1. Dr. G. Freeman

        Re: Breaking physics

        As far as we know, according to The prophecy theory, if a person made of anti-matter inhaled a lungful of anti-helium, their voice should sound higher, like a person inhaling helium.

        Although if they swapped balloons somehow, and a person inhaled anti-helium, all you'd get is a large bang as the particles annihilate each other.

        Cool aside, if you inhale Sodium Hexafluoride gas you get "demon voice"- as shown here https://youtu.be/d-XbjFn3aqE

        1. Anonymous Custard Silver badge
          Boffin

          Re: Breaking physics

          If it's the super-cooled stuff, then you've got more pressing things to worry about than your voice pitch, like your lungs and trachea freezing (even aside from any matter/anti-matter reactions between the anti-proton and normal ones).

          Back in my PhD days people always used to wonder why I'd never tried inhaling the liquid Helium we used to work with, at least until I pointed out the temperatures involved.

        2. cray74

          Re: Breaking physics

          Cool aside, if you inhale Sodium Hexafluoride gas you get

          ...roasted vocal cords, since sodium fluoride's boiling point is 1704C. Sulfur hexafluoride might be the stuff you're thinking of. ;)

        3. Dave 32
          Coat

          Re: Breaking physics

          Can't say that I've ever inhaled Sulfur Hexafluoride gas, but I have had it injected into my eyeball.

          https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vitrectomy

          Dave

          1. W4YBO

            Re: Breaking physics

            "Can't say that I've ever inhaled Sulfur Hexafluoride gas, but I have had it injected into my eyeball."

            Holy cow! I couldn't imagine anything worse than the Microtome used during LASIK until I read the description (and saw photos) of a Vitrectomy. I hope you were asleep.

            During my LASIK procedure, my doctor warned me that the laser was about to start. When it fired its 219 pulses over about one second, I watched the ring of LEDs surrounding the laser go from an oval to a circle (mostly correcting astigmatism). I'd never actually "seen" a circle until that moment. All the more entertaining with the dose of Valium circulating through me.

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: Breaking physics

              Holy cow! I couldn't imagine anything worse than the Microtome used during LASIK until I read the description (and saw photos) of a Vitrectomy. I hope you were asleep.

              Yes, that beats anything I ever had done to my eyes, including the predecessor to microtome use for LASIK when they simply scraped off the layer and gave you painkillers to make it through the couple of days it took the eye to regrown and close that layer (the pain is like a handful of sand in your eye - you're really not going to open it voluntarily for that time).

              During my LASIK procedure, my doctor warned me that the laser was about to start. When it fired its 219 pulses over about one second, I watched the ring of LEDs surrounding the laser go from an oval to a circle (mostly correcting astigmatism). I'd never actually "seen" a circle until that moment. All the more entertaining with the dose of Valium circulating through me.

              Valium is also a really good cough medicine. It doesn't actually help, but you no longer care :)

            2. ChrisC

              Re: Breaking physics

              "Holy cow! I couldn't imagine anything worse than the Microtome used during LASIK until I read the description (and saw photos) of a Vitrectomy. I hope you were asleep."

              Dunno about Dave, but during mine (as part of a retinal reattachment) I was quite happily wide awake (aside from the area around my right eye, that was well and truly under the control of whatever local anesthetic they use for this sort of procedure) and thoroughly enjoying every fascinating minute of it all - as someone with the typically inquisitive mind of an engineer, being able to experience something like that first hand was pretty amazing.

              Especially since, being rather terrified of needles, there's probably no way in hell I'd be able to watch such a procedure in the third party, but when it's your own eye that's being worked on, the needles are conveniently out of sight... The follow up caratact removal op and laser clean up procedures a couple of years later were almost as much fun too.

              And on a more practical note, the surgeon who did my original op did say they prefer if if people are able to go through the procedure with just local anaesthetic, as it makes the post-op recovery process easier when patients aren't needing to be brought back around from being under.

      2. This post has been deleted by its author

      3. ZenaB
        Boffin

        Re: Breaking physics

        Given that normal helium makes you sound like Peewee Herman, I'd suggest anti proton helium makes you sound like Barry White

  2. GregC
    Coat

    Hang on, so the bottom quark has now been renamed Kim? Or have I just got my particles arse about face?

    1. TitterYeNot
      Coat

      "Or have I just got my particles arse about face?"

      The arse-about-face particle would be "Kim's Top", shirley?

      And as far as breaking The Internet physics goes, Kim's Top and Bottom are both also Strangely Charming...

  3. Doctor_Wibble
    Trollface

    Decelerator?

    Fancy name for 'expensive brick wall'...?

    Naturally based 'organic' versions also available, some are even shaped so as to allow easy relocation and being mossless represent a highly aesthetic addition to the scientific apparatus.

  4. Paul Crawford Silver badge

    Next question...

    Does antimatter fall down?

    Of course that is what is expected from all theories, but AFIK it has never been experimentally verified.

    1. michael cadoux

      Re: Next question...

      You're right. The experiment - which I fully expect to confirm "fall down" - has not yet been successfully executed. Shouldn't be too long though.

    2. Rich 11 Silver badge

      Re: Next question...

      Surely all those physicalists have to do to test the theory is to build a cannonball out of antimatter and drop if off the Leaning Tower of Pisa, right?

      [This comment was brought to you by the Donald J Trump School of Science.]

      1. Tom 7 Silver badge

        [This comment was brought to you by the Donald J Trump School of Science.]

        That's the one they just relocated to Titan? But not for tax purposes this time.

        1. Alien8n Silver badge

          Re: [This comment was brought to you by the Donald J Trump School of Science.]

          @Tom 7 Is that the experiment being run by disgraced Judges?

          1. Alien8n Silver badge

            Re: [This comment was brought to you by the Donald J Trump School of Science.]

            How on earth does a 2000AD reference get downvoted on The Register?

        2. Aladdin Sane Silver badge

          Re: [This comment was brought to you by the Donald J Trump School of Science.]

          No, they're the ones attempting to land on Europa.

          1. LDS Silver badge

            Re: [This comment was brought to you by the Donald J Trump School of Science.]

            Guess we could easily send them to Venus just telling them it's obviously full of easy women...

    3. Daniel von Asmuth
      Boffin

      Re: Next question...

      Shouldn't antimatter have negative weight?

      1. TechnicalBen Silver badge
        Holmes

        Re: Next question...

        Your not asking the right questions (but no downvotes for the jokes, that's ok...).

        They just confirmed that by the looks of it, so far, it has the same mass as expected.

        So before you ask "which way does it fall?", first think "what is it's mass?", then come back and decide what question is best to ask. :)

    4. harmjschoonhoven
      Boffin

      Re: Next question...

      Experiments to answer the question Does antimatter fall down? were proposed in A Catching Trap for All Antiproton Seasons. The question is simple and relevant. The experiment is very difficult to perform. Electrostatic forces will dominate over gravity for falling antiprotons and antihydrogen, which is electrically neutral, is harder to make and handle.

      1. GrapeBunch Silver badge

        Re: Next question...

        Thanks. "A Catching Trap for All Antiproton Seasons" might calm my qualms. In some alternative Universe, LOL.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Next question...

        If antimatters have negative gravity, shouldn't we see a lot of it getting out of black holes (where there's enough energy to create it?)

    5. GrapeBunch Silver badge

      Re: Next question...

      For decades (and yes, it's made me decadent) I've toyed with the thought that anti-matter experiences anti-gravity in relation to matter. That would make gravity some little bit symmetrical with charge. Like charges repel; opposite charges attract. In gravity, like matter attracts; opposite matter, well, in this scenario, repels. I also wondered if anti-grav would make redundant all that dark matter / dark energy stuff they keep droning on about. If they're using laser beams (rather than the Scales of Justice) to measure mass, perhaps my anti-grav idea still has a few months of plausibility left in the can.

  5. Pau1mi11er

    Why not Negative Mass

    Given that pretty much all interactions with mass involve two bodies, would we notice if the mass of the antiparticle was negative? Gravitational interactions between +ve mass things and -ve mass things would produce a negative force, pushing them apart; two similar types would always pull together. Perhaps I need to think this through a bit harder though.

    1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

      Re: Why not Negative Mass

      It is difficult to say what exactly a "negative mass" would be.

      Possibly, when it comes into contact with normal mass, NOTHING remains (because negative mass implies negative energy, so you don't even get the angry photons of matter/antimatter encounters).

      In Newtonian terms, one could make sense of the counterdirectional force vector, but in General Relativity, this is not so clear. Will geodesics through spacetime become hyperbolic?

      1. adam 40 Bronze badge

        Re: Why not Negative Mass

        [i]It is difficult to say what exactly a "negative mass" would be.[/i]

        How about -17fg?

        Not that difficult, really.

  6. David Shaw

    the CERN precursor decelerator was called LEAR

    During my brief visit to Meyrin, at the Antiproton Accelerator (AA) and Antiproton Collector (Acol) (part of the PS - Proton Synchrotron) we used to fire the occasional bunch of pbars at LEAR (Low Energy Antiproton Ring). LEAR was a cute machine, didn't need much skyshine shielding, and it successfully created the first technical antihydrogen atoms.

    I'm still waiting for the AD (antiproton decelerator) experiment AD7 "GBAR" (Gravitational Behaviour of Anti-Hydrogen at Rest) to deliver.

    their website is here:- https://gbar.web.cern.ch/GBAR/results/publications.php

    you just don't want to know how we made/make the pbars - a lot of high energy magic from the unseen university of Sheffield!

  7. Ugotta B. Kiddingme Silver badge

    mind boggled

    "In antiprotonic helium one of the atom's electrons is replaced with an antiproton – it stays in orbit because, like an electron, it carries a negative charge."

    That's some particularly clever precision atomic "surgery" to swap an electron with an antiproton. Although EXTREMELY unlikely I would understand any of how they managed to do that, it might be an interesting read.

    1. EBG

      simple, innit.

      Scanning the abstracts to the papers, it doesn't look like anything obscure. The low energy anti-protons can scatter an electron out of the He, as just about any charged particle would. The charge He ions can capture the -ve anti-proton. Might even happen as a single step event ( I'm not sure - didn't dig that far).

  8. bobajob12
    Facepalm

    Is it me, or?

    Am I the only nerd here disturbed by the sloppy wiring on the machine? You'd think that CERN would have wiring standards somewhat in advance of the teenage bedroom standard. Getting the wiring right and being to check it would seem to be somewhat ... important?

    1. allthecoolshortnamesweretaken

      Re: Is it me, or?

      It's either "physicists ≠ engineers" or something, something quantum. Or it's you.

    2. David Shaw

      Re: Is it me, or?

      ashamed to say that many of my CERN experiments were held together with the Ferney Voltaire equivalent of Sellotape. Many things were tried, tested & rebuilt after a few weeks. Of course, the biggest experiments used the best kit eg detectors who only use/used ROMAN lead (keels etc) from ships that sank a millennia or two ago, these foundling shielding Pb not having the post 1945 background crap found in non-submerged lead. In general everything worked, mostly very reliably, but often it just was needed for a short time. My 168 metre AA became AC then AD and was rebuilt 3 times in 4 years!

      1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge
        Trollface

        Re: Is it me, or?

        "Of COURSE duck tape like the one we use on that device near the water cooler will survive a high-intensity neutron flux for a few hours... why do you ask?"

    3. Dazed and Confused

      Re: Is it me, or?

      Years ago I had a student working in our lab build me an junction box, because everything he built was beautifully made, far, far better than I could do. He came back the next day with the finish box and I had the sad job of having to ask him to re-wire it again, only this time more sloppily coz those 2 wires mustn't run parallel. I'd forgotten he was going to make the internal wiring look as neat as everything else. Oh well, I should have been clearer.

    4. fajensen Silver badge

      Re: Is it me, or?

      There is no space and no time for "wiring standards". Keep telling the muppets this, yet, they come up with ever more convoluted schemes of ordering and classifying, processes and procedures, and 3D-"tools" and "Tool Integration" - aka - binding that one tool that happens to work to the albatross, dead-ender, PLM system so Nothing Works (but, Consistency is most important of people of little minds).

      In the end, time will be up, there will be no more physical space than there was the last 3 years and thus the contractors will cram everything into whatever orifice there is to be crammed full of stuff!

  9. herman Silver badge

    Bloody hell. Who did the craptastic wiring on that thing?

    1. Kevin McMurtrie Silver badge
      Boffin

      Somebody with experience wired it. You need standardized parts and lots of slack or you'll never be able to move anything during development.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Yup, all the laboratories in which some scientist builds a time machine in his spare time look like this.

    2. Tim99 Silver badge
      Boffin

      @herman

      In the early eighties I ran a high(ish) resolution Mass Spectrometry lab. Most of the equipment looked neat and tidy - Until you removed the panelling. Then it looked like the article's photo - That's how real science tends to look. >>====>

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    wiring

    CERN just has its own way of doing things...

    https://tonylevin.com/road-diaries/king-crimson-2016-tour/trip-to-cern

  11. Spudley

    Day of the Acronyms

    Is it just me, or does ASACUSA sound like it ought to be the acronym for some high-powered job title in the White House?

    1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

      Re: Day of the Acronyms

      An ASS ACCUSER, professionally looking for sex scandals?

      Hmmm....you might be on to something!

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "ASACUSA cooled around two billion antiprotonic helium atoms to between 1.5 and 1.7 Kelvin, using a buffer of ordinary helium as the cooling medium"

    Bollocks

  13. Ane Taffot

    Ollevent

    The mezorts would probably juxtapose themselves within the elastophenic layers. No shot Horlicks!

  14. mhenriday
    Pint

    I promise

    After seeing that CERN image,I promise never ever to complain about the rat's nest of cables behind my computers again....

    Henri

  15. Jon Massey
    Headmaster

    Absolute zero

    Really now?

  16. Runilwzlb

    An oldie, but I still like it.

    Heisenberg was speeding down the highway. A cop pulls him over and says "Do you have any idea how fast you were going back there?"

    Heisenberg says, "No, but I knew where I was."

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