“Humanity can always choose to build a bigger ring or invest in producing stronger-field magnets; those are easy ways to go to higher energies in particle physics. But there’s no cure for synchrotron radiation with electrons and positrons; you’d have to use heavier particles instead. There’s no cure for energy being distributed among multiple constituent particles inside a proton; you’d have to use fundamental particles instead.
The muon is the one particle that could solve both of these issues. The only drawback is that they’re unstable, and difficult to keep alive for a long time. However, they’re easy to make: smash a proton beam into a piece of acrylic and you’ll produce pions, which will decay into both muons and anti-muons. Accelerate those muons to high energy and collimate them into beams, and you can put them in a circular collider.”
There are lots of possibilities being discussed for how we could build a next-generation particle collider, capable of pushing past the frontiers where the LHC will be fundamentally limited. We could go to a larger proton collider, we could go back to doing high-precision collisions of electrons and positrons to create large numbers of the known, existing particles, or we could push the frontiers in an entirely new way: by colliding muons with anti-muons.
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“But here’s the thing: we don’t know that this is true. Sure, the Standard Model says that this is the way that things are, but we know that the Standard Model doesn’t give us the final answer to everything. In fact, we know that at some level, the Standard Model must break down and be wrong, because it doesn’t account for gravity, dark matter, dark energy, or the preponderance of matter (and not antimatter) in the Universe.
There has to be something out there more to nature than this. And maybe it’s because the particles that we think are fundamental, point-like, and indivisible today actually aren’t. Perhaps, if we go to high-enough energies and small-enough wavelengths, we’ll be able to see that at some point, between our current energy scales and the Planck energy scale, there’s actually more to the Universe than we presently know.”
Are the fundamental particles that we know of truly fundamental? Are they point-like entities, with no finite size, no internal structure, and no capacity to ever be split apart into smaller entities? According to the Standard Model, they are. But observationally, we know that the Standard Model isn’t all that there is. Moreover, we’ve got a long way to go (some 16 orders of magnitude) from our present experimental limits to the Planck scale, and what we think of as “fundamental” could undergo a revolution at any place, without any warning, if only we dare to look.
“The fact that saves us, which Olbers had no way of knowing back in his day, is not that the Universe isn’t infinite in extent (it still could be), but that it doesn’t go back, in its current form, for an infinite amount of time. The Universe we inhabit today had a beginning: a day without a yesterday. That beginning is known as the Big Bang, which puts a starting line for all the matter, radiation, energy, and light that possibly exists in the observable Universe.
The Universe hasn’t been around forever, and therefore we can only observe stars and galaxies that are a specific and finite distance away. Therefore, we can only receive a finite amount of light, heat, and energy from them, and there cannot be an arbitrarily large amount of light in our night sky.”
Ask a child what the color of the night sky is, and you’ll uniformly get the same answer: black. The night sky is one of the darkest things we have to look at in all of nature. And yet, the fact that the sky is completely dark at night is a bit of a paradox. If the Universe is full of light sources like stars and galaxies, and it’s truly infinite in extent, then no matter how far away you had to look to see it, eventually every line-of-sight you could imagine would end on a light source. Everywhere, in all directions, all you’d see was a bright light.
Friend: Is your cat alive?
Dem feelings hitting hard dennamug