A Particle Full of Charm

The Xicc++ particle will become a tool to observe the strong force in another light.

By Shelby Traynor

Collage by Alex Hanson using an image representing the new particle observed by LHCb, containing two charm quarks and one up quark. (Image credit: Daniel Dominguez/CERN)

Almost two-hundred metres beneath the France-Switzerland border, physicists at CERN’s Large Hadron Collider have observed a new particle. A charming particle. They’ve been on the look-out for him for some time, and now they’ve got him— Xicc++.  

The name doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue, but this guy is more than meets the eye. He’s heavy. He’s charming. He’s a subatomic particle, and he’s a real catch. CERN’s particle smasher— based near Geneva, Switzerland— spotted the fellow during the Large Hadron Collider beauty experiment, or the LHCb experiment for short.

Xicc++ is the elusive brother of the proton, neutron, and of a number of other composite subatomic particles. These particles are all a part of the same family, because they’re all made up of three quarks. What are quarks, you ask? Well, let’s dive in. Continue reading “A Particle Full of Charm”

“We Are All Matter, and We All Matter”

In class last week, Melody pointed out her love of a sentence on the final page of the paper.

By Alex Hanson

This semester I have been granted the absolute highest honor of taking a class with my friend and HERpothesis collaborator Melody Xu. Our class focuses on feminist science studies,  science and technology studies, and tinkering in technoscience. Last week, we read a paper called “Animal Performances: An Exploration of Intersections between Feminist Science Studies and Studies of Human/Animal Relationships,” by Lynda BirkeMette Bryld, and Nina Lykke. The title is a bit intimidating, and the text offers theoretical concepts that required me to reread several paragraphs, but it is overall a really interesting look at the way feminist science studies can apply to human’s relationship and perception of animals. (If you’re interested, you can find the paper here!)

In class last week, Melody pointed out her love of a sentence on the final page of the paper: “We are all matter, and we all matter.” In the context of the paper, it is addressing each individual’s ability to blur the separation between humans and animals. On it’s own, I think this quote is beautiful because it connects humans to the rest of the universe as “matter”— that inanimate “stuff” that makes up everything but also feels very separate from us as human individuals— and addresses the individual power we hold because we are made up of that matter. Since Melody brought it up in class, I haven’t been able to get it out of my head. I made this image of the quote in order to do its some justice with bright colors and a bold font.

Spatial Sounds and Pikachus: An Augmented Reality Appreciation Post

“Even though the future seems far away, it is actually beginning right now.” – Poet Mattie Stepanek

By Melody Xu

Collage by Alex Hanson

The world has been taken by storm by Pokemon Go. If you don’t know what Pokemon Go is (you must be living under a rock), you’re missing out! Definitely go check out the App store and download it because your life will never be the same again. If you’re one of the millions of players already enjoying the game (please stop, you’re the reason the servers are crashing), good for you!

Regardless of whether or not you’ve already caught them all, Pokemon Go serves as a fantastic example of a game that implements augmented reality, or AR for short. By definition, any technology that inserts “digital interfaces into the real world” (according to the Salem Encyclopedia of Science) is an example of augmented reality.

People often group augmented reality together with virtual reality, but there is a stark difference between the two. While virtual reality attempts to create, in essence, a separate reality apart from real life, augmented reality aims to add (or augment, hence the name) the real world. While the fundamental concepts for augmented reality have been around since the early days, the actual term itself didn’t appear until the 1990s. Creators who utilize AR are unique in that they use the technology to enhance what users experience, rather than creating a whole new world for them. Continue reading “Spatial Sounds and Pikachus: An Augmented Reality Appreciation Post”

The Devil’s Violin

He would give up everything, destroy his own precious violin and forsake music forever, rather than have to give up the feelings and emotions that the Devil’s music had invoked in him.

By Melody Xu

Illustration by Alli Lorraine

There’s a story that my violin teacher used to tell me.

It’s about a composition officially known as the Violin Sonata in G minor by the talented Italian composer Giuseppe Tartini. A brilliant piece, split into four movements, it’s known for its complexity in sound and difficulty in playing, but it is not those qualities that made it stand out to me. Instead, it’s the story behind it. Apart from its official title, it’s also known amongst musicians as the Devil’s Trill.  

Allegedly, Tartini has made a deal with the Devil, his soul in exchange for servitude. One of those nights, he had commanded the Devil to play his violin and the sounds that had escaped from the musical instrument had left him enchanted, enthralled, enlightened. He was so captivated by the unworldly sonata that the Devil performed for him that Tartini immediately tried to capture what he had heard into a composition of his own. Although it ended up being his favorite and best sonata, Tartini later admitted that what he had composed paled in comparison to what he had listened to. He wrote that if he had been forced, he would give up everything, destroy his own precious violin and forsake music forever, rather than have to give up the feelings and emotions that the Devil’s music had invoked in him. Continue reading “The Devil’s Violin”

Dark Matter: The Jess Mariano of the Universe

We know more about what dark matter isn’t than what dark matter is.

By Shelby Traynor

Collage by Alex Hanson, using an image of the Coma Cluster 

A mile underground, in a converted mine somewhere in South Dakota, scientists have been trying to detect an elusive substance that makes up around 27 per cent of all the mass and energy in the observable universe: dark matter.

For twenty months, from October 2014 to May 2016, the Large Underground Xenon (LUX) experiment was trying to detect dark matter. But at last week’s International Dark Matter Conference (a name I call immediate dibs on in case I start a girl band), Professor of Physics at Brown University Rick Gaitskell said: “What we have observed is consistent with background alone.”

The LUX experiment had failed. Dark matter remains as mysterious as Jess Mariano in season two of Gilmore Girls. Continue reading “Dark Matter: The Jess Mariano of the Universe”

Jupiter’s Big Day

NASA received a three-second beep to reassure them that the spacecraft had made it into orbit in one piece. Juno project manager Rick Nybakken told the room: “We just did the hardest thing NASA’s ever done.”

by Shelby Traynor

Image credit: NASA/JPL

In Ancient Roman mythology, Jupiter claimed domain over the sky and the thunder. He cloaked himself in cloud to hide his mischief— but his wife, Juno, could see past it all. It’s no accident that NASA named a spacecraft after her (though they did give the craft a backronym in an attempt to cover their sentimental tracks), or that she has been zipping through space at almost 19 miles per second for the past five years, her sights set on Jupiter and it’s mysteries.

Juno snuck its way into Jupiter’s orbit on July 4th. At 11:18 PM Eastern Time the main engine started firing, slowing the spacecraft enough so it could fall into the planet’s orbit. At 11:53 PM, those engines were shut off. Almost four hundred million miles away, NASA received a three-second beep to reassure them that the spacecraft had made it into orbit in one piece. Juno project manager Rick Nybakken told the room: “We just did the hardest thing NASA’s ever done.” Continue reading “Jupiter’s Big Day”

Batten Down the Hatches: The Rise of the Cephalopod

Tell us your secrets, you squirmy inkfish!

By Shelby Traynor

Illustration by Alex Hanson

Off the coast of Norway and Greenland lies the memory of the hopefully-fictional Kraken, a Giant Squid capable of snapping a galleon sailing ship in two. The storybook sea monster takes up the ocean, its tentacles reaching for unassuming sailors and its heart set on destruction. If the Kraken had been real—if it had existed today, alongside its brethren of very-real Giant Squid—eager scientists would call it a cephalopod.

The oceans are a cephalopod’s stomping ground—squid, octopus, and cuttlefish can be found in the waters of the Pacific, Atlantic, Indian, Southern, and Arctic oceans. They’re feisty and adaptable, adorable and terrifying, and according to a study published last week in Current Biology, our squishy, tentacled friends are thriving. Continue reading “Batten Down the Hatches: The Rise of the Cephalopod”