Wednesday, March 31, 2010

LHC discovers black rings

Now that the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) has increased its energy level to 3.5TeV (3.5 Tera electron Volts = 3,500 Giga electron Volts = 3,500,000 Mega electron Volts) new physics is starting to emerge.

Normally there is agreement not to release findings too early, as this is very much a team sport, and papers are published with hundreds if not thousands of physicists names attached. In fact the first paper published last year from an LHC collaboration had 20 pages just listing the authors.

However, a recent joiner with their PhD still fresh, emailed a friend with some exciting news about the discovery of Black Rings – obviously not realizing that such would soon become public.

Well apparently they had recorded 97 double collisions in the CMS experiment, where the second collision happened within a few picoseconds of the first. This meant that particles ejected from the second interacted with products of the previous collision. Initial analysis was very puzzling, as some anomalous tracks were discovered. Fortunately a brilliant theoretical Nuclear Physicist from Estonia, Prof. Selrahc Nivag, found a possible explanation, a Black Ring.

A Black Ring is a theoretical possibility when an intense gravitational field interacts with strange quarks. Now quarks are normally bound up with others and not seen by themselves. The first collision generated hadrons containing strange quarks, the second collision generated transient super dense collection of protons and neutrons (a hyper nucleus) with a high quantum spin number, and their interaction created a transient Black Ring which lasted less than a microsecond.

About 34 of the 97 double collisions gave anomalous results tentatively identified with Black Rings. Theoretical predictions suggest that for collisions of this type, after allowing for variations in the precise details of the actual double collisions, would generate 31 such events – not bad correlation, considering the accuracy of the measurements, and within the expected margin of experimental error.

A Black Ring is predicted to decay in a flash of gamma radiation with several particles flying out in the same plane as the ring. Additionally, in 3 of the Black Ring events, later particles were seen going through the centre of the Black Ring – identified by particle tracks ending abruptly where the Black Ring was, and having continuation tracks indicating they had been converted to their anti-matter counter parts (the surrounding magnetic field caused the tracks to curve in opposite directions, due to the abrupt change in the sign of the charged particles).

This interpretation is still highly speculative, as the significance is only at the level of 2 standard deviations, and physicists prefer to get enough data for it to be valid at at least 7 standard deviations.

So no Black Holes, just a few Black Rings – maybe.