New York Times related to physics.
A Collision Course for Physics (editorial) NYT. May 17, 2007. http://www.nytimes.com/2007/05/17/opinion/17thu4.html?n=Top/News/Science/Topics/Physics
This article deals with the construction in Europe of a huge new particle accelerator. This event has created intense interest among physicists for a number or reasons, not least of which is that it may determine the future status of physics as a science. The article discusses the fact that, while there are no specific practical aims attached to the construction of the accelerator, it is hoped that it will provide new insight into fundamental constituents of the universe.
The new accelerator, known as the Large Hadron Collider, is being constructed in a 17?mile circular tunnel that is situated on the border area between Switzerland and France. The function of the accelerator will be to measure the results of proton collisions. This will be achieved by sophisticated detection devices.
The European accelerator was almost eclipsed by the intended construction of an even larger accelerator in the United States. However, this construction was terminated by the American Congress, due to budget constraints. The American device, the Superconducting Supercollider, was envisaged as having a fifty-four mile tunnel, compared to the present European accelerator, which is seventeen miles in length.
The knowledge that may be learned when the new accelerator begins operating have been described in detail by Dennis Overbye in Science Times. One of the central aims in this exercise is to establish direct evidence of the theorized and elusive Higgs Boson Particle. It is believed by physicists that this particle imparts or provides mass to other particles.
Other important intentions in constructing the accelerator will be to search for new forms of matter and for evidence of supersymmetry. Suprersymmetry is a concept that, "...unites all forces of nature into a unified theory" (a Collision Course for Physics, 2007). The unified theory is of course one of the great aims of modern physics, as it will provide an integrated view of matter and the universe, which might serve to explain a wide range of presently little understood aspects of the universe.
Other mysterious aspects of physics that the new accelerator could shed some light on are the evidence of new dimensions as well as smaller black holes. However, scientists also acknowledge that there is also the possibility that very little or no knowledge may be gleaned from the time-consuming and expensive construction of this device.
The article emphasizes the important point that if no real advances are made by the new accelerator, then this would be a serious problem for high-energy physics. This could result in the possible demise of the standing of physics and its reduction as a science that would make it secondary to biology. In other words, if the accelerator does not present some new findings that can further the science of physics, this would possibly result in the increase in the importance of genetics and of the mapping of the human genome.
Therefore, the article is at pains to illustrate how the construction of the new accelerator is one of the most significant events in the modern history of physics. As the article stresses, even if there are no practical outcomes, there is a lot riding on his project, "...including whether high-energy physics vaults to new levels or falls flat on its face..." (a Collision Course for Physics, 2007).
2. I.B.M. Researchers Advancing Computer Processing Ability by John Markoff. NYT. Published: August 31, 2007. http://www.nytimes.com/2007/08/31/technology/31ibm.html?n=Top/News/Science/Topics/PhysicsA
This article deals with various research claims relating to the possibility of large volumes of information stored on increasingly smaller areas. In particular, the article discusses the claim by researchers at I.B.M. laboratories that progress has been made in the endeavor to store information and computing at the level of individual atoms. The findings of research on this important issue have been made in two documents in the Journal of Science. The fundamental aspects that were investigated and reported on relate to magnetic behavior and nanotechnology. It is on this basis that the researchers are intending to develop electronic components, which will be significantly smaller than transistors and wires that are commonly used today..
The article summarizes the two papers briefly. The first paper deals with technique for reading and writing digital ones and zeroes onto a small group of atoms and even on individual atoms. The second paper describes the possibility of using a single molecule as a switch. This would therefore imitate at a much smaller level the way that contemporary transistors work.
Related to this is a statement by a Hewlett-Packard physicist, R. Stanley Williams, that his group has began the manufacture of prototypes of a silicon chip that "...combines both conventional microelectronics and molecular scale components" (Markoff, 2007). Furthermore, the statement also notes that the first of these hybrid devices is a circuit called a field programmable gate array, or F.P.G.A., using molecular-scale components as the configuration circuitry. It is also claimed that this approach will save considerable space in the design of computer chips.
Another example of this type of research made in the article is from a team of I.B.M. researchers at the company's Almaden Research Center in San Jose. This research is on controlling magnetic direction, which is an essential technology that is used in reading and writing digital information on magnetic storage disks. This also has applications beyond storage, and the researchers note the possibility that this technology has for quantum computing. Quantum computing is the next step in technology that would radically increase present computing speeds.
In another experiment, a second group of I.B.M. scientists in Zurich succeeded in placing two hydrogen atoms in an ultrathin insulating film and switching them back and forth between two states. This process created the equivalent of the ones and zeroes used in standard chips. They were also able link the switching process to other neighboring molecules. This process therefore holds the possibility of an integrated fabric of trillions of atom-size switches in the future
3. The Universe, Expanding Beyond All Understanding by Dennis Overbye. Published: June 5, 2007. http://www.nytimes.com/2007/06/05/science/space/05essa.html?n=Top/News/Science/Topics/Physics
This article explores the concept of the expanding universe and the implications of dark matter. It is noted that as little as one-hundred years ago the universe was perceived by scientists as seemingly static and simple. This view was to change with the new theoretical concept of expanding galaxies, which followed the event of the "Big Bang."
The author notes an ironic paradox related to the theory of the expanding universe that may occur in the future. He states that if the universe keeps on expanding then in 100 billion years "...the only galaxies left visible in the sky will be the half-dozen or so bound together gravitationally into what is known as the Local Group, which is not expanding and in fact will probably merge into one starry ball" (Overbye, 2007). This will result in the ironic situation that if this occurs the scientist would not be able to see the universe expanding and will therefore assume a theory of the universe as static and fixed. The author also notes the negative implications of this view of scientific knowledge in terms of the wonder and mystery that is so important for scientific discovery.
A significant aspect of this article is the relationship that the author draws between the theory of the expanding universe and 'dark matter' or dark energy. This mysterious force was discovered in 1998 and is seen as the "main culprit" that is the cause of this expansion of the universe and the force that is pushing galaxies away from one another. This is also related to the repulsion force known as the cosmological constant.
In term of the theory of the expansion of the universe, this expansion will increase and, as the galaxies approach the sped of light, will in fact vanish from view. This" cloak of invisibility "will also prevent the afterglow of the Big Bang for being seen. The theory of dark energy taken to its local conclusion also indicates that eventually.".. In the far future, this runaway dark energy will suck all the energy and life out of the universe" (Overbye, 2007).
However, the article goes on to examine other theories of dark energy and the expansion of the universe. One of these theories is that dark energy is not needed to make us pessimistic about the future. This refers to the view of a paper written by George Ellis, a mathematician and astronomer at the University of Cape Town, in South Africa, and Tony Rothman, a lecturer at Princeton. This paper shows how ordinary expansion would gradually carry away most galaxies out of site and would eventually result in our "cosmic ignorance."
The article concludes with some observations of a more philosophical nature. The author raises the important issue that we may be erroneously assuming that the universe is orderly and organized. There is also the real possibly that the universe is more chaotic than we might imagine. This also refers…