The Global Community of Particle Physics

This account brings you hot items from public particle physics news sources, including CERN,, and

  • Week 52 at the Pole

    2020-01-17T23:27:57Z via NavierStokesApp To: Public

    "Week 52 at the Pole"

    Life at the South Pole is full of traditions. And as one year ends and another begins, anticipation always mounts for a special tradition: the unveiling of the new South Pole marker.

    ( Feed URL: )
  • IceCube performs the first-ever search for neutrinos from the sun’s atmosphere

    2020-01-17T16:28:23Z via NavierStokesApp To: Public

    "IceCube performs the first-ever search for neutrinos from the sun’s atmosphere"

    The IceCube Collaboration recently performed the first-ever experimental search for solar atmospheric neutrinos. Such a detection would have important implications for understanding solar magnetic fields and how cosmic rays propagate in the inner solar system, and it could even provide additional background to solar dark matter searches. But after investigating seven years of IceCube data, IceCube researchers did not detect any solar atmospheric neutrinos and so set an upper limit on the flux. Their results are outlined in a paper that was recently submitted to the Journal of Cosmology and Astroparticle Physics.

    ( Feed URL: )
  • Researchers flouting clinical reporting rules, and linking gut microbes to heart disease and diabetes

    2020-01-16T19:28:21Z via NavierStokesApp To: Public

    "Researchers flouting clinical reporting rules, and linking gut microbes to heart disease and diabetes"

    Though a law requiring clinical trial results reporting has been on the books for decades, many researchers have been slow to comply. Now, 2 years after the law was sharpened with higher penalties for noncompliance, investigative correspondent Charles Piller took a look at the results. He talks with host Sarah Crespi about the investigation and a surprising lack of compliance and enforcement. Also this week, Sarah talks with Brett Finlay, a microbiologist at the University Of British Columbia, Vancouver, about an Insight in this week’s issue that aims to connect the dots between noncommunicable diseases like heart disease, diabetes, and cancer and the microbes that live in our guts. Could these diseases actually spread through our microbiomes? This week’s episode was edited by Podigy. Listen to previous podcasts. About the Science Podcast Download a transcript (PDF). [Image: stu_spivack/Flickr; Music: Jeffrey Cook]

    ( Feed URL: )
  • Drag racing and black hole physics

    2020-01-16T17:28:22Z via NavierStokesApp To: Public

    "Drag racing and black hole physics"

    The first undergraduate on the Event Horizon Telescope to receive junior collaborator status thrives in the unknown.

    Joseph Farah

    The silver Mustang EcoBoost was fishtailing, its back wheels losing traction and spinning out on the wet pavement of the New England Dragway. 

    On a cold and damp October night at the quarter-mile racetrack in the small town of Epping, New Hampshire, Joseph Farah was careening at over 100 miles per hour when he lost control of the car. 

    Suddenly, eureka.

    Joseph Farah's Mustang

    Farah races his Mustang on the New England Dragway

    Courtesy of Joseph Farah
    Joseph Farah's Mustang at the starting line

    Farah races his Mustang on the New England Dragway

    Courtesy of Joseph Farah

    Racing at the center of the universe 

    For several days Farah had been wracking his brain about the technicalities of how dark shadows form at the middle of black holes. The project was the culmination of his first deep dive into black hole theory and involved quite a bit of complex thinking. 

    It was there at the “center of the universe” (how citizens of Epping fondly refer to their town at the crossroads of highway routes 101 and 125) that epiphany struck.

    “Traveling so quickly forward while feeling the back end of the car swinging out wide gave me a blast of intuition and gave me an idea about how the phenomenon I was studying connected to my mathematical approximation,” Farah says.

    Giddy from excitement, he used the time slip he received post-race to sketch out his idea. His insight ultimately led to a promising result that he hopes will soon be published in an academic journal.

    Farah is still an undergraduate, studying physics and math at the University of Massachusetts-Boston. He is the first and only undergraduate thus far to receive junior collaborator status on the consortium for the Event Horizon Telescope, a collection of telescopes all around the world whose primary goal is taking the first pictures of black holes. 

    In his nearly two years with the team, he has developed computer libraries for data analysis and modeling, made movies of black holes and assisted with weather prediction, among other things. 

    Farah’s current project, understanding the intricacies of dark shadow formation at the middle of black holes, could result in his seventh publication as a member of the EHT. For the first time he is leading a study, a challenge he says he welcomes. 

    “I love thinking about problems and about what a result means on a fundamental level. I love the discovery stage—just the idea of knowing something that nobody else does or trying to find an answer to a question that nobody has maybe even asked,” Farah says.

    One door closes, another opens

    “What made Joe?” asks Michael Wadness, Farah’s high school physics teacher. “He’s not an off-the-scale Einstein super-genius. He’s just enthusiastic and motivated and is always asking questions. He’s amazing because he wants to do physics.”

    At a young age, Farah could be found immersed in the latest NOVA program or Michio Kaku book. He knew that he wanted to study outer space and physics by middle school, and in high school he took advantage of all the clubs and science fairs he could. 

    During his sophomore year of high school, one of his science fair projects caught the eye of Karen O’Hagan, an outreach coordinator for his high school science department. O’Hagan introduced him to Anna Sajina, whom he calls “an astrophysics researcher who changed my life.”

    Even though he was just a sophomore, Sajina let Farah work in her lab at Tufts University for a couple of weeks, an experience that he says taught him a lot—and snapped him out of a mentality that was holding him back.

    “Before working with her, I had this ridiculous idea from studying for standardized tests that if you come up with a question that isn’t answered by the textbook, then it’s the wrong question,” Farah says. “But that’s not how science works. In science, you’re trying to come up with questions that can’t be answered by the text.” 

    In 2017, Farah started college in Boston, 10 miles from his hometown. He immediately joined a research group working on new detectors to integrate into the ATLAS experiment at the Large Hadron Collider. 

    Farah recalls that as the project wrapped up, some students graduated and others went to work on ATLAS at CERN in Switzerland, while he as a mere undergraduate had nowhere to go. That’s when his supervisor, physicist Melissa Franklin, approached him about an opportunity to work with a research group doing radio astronomy and black hole physics: the Event Horizon Telescope Consortium.

    Once in a lifetime experiences for a regular Joe

    Readers attuned to recent major discoveries will have figured out that Farah was working on EHT when the collaboration released their blockbuster first image of a black hole in April 2019. Farah helped produce the image, and with the rest of the collaboration had kept that news a secret for nearly a year. 

    For the discovery, the EHT was honored with the Breakthrough Prize in Fundamental Physics. As one of the nearly 350 laureates evenly splitting the $3 million prize, Farah plans to pay off the rest of his Mustang and invest the rest of his winnings. 

    “Joseph has brought an endless stream of new ideas and fresh perspective and energy to the collaboration that only students bring,” says Michael Johnson, Farah’s supervisor on EHT and an astrophysicist at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics. “He’s really gotten to know the difficulties and depth of the project. He’s truly deserving of his junior collaborator status.” 

    Farah downplays his role—“I think everyone in the collaboration wears many hats,” he says. 

    He says he is focusing on his next steps: finishing the semester, graduating college, getting into graduate school, and working on his drag racing and award-winning 3D art designs.

    “What I would say to people is, reach out to anyone you want to work with. The best thing that can happen is you get to work with them; the worst thing that can happen is you’re on their radar,” Farah says. “Take the initiative. Be fearless.” 

    Back at the New England Dragway, Farah recovered from the fishtail and, almost predictably, won the race.

    ( Feed URL: )
  • LHCb sees new hints of odd lepton behaviour

    2020-01-15T16:28:32Z via NavierStokesApp To: Public

    "LHCb sees new hints of odd lepton behaviour"

    LHCb sees new hints of odd lepton behaviour

    abelchio Tue, 01/14/2020 - 16:34
    LHCb experiment cavern at LHC- IP 8
    LHCb experiment cavern at LHC IP8 in September 2016 during technical stop with Gloria Corti (LHC Radiation and Safety) (Image: CERN)

    The LHCb collaboration has reported an intriguing new result in its quest to test a key principle of the Standard Model called lepton universality. Although not statistically significant, the finding – a possible difference in the behaviour of different types of lepton particles – chimes with other previous results. If confirmed, as more data are collected and analysed, the results would signal a crack in the Standard Model.

    Lepton universality is the idea that all three types of charged lepton particles – electrons, muons and taus – interact in the same way with other particles. As a result, the different lepton types should be created equally often in particle transformations, or “decays”, once differences in their mass are accounted for. However, some measurements of particle decays made by the LHCb team and other groups over the past few years have indicated a possible difference in their behaviour. Taken separately, these measurements are not statistically significant enough to claim a breaking of lepton universality and hence a crack in the Standard Model, but it is intriguing that hints of a difference have been popping up in different particle decays and experiments.

    The latest LHCb result is the first test of lepton universality made using the decays of beauty baryons – three-quark particles containing at least one beauty quark. Sifting through proton–proton collision data at energies of 7, 8 and 13 TeV, the LHCb researchers identified beauty baryons called Λb0 and counted how often they decayed to a proton, a charged kaon and either a muon and antimuon or an electron and antielectron.

    The team then took the ratio between these two decay rates. If lepton universality holds, this ratio should be close to 1. A deviation from this prediction could therefore signal a violation of lepton universality. Such a violation could be caused by the presence in the decays of a never-before-spotted particle not predicted by the Standard Model.

    The team obtained a ratio slightly below 1 with a statistical significance of about 1 standard deviation, well below the 5 standard deviations needed to claim a real difference in the decay rates. The researchers say that the result points in the same direction as other results, which have observed hints that decays to a muon–antimuon pair occur less often than those to an electron–antielectron pair, but they also stress that much more data is needed to tell whether this oddity in the behaviour of leptons is here to stay or not.

    Read more on the LHCb site and the CERN Courier.


    ( Feed URL: )
  • The persevering physicist

    2020-01-14T17:28:35Z via NavierStokesApp To: Public

    "The persevering physicist"

    To both understand the universe and improve equity, inclusion and diversity in physics, Brian Beckford looks to one word: respect.

    Illustration of Brian Beckford

    To mold the mind and body
    To cultivate a vigorous spirit

    So go the first two principles of the Japanese martial arts of kendo and iaido. For the last 20 years, physicist Brian Beckford has practiced these forms of Japanese swordsmanship not only as a way to find balance after long hours of research, but also as a philosophy that has guided him through life.

    In kendo, “we begin and end with respect,” he says. “We are encouraged to learn from everyone: from the beginner and the seasoned practitioner. Do not dismiss the opportunity to learn and to be both welcoming and humble.”

    Beckford says this attitude has brought him far. As a young boy in Jamaica, as a teenage immigrant in Miami, and as a college-dropout-turned-hotel-manager, he could not have imagined where it would take him and who he would be today: a nuclear/particle physicist fluent in Japanese, and a powerful advocate for the next generations. 

    “I want to tear down barriers,” he says. “I want to not only do fundamental research and expand our understanding of our universe—I want to be an inspiration for others who want to do that, too.”

    From Jamaica to Miami

    Until he was 9 years old, Beckford lived in Spanish Town, Jamaica, with his parents and brother. He remembers it fondly: He attended a prep school, and all of his positive role models—such as teachers and doctors—were black like him. The world seemed open. When he was four, he told his mother he wanted to be a scientist and invent something.

    But then, his parents split, and he, his brother and his mother immigrated to Miami. Not only did his socioeconomic status change, he had to learn and adapt to a new culture, history and academic system.

    “My mother was very open with us about what we would have to sacrifice,” he says. “But she was also very encouraging about what lay before us in Miami and how we should take advantage of opportunities.”

    The faces of his role models changed, but Miami was home to many immigrants like him, and he found a new group friends from around the world. 

    One of those friends was encouraged by a teacher to apply to the newly formed public magnet school Design and Architecture Senior High. When Beckford asked the teacher if he should apply, too, the teacher said Beckford likely didn’t have the talent to get in.

    “Then I was determined to prove that I could go because I was told I couldn’t,” Beckford says.

    A nonlinear path to physics

    He was accepted, and his aptitude in math led him to study engineering at Florida International University. But during his freshman year, he became disenchanted with what felt like a system that was holding him back. Driving around, he was pulled over again and again by police. Even though he was a student, he was told he wasn’t welcome in certain neighborhoods. “My response to that wasn’t the smartest,” he says. “I just stopped attending school and went off to work.”

    He got a job at a hotel in Miami Beach, eventually working his way up to guest service manager. His mother, who had not attended college, “expressed her disappointment in me daily,” he says. 

    He decided he owed it to her to go back to school, and he re-enrolled at FIU while continuing to work to support himself. A philosophy course spurred questions about the nature of existence, and his professor suggested that if he wanted to understand how things worked, he should learn more about physics.

    He found a mentor in physics professor Joerg Reinhold, who offered Beckford an opportunity to work in his lab as a research assistant. “It showed me that going to graduate school in physics was something I could do,” Beckford says. 

    Reinhold says he knew Beckford was special from the start. “He was one of the few students I worked with who, if we sat down to discuss something, he actually took notes about it and wrote everything out,” he says. “I always enjoyed working with him.”

    Illustrated postcards detailing Beckford's timeline
    Illustration by Sandbox Studio, Chicago with Corinne Mucha

    Finding a home in Japan

    Beckford became a graduate student in Reinhold’s lab to work on hypernuclear physics experiments at Jefferson Lab, and then was introduced to a research collaboration with Tohoku University in Japan. It was a good fit for Beckford, who was already studying kendo and east Asian philosophy, and after spending a summer doing research there, he decided to apply to Tohoku’s Super Doctor Fellowship and earn his PhD in Japan. His research focused on studying how photon interactions with nucleons produced strange particles called kaons and lambdas at the university’s local accelerator. 

    In Japan, he found a welcoming culture. Instead of being a black American, he was considered just “non-Japanese.”

    “I never once thought twice about wearing a hoodie because it was cold in Sendai,” he says. 

    He continued to study kendo and iaido and the Japanese language while conducting his research, putting in the kind of long days that Japanese work culture is known for. 

    But then his path took another turn. His adviser, Osamu Hashimoto, died from cancer. Not long after, the 2011 magnitude-9.0 earthquake off the coast of Tohoku damaged the beam line and shut down the university for almost a semester. 

    Beckford switched his focus to only researching the photoproduction of lambda particles instead, eventually earning his PhD in 2013.

    “Getting a PhD in nuclear physics is a long and sometimes painful path,” Reinhold says. “And Brian did it in another country, in a completely different environment. I’ve seen a lot of other people fail trying to do this, but once Brian wants something, he has the patience and perseverance to get it.”

    From researcher to advocate

    Of the students who earn PhDs in physics each year, the number from underrepresented groups usually hovers between 6 and 8 percent. Beckford took that into consideration when deciding on his next step.

    “I’ve never had a black instructor in physics,” Beckford says. “I started thinking about the challenges of inclusion and diversity in physics, the feelings of isolation.”

    He saw an opening at the American Physical Society’s Bridge Program, which aims to increase the number of physics PhDs awarded to underrepresented minority students  and provides support structures for success. He got the job, and for the next two and a half years he served as a project manager, helping to establish Bridge program sites, expand the program, and place students into Bridge or graduate programs in physics.

    He learned that improving the situation of underrepresented groups in the field requires addressing a whole slew of factors. 

    It starts with addressing factors that decrease the number of minority students in graduate programs. Many students from underrepresented groups apply to just one graduate school, often because they cannot afford the cost of multiple applications. Additionally, many schools require students to submit their score on the physics portion of the Graduate Record Examination (GRE) standardized test as part of their applications and use the scores as hard cut-off criteria. It has been shown that misuse of the physics GRE score in selecting applicants may be a factor in the continued underrepresentation of racial-ethnic minorities and women. 

    The complicating factors don’t end there. For one, if a physicist from an underrepresented group does make it through the gauntlet to become a faculty member, they are often disproportionally charged with helping with mentoring and diversity efforts, which can affect the time they spend on research and therefore their chances at tenure.

    Despite the challenges, Beckford says he remains optimistic about increasing diversity in physics. After all, he says, physicists are the kind of people who spend years or decades designing and building experiments before they see any results.

    “If we put the same effort into diversity that we do in experiments, we can solve this problem,” he says. “We can work on this difficult problem with the same passion we use toward scientific questions.”

    Stepping into the unknown once more

    After working for the APS Bridge Program, Beckford joined the KOTO experiment as a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Michigan in the fall of 2015 and went on to earn the President’s Postdoctoral Fellowship in 2017 under physics professor Myron Campbell, who calls Beckford “a first-rate physicist.” 

    The two worked together on the KOTO experiment performed at the J-PARC accelerator facility in Tokai, Japan, which aims to measure the direct CP-violating rare decay of the neutral kaon into a neutral pion and a neutrino anti-neutrino pair. The results could help explain why there is more matter than antimatter in the universe, but the decay is predicted in 1 out of every 30 billion kaon decays and requires large data sets to observe and measure. KOTO set and established the best experimental upper limit in the decay earlier this year.

    As a postdoc, Beckford mentored a diverse group of undergraduate students, Campbell notes. “I’m confident that what made the underrepresented minority students comfortable working in our group was Brian,” he says. “He has had to navigate that experience, and he helps others navigate it as well.”

    Now, Beckford is an assistant research scientist at the University of Michigan applying for tenure-track positions. Where his path will take him next is unclear, but he’s used to that. “In no way did I envision this is what I would be doing when I moved to the United States,” he says. “Twists and turns, high points and low points. There have been very difficult times when I was uncertain if I could be successful. But you grow by learning, by stepping out into the unknown. I value all of it.”

    He still practices kendo and iaido several days a week and has achieved a level of 5 dan (black belt level) in both. “It’s not an escape,” he says. “It allows me to persevere, and I use that resilience in other parts of my life.”

    ( Feed URL: )
  • ANTARES and IceCube combine forces to search for southern sky neutrino sources

    2020-01-14T16:28:17Z via NavierStokesApp To: Public

    "ANTARES and IceCube combine forces to search for southern sky neutrino sources"

    The IceCube Collaboration recently conducted a combined IceCube-ANTARES search for neutrino point-like and extended sources in the southern sky. They didn’t find any significant evidence for cosmic neutrino sources, but the analysis shows the strong potential for combining data sets from both experiments. Their results were submitted to The Astrophysical Journal.

    ( Feed URL: )
  • Connecting the dots in the sky could shed new light on dark matter

    2020-01-13T20:28:48Z via NavierStokesApp To: Public

    "Connecting the dots in the sky could shed new light on dark matter"

    Matching up maps of matter and light from the Dark Energy Survey and Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope may help astrophysicists understand what causes a faint cosmic gamma-ray glow.

    ( Feed URL: )
  • Department of Energy Selects Site for Electron-Ion Collider

    2020-01-10T20:28:29Z via NavierStokesApp To: Public

    "Department of Energy Selects Site for Electron-Ion Collider"

    Department of Energy Selects Site for Electron-Ion ColliderPress Releasexeno Fri, 01/10/2020 - 13:38220

    New facility to be located at Brookhaven Lab will allow scientists from across the nation and around the globe to peer inside protons and atomic nuclei to reveal secrets of the strongest force in nature

    Electrons will collide with protons or larger atomic nuclei at the Electron-Ion Collider to produce dynamic 3-D snapshots of the building blocks of all visible matter.

    Electrons will collide with protons or larger atomic nuclei at the Electron-Ion Collider to produce dynamic 3-D snapshots of the building blocks of all visible matter.

    UPTON, NY— Yesterday, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) named Brookhaven National Laboratory on Long Island in New York as the site for building an Electron-Ion Collider (EIC), a one-of-a-kind nuclear physics research facility. This announcement, following DOE’s approval of “mission need” (known as Critical Decision 0) on December 19, 2019, enables work to begin on R&D and the conceptual design for this next-generation collider at Brookhaven Lab.

    "The EIC promises to keep America in the forefront of nuclear physics research and particle accelerator technology, critical components of overall U.S. leadership in science,” said U.S. Secretary of Energy Dan Brouillette. “This facility will deepen our understanding of nature and is expected to be the source of insights ultimately leading to new technology and innovation.” 

    “America is in the golden age of innovation, and we are eager to take this next step with EIC. The EIC will not only ensure U.S. leadership in nuclear physics, but the technology developed for EIC will also support potential tremendous breakthroughs impacting human health, national competitiveness, and national security,” said Under Secretary for Science Paul Dabbar. “We look forward to our continued world-leading scientific discoveries in conjunction with our international partners.”

    Click on the image to download a high-resolution version.This schematic shows how the EIC will fit within the tunnel of the Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider (RHIC, background photo), reusing essential infrastructure and key components of RHIC.

    This schematic shows how the EIC will fit within the tunnel of the Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider (RHIC, background photo), reusing essential infrastructure and key components of RHIC.


    The EIC will be funded by the federal government through the DOE Office of Science, drawing on expertise from throughout the DOE national laboratory complex and at universities and research institutions around the world, including Stony Brook University, a managing partner of Brookhaven Lab. International participation is also anticipated. Thomas Jefferson National Accelerator Facility (Jefferson Lab) in Newport News, Virginia, is expected to be a major partner in the project and make significant contributions. Expertise and participation from across the national laboratory complex will be required to implement the facility successfully.

    “The EIectron-Ion Collider will open up a new frontier in nuclear physics that will expand our knowledge of the fundamental constituents of the atoms that make up all visible matter in the universe today and the force that holds it all together,” said Brookhaven Lab Director Doon Gibbs. “We look forward to working with Jefferson Lab, other DOE labs, universities and the worldwide EIC user community—about 1000 scientists from 30 nations—to deliver the EIC and advance this important field of science.”

    Jefferson Lab Director Stuart Henderson said, “The DOE’s decision is a major step forward in making the EIC a reality.  We’re excited to work closely with Brookhaven National Laboratory to help deliver this world-leading facility for nuclear physics.”  

    The world-leading science that an EIC will achieve and the technological advances needed to make it a reality have the potential to power the advanced technologies of tomorrow, benefiting health and medicine, national security, nuclear energy, radioisotope production, and industrial uses of particle beams. 

    New York’s elected officials at the federal and state level have been strong advocates for bringing the EIC project to Brookhaven.

    “The Lab is used to taking on big projects, critical research, and the most serious questions science can pose. This multi-billion federal investment will guarantee Brookhaven National Lab continues to be a world class research facility for the next generation,” said U.S. Senator Charles Schumer.”

    U.S. Representative Lee Zeldin, who serves the district where Brookhaven Lab is located, said, “This cutting edge project will inject billions of dollars and an extensive number of jobs into New York’s First Congressional District, all while churning out scores of scientific discoveries that help us understand the world around us.”

    New York Governor Andrew M. Cuomo said, “New York State has a strong record of backing both Brookhaven National Laboratory and the innovation corridor across Long Island—and we are proud that our $165 million in grants to the Laboratory have helped prepare for a one-of-a-kind electron-ion collider on Long Island. Investing in Brookhaven Lab will ensure that, as we enter the new decade, the Empire State remains at the forefront of scientific discovery, while creating thousands of jobs and generating billions of dollars in new economic activity.”

    Of the NY State commitment, $100 million will support targeted upgrades of existing infrastructure at Brookhaven Lab, including roads and utilities essential for the EIC facility. This engineering and construction activity is anticipated to be performed by New York-area firms and subcontractors, drawing on local suppliers of labor and material.

    Colliding electrons with ions

    The design for an EIC at Brookhaven includes building a new electron storage ring and electron accelerator components that would operate seamlessly with existing infrastructure currently providing beams for the Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider (RHIC), a DOE Office of Science user facility that has been serving nuclear physicists since it began operations in 2000. The new electron ring will allow electrons to interact with protons and large nuclei to precisely probe and produce dynamic snapshots of the building blocks of these nuclear particles (see sidebar).

    “RHIC has been one of the pillars of the U.S. nuclear physics program for the past two decades,” said Robert Tribble, Brookhaven’s Deputy Director for Science and Technology. “It has consistently surpassed all expectations for performance, delivering unprecedented discoveries in the field and building a solid foundation for this new machine.” 

    Benefits beyond physics

    Building the EIC will maintain U.S. leadership in nuclear physics and accelerator science—fields that are crucial to our technological, economic, and national security—and train the next generation of experts in these fields. In addition, the technological advances already under development to make the EIC a reality—e.g., innovative accelerator, particle tracking, and data-management components—could have widespread impact on new approaches to cancer therapy, solving other “big data” challenges, and improving accelerator facilities for testing batteries, catalysts, and other energy-related materials.

    The knowledge stemming from research at the EIC will be published in the open scientific research literature and available to all partners, including commercial partners. 

    The collider-accelerator infrastructure that powers the EIC at Brookhaven will also be available to researchers who use particle beams to produce and conduct studies on medical isotopes and to study the effects of simulated space radiation with the aim of protecting future astronauts.  

    “We are grateful to the Department of Energy for its choice of Brookhaven as the host for the EIC, and look forward to working with Jefferson Lab and other national labs to bring it to completion,” said Gibbs. “We also recognize New York State’s financial commitment to help us deliver this facility and its benefits to the nation and the world.” 

    Sidebar: Science at the EIC

    Research at the EIC will take our understanding of matter to the next level—beyond the interactions of atomic nuclei with their orbiting electrons, which power the electronic and information technologies we now use every day, to the forces acting inside the nucleus. 

    The EIC will allow nuclear physicists to track the arrangement of the quarks and gluons that make up the protons and neutrons of atomic nuclei.

    The EIC will allow nuclear physicists to track the arrangement of the quarks and gluons that make up the protons and neutrons of atomic nuclei.

    Acting somewhat like a CT scanner for atoms, the EIC will allow nuclear physicists to track the arrangement of the quarks and gluons that make up the protons and neutrons of atomic nuclei. Scientists will use data collected from millions of collisions between electrons and protons and a wide range of larger atomic nuclei to study the “strong nuclear force” and to answer other longstanding questions in physics, including where the proton gets its “spin.”

    The strong force, carried by the glue-like gluons, is the strongest and least-understood force in nature—more than 100 times more powerful than the electromagnetic force that governs today’s technologies. No one knows for sure where a deeper understanding of the strong force could lead, but knowledge gained through explorations at an EIC could open new opportunities. Understanding the origins of proton spin–currently used in magnetic resonance imaging—may also yield applications derived from this fundamental physics knowledge.

    Additional statements of support

    “I am very pleased that Brookhaven National Laboratory was chosen to host a new, nuclear physics research facility that will help us understand the science that binds us together. The Electron-Ion Collider will help Brookhaven continue to push boundaries and be at the forefront of scientific progress, attract world-class scientists to Long Island, and grow the local high-tech economy.”
    — U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand

    "This project was made possible by the world class scientific expertise at Brookhaven Lab, Stony Brook University and the entire SUNY System. The collaboration between the DOE and SUNY is deeply rooted in years of successful scientific and technical achievement. SUNY is committed to doing everything possible to support the EIC and help maintain U.S. leadership in physics while looking for innovative ways to spin-off new companies, products and processes from the discoveries that will be made possible by the EIC.”
    — Kristina Johnson, Chancellor of the State University of New York (SUNY) system

    Brookhaven National Laboratory is supported by the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Science. The Office of Science is the single largest supporter of basic research in the physical sciences in the United States and is working to address some of the most pressing challenges of our time. For more information, visit .

    Follow @BrookhavenLab on Twitter or find us on Facebook

    Related Links


    Brookhaven National Laboratory

    Brookhaven National Laboratory

    We advance fundamental research in nuclear and particle physics to gain a deeper understanding of matter, energy, space, and time; apply photon sciences and nanomaterials research to energy challenges of critical importance to the nation; and perform cross-disciplinary research on climate change, sustainable energy, and Earth’s ecosystems.  


    Brookhaven National Laboratory
    P.O. Box 5000
    Upton, NY11973-5000
    United States

    + 1 631 344 8000

    Media and Communications Office  
    Karen McNulty Walsh
    +1 (631) 344-8350

    ( Feed URL: )
  • Squeezing two people into an MRI machine, and deciding between what’s reasonable and what’s rational

    2020-01-09T19:28:04Z via NavierStokesApp To: Public

    "Squeezing two people into an MRI machine, and deciding between what’s reasonable and what’s rational"

    Getting into an MRI machine can be a tight fit for just one person. Now, researchers interested in studying face-to-face interactions are attempting to squeeze a whole other person into the same tube, while taking functional MRI (fMRI) measurements. Staff Writer Kelly Servick joins host Sarah Crespi to talk about the kinds of questions simultaneous fMRIs might answer. Also this week, Sarah talks with Igor Grossman, director of the Wisdom and Culture Lab at the University of Waterloo, about his group’s Science Advances paper on public perceptions of the difference between something being rational and something being reasonable. This week’s episode was edited by Podigy. Read a transcript (PDF) Listen to previous podcasts. About the Science Podcast

    ( Feed URL: )
  • Expanding a neutrino hunt in the South Pole

    2020-01-09T17:28:06Z via NavierStokesApp To: Public

    "Expanding a neutrino hunt in the South Pole"

    A forthcoming upgrade to the IceCube detector will provide deeper insights into the elusive particles.

    IceCube detector

    Underneath the vast, frozen landscape of the South Pole lies IceCube, a gigantic observatory dedicated to finding ghostly subatomic particles called neutrinos. Neutrinos stream through the Earth from all directions, but they are lightweight, abundant and hardly interact with their surroundings. 

    The IceCube detector consists of an array of 86 strings festooned with more than 5000 sensors, like round, basketball-sized Christmas lights. They reach more than 2 kilometers (more than 1 mile) down through layers of Antarctic ice that have accumulated over hundreds of thousands of years. 

    A small fraction of the neutrinos that pass through the ice collide with its atoms and spit out showers of particles, some of which can be spotted by IceCube’s sensors as sparks of blue light. By probing the light patterns, scientists can identify and assess the elusive particles, some of which originate beyond our solar system. 

    In July 2018 the IceCube collaboration announced that the US National Science Foundation had granted it $23 million to put toward a $37 million upgrade, with additional financial support coming from Michigan State University, the University of Wisconsin–Madison, and agencies in Germany and Japan. 

    The upgrade will add seven more strings of sensors to the detector, along with new instruments meant to characterize the ice. This extension will allow physicists to better understand how neutrinos oscillate between their three flavors: electron, muon and tau. Scientists also plan to make more precise measurements of IceCube’s icy interior to get a closer look at neutrinos from far out in the universe.

    Illustration demonstrating detector behavior

    When cosmic neutrinos crash into the IceCube detector, the interactions generate secondary particles that travel faster than the speed of light through the ice, producing a detectable faint blue glow.

    Courtesy of Nicolle R. Fuller/NSF/IceCube

    Extraterrestrial signals 

    One of the main aims of IceCube, which is run by an international group of more than 300 scientists from 12 different countries, is to identify cosmic neutrinos. They know which neutrinos come from afar by the extraordinarily high levels of energy they have when they crash into the Earth, compared to their more local counterparts. By studying these alien particles, physicists hope to identify the powerful cosmic accelerators that form beams of ultra-high energy particles. 

    IceCube had its first major breakthrough in 2013 when it identified two ultra-high energy neutrinos from outside the solar system. These events, dubbed Bert and Ernie, became the first of many cosmic neutrino detections, says Olga Botner, a physicist at Uppsala University in Sweden and former spokesperson of IceCube. 

    “We knew we were in business,” she says. “We could observe not only the atmosphere but also neutrinos from outside our own galaxy. That was huge.” 

    Four years later, IceCube physicists made a detection of an extraterrestrial neutrino that sparked a search for a glimpse of its source by scientists at astronomical observatories around the globe. This worldwide hunt allowed scientists to pinpoint the particle’s birthplace: an extremely luminous galaxy called a blazar. A blazar acts like a cosmic accelerator, spitting out a constant stream of particles from its core. 

    “Working on IceCube is very exciting,” says Delia Tosi, an assistant scientist at the Wisconsin IceCube Particle Astrophysics Center (WIPAC). “There is no space for boredom.” 

    Where most cosmic neutrinos come from remains a mystery. But IceCube’s scientific repertoire has expanded since those first discoveries. Scientists also use IceCube to examine how neutrinos change from one type to another—which could help determine whether there are new types of neutrinos that we don’t yet know about—as well as to search for dark matter and characterize how light travels though Antarctic ice. 

    “When we started IceCube, we were 90% focused on finding point sources of astrophysical neutrinos,” says Kael Hanson, a physicist and director of WIPAC. “We really had no idea, when we were designing the experiment, how rich the science program would eventually become.” 

    An upgrade on ice 

    With the forthcoming upgrade, more than 700 new sensors spread across seven strings will be added to the center of IceCube. 

    The core is already more densely packed with strings than the rest of the detector, which makes it better able to detect particles at low energies. The new sensors will push that sensitivity even further. “We’re pushing the energy threshold down by a factor of 10,” Hanson says. 

    The denser core will make it possible for the scientists to examine the hundreds of thousands of atmospheric neutrinos that bombard the detector each year in more detail. This will allow physicists to make more accurate measurements of the tau neutrino, which can then be used to better understand neutrino oscillations—specifically, how muon neutrinos convert to tau neutrinos. 

    “We don’t quite understand how neutrinos can spontaneously morph from one flavor to another,” Botner says. “If discrepancies exist between our predictions and what we observe, this would be a hint of unknown neutrino kinds—the so-called sterile neutrino.” 

    To insert new strings into the detector, scientists must drill deep holes into the ice using a high-pressure stream of hot water. During the upgrade, scientists will deploy additional calibration instruments, such as cameras and light sources, along with the detectors to help them characterize the ice. 

    When water refreezes around the strings—a process that can take several weeks—the ice that forms can contain dust and bubbles. These imperfections make it more difficult to see signs of neutrinos. 

    Not only will characterizing the ice make it possible for scientists to more accurately assess future observations, researchers will also be able to apply this new knowledge to previously collected data. “In principle, we can recalibrate all the data and improve our ability to point back to a source,” says Dawn Williams, a particle astrophysicist at the University of Alabama. 

    The IceCube collaboration plans to start drilling in late 2022. In the meantime, the group is preparing the sensors and other components of the upgrade as well as the software that will be used to run the upgraded detector. The team expects to start collecting data in the spring of 2023. 

    The upgrade also serves an additional purpose: to test new sensor designs that scientists hope might be deployed in IceCube-Gen2, a proposed detector that would be 10 times the size of the current one. The super-sized observatory would allow scientists to conduct even more precise measurements of neutrinos and detect more ultra-high-energy particles from outer space, heightening the possibly of pinpointing their sources.

    ( Feed URL: )
  • The CUORE Underground Experiment Narrows the Search for Rare Particle Process

    2020-01-09T16:27:53Z via NavierStokesApp To: Public

    "The CUORE Underground Experiment Narrows the Search for Rare Particle Process"

    New data yield one of the most sensitive probes to date of processes that may have seeded the matter vs. antimatter imbalance in the universe

    Read More ...

    ( Feed URL: )
  • New open release allows theorists to explore LHC data in a new way

    2020-01-09T10:27:49Z via NavierStokesApp To: Public

    "New open release allows theorists to explore LHC data in a new way"

    New open release allows theorists to explore LHC data in a new way

    abelchio Thu, 01/09/2020 - 10:13
    ATLAS News: Open Likelihoods on HEPData
    Explore ATLAS open likelihoods on the HEPData platform. (Original image: Ahmet Anil Sen/Behance) (Image: CERN)

    What if you could test a new theory against LHC data? Better yet, what if the expert knowledge needed to do this was captured in a convenient format? This tall order is now on its way from the ATLAS collaboration, with the first open release of full analysis likelihoods from an LHC experiment.

    “Likelihoods allow you to compute the probability that the data observed in a particular experiment match a specific model or theory,” explains Lukas Heinrich, CERN research fellow working for the ATLAS Experiment. “Effectively, they summarise every aspect of a particular analysis, from the detector settings, event selection, expected signal and background processes, to uncertainties and theoretical models.” Extraordinarily complex and critical to every analysis, likelihoods are one of the most valuable tools produced at the LHC experiments. Their public release will now enable theorists around the world to explore ATLAS data in a whole new way.

    The ATLAS open likelihoods are available on HEPData, an open-access repository for experimental particle physics data. The first open likelihoods released were for a search for supersymmetry in proton–proton collision events containing Higgs bosons, numerous jets of b-quarks and missing transverse momentum. “While ATLAS had published likelihood scans focused on the Higgs boson in 2013, those did not expose the full complexity of the measurements,” says Kyle Cranmer, Professor at New York University. “We hope this first release – which provides the full likelihoods in all their glory – will form a new communication bridge between theorists and experimentalists, enriching the discourse between the communities.”

    The search for new physics will benefit significantly from open likelihoods. “If you’re a theorist developing a new idea, your first question is likely: ‘Is my model already excluded by experiments at the LHC?’” says Giordon Stark, postdoctoral scholar at SCIPP, UC Santa Cruz. “Until now, there was no easy way to answer this.”

    Likelihoods are an essential link between theory and ATLAS data. (Image: K. Cranmer/ATLAS)

    “We plan to make the open release of likelihoods a regular part of our publication process, and have already made them available from a search for the direct production of tau slepton pairs,” says Laura Jeanty, ATLAS Supersymmetry working group convenor. “Over the coming months, we aim to collect feedback from theorists outside the collaboration to best understand how they are using this new resource to further refine future releases.”

    Read more on the ATLAS website.

    ( Feed URL: )
  • IceCube rules out last Standard Model explanation of ANITA’s anomalous neutrino events

    2020-01-08T15:27:38Z via NavierStokesApp To: Public

    "IceCube rules out last Standard Model explanation of ANITA’s anomalous neutrino events"

    IceCube isn’t the only neutrino experiment in Antarctica. There is also the ANITA (the ANtarctic Impulsive Transient Antenna) experiment, which flies a balloon over the continent and points radio antennae toward the ground in search of extremely high-energy neutrinos. The IceCube Collaboration recently followed up on events detected by ANITA and presented their results in a paper submitted today to The Astrophysical Journal. The collaboration found that these neutrinos could not have come from an intense point source. Other explanations for the anomalous signals—possibly involving exotic physics—need to be considered.

    ( Feed URL: )
  • CUPID-0 reveals the dynamics of the double beta decay with two Se-82 neutrinos

    2020-01-08T13:27:41Z via NavierStokesApp To: Public

    "CUPID-0 reveals the dynamics of the double beta decay with two Se-82 neutrinos"

    The CUPID-0 experiment, taking data at the Gran Sasso National Laboratories, made the most precise measurement in the world of double beta decay with the emission of two neutrinos.

    Read More ...

    ( Feed URL: )
  • Vera Rubin, giant of astronomy

    2020-01-07T11:27:34Z via NavierStokesApp To: Public

    "Vera Rubin, giant of astronomy"

    The Large Synoptic Survey Telescope will be named for an influential astronomer who left the field better than she found it.

    Illustration of Vera Rubin

    The Large Synoptic Survey Telescope, a flagship astronomy and astrophysics project currently under construction on a mountaintop in Chile, will be named for astronomer Vera Rubin, a key figure in the history of the search for dark matter. 

    The LSST collaboration announced the new name at the 235th American Astronomical Society meeting in Honolulu on Monday evening, in conjunction with US funding agencies the Department of Energy and the National Science Foundation.

    Scheduled to begin operation in late 2022, the Vera C. Rubin Observatory will undertake a decade-long survey of the sky using an 8.4-meter telescope and a 3200-megapixel camera to study, among other things, the invisible material Rubin is best known for bringing into the realm of accepted theory.

    Rubin was a role model, a mentor, and a boundary-breaker fueled by a true love of science and the stars. “For me, doing astronomy is incredibly great fun,” she said in a 1989 interview with physicist and writer Alan Lightman. “It’s just an incredible joy to get up every morning and come to work and, in some much larger framework, not even really quite know what it is I’m going to be doing.” 

    Between the Lightman interview and “An Interesting Voyage,” a biography she wrote in 2010 for the Annual Review of Astronomy and Astrophysics, among other things, she left behind a detailed record of the story of her life.

    A curious child

    Rubin’s father, Pesach Kobchefski (later known as Philip Cooper), was born in Lithuania. Her mother, Rose Applebaum, was a second-generation American born to Bessarabian parents in Philadelphia. Rubin’s parents met at work at the Bell Telephone Company. They married and raised two children, Vera and her older sister, Ruth. 

    Rubin was born in 1928. She wrote that she remembered growing up “amid a cheery scatter of grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins… largely shielded from the financial difficulties” of the Great Depression. Ruth and Vera shared a room, with Vera’s bed against a window with a clear view of the north sky. “Soon it was more interesting to watch the stars than to sleep,” Rubin wrote. 

    Her parents encouraged her curiosity. Her mother gave her written permission at an early age to check out books from the “12 and over” section of the library, and her father helped her build a (rather so-so) homemade telescope. “My parents were very, very supportive,” Rubin said in the interview with Lightman, “except that they didn’t like me to stay up all night.” 

    Rubin’s teachers were not universally as encouraging. Her high school physics teacher, she wrote, “did not know how to include the few young girls in the class, so he chose to ignore us.” Still, Rubin knew she wanted to go into astronomy. “I didn’t know a single astronomer,” she said, “but I just knew that was what I wanted to do.” 

    She did know about at least one female astronomer: Maria Mitchell, the first female professional astronomer in the United States. From 1865 to 1888, Mitchell taught at Vassar College in New York and served as director of Vassar College Observatory.

    Looking to follow in her footsteps, Rubin applied to Vassar. She was accepted with a necessary scholarship. Rubin said that when she told the high school physics teacher about it, he replied, “‘As long as you stay away from science, you should be okay.’”

    She graduated in three years as the only astronomy major in her class. 

    A family effort

    Rubin spent summers in Washington, DC, working at the Naval Research Laboratory. The summer of 1947, her parents introduced her to Robert (Bob) Rubin. He was training to be an officer in the US Navy and studying chemistry at Cornell University. 

    The two married in 1948. She was 19 and he was 21. Vera had been accepted to Harvard University, which was well known for its astronomy department, but she decided to join her husband at Cornell instead. 

    Rubin completed her master’s thesis just before giving birth to her first child, and she gave a talk on her research at the 1950 meeting of the American Astronomical Society just after. Her adviser had said it made more sense for him to give the talk, as he was already a member of AAS and she would be a new mother, but Rubin insisted she would do it. 

    “We had no car,” Rubin wrote. “My parents drove from Washington, DC, to Ithaca, then crossed the snowy New York hills with Bob, me and their first grandchild, ‘thereby aging 20 years,’ my father later insisted.”

    She gave a 10-minute talk on her study of the velocity distribution of the galaxies that at that time had published velocities. It solicited replies from several “angry-sounding men,” along with pioneering astronomer Martin Schwarzschild, who, Rubin wrote, kindly “said what you say to a young student: ‘This is very interesting, and when there are more data, we will know more.’” 

    For a few months after the experience, Rubin stayed home with her newborn son. But she couldn’t keep away from the science. “I would push David to the playground, sit him in the sandbox, and read the Astrophysical Journal,” Rubin wrote. 

    With her husband’s encouragement, she enrolled in the astronomy PhD program at Georgetown University. Her classes took place at night, twice per week. Those nights, between 1952 and 1954, Rubin’s mother babysat David (and, not long after, also her daughter, Judy) while Bob drove her to the observatory and waited to take her back home, eating his dinner in the car. In astronomy, “women generally required more luck and perseverance than men did,” Rubin wrote. “It helped to have supportive parents and a supportive husband.” 

    PhD and beyond

    Theoretical physicist and cosmologist George Gamow—known for his contributions to developing the Big Bang theory, among other foundational work—heard about Rubin’s AAS talk and began asking her questions, Rubin wrote. One question—“Is there a scale length in the distribution of galaxies?”—so intrigued her that she decided to take it on for her thesis. Gamow served as her advisor.

    Rubin wrote that when she sent her research to the Astrophysical Journal in 1954, then-editor and later Nobel Laureate Subrahmanyan Chandrasekhar rejected it, saying he wanted her to wait until his student finished his work on the same subject. She did not wait, publishing in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences instead. (A later editor of Astrophysical Journal asked her to send him Chandrasekhar’s letter as proof, and she wrote, “I refused, telling him to look it up in his files.”)

    In 1955, Georgetown offered Rubin a research position, which soon became a teaching position as well. She stayed there for 10 years. 

    In 1962, Rubin taught a graduate course in statistical astronomy with six students, five who worked for the US Naval Observatory and one who worked for NASA. “Due to their jobs, the students were experts in star catalogs,” Rubin wrote, “so I gave the students (plus me as a student) a research problem: Can we use cataloged stars to determine a rotation curve for stars distant from the center of our [g]alaxy?” 

    The group completed the paper, “some of it finished by seven of us working around my large kitchen table, long into the night,” Rubin wrote, and they submitted it to the Astrophysical Journal

    The editor called to say he would accept the paper but that he would not take the then-unusual step of publishing the names of the students, Rubin wrote. When Rubin replied that she would then withdraw the paper, however, he changed his mind. 

    Rubin wrote that she received many negative “and some very unpleasant” responses to the paper, but that it continued to be referenced every few years, even as she was writing in 2010. As she pointed out in her article, “[t]his was my first flat rotation curve”—a result she would see repeated in what would become her most famous publication. 

    During the 1963-1964 school year, Bob took a sabbatical so Vera could move the family to San Diego and work with married couple Margaret and Geoffrey Burbidge. With two other scientists, they had in 1957 published the seminal paper explaining how thermonuclear reactions in stars could transform a universe originally made up only of hydrogen, helium and lithium into one that could support life. With the Burbidges, Rubin traveled to both Kitt Peak National Observatory in Arizona and McDonald Observatory in Texas. 

    More than three decades later, in letter to Margaret Burbidge on her 80th birthday, Rubin described what the scientist had meant to her: “Did the words ‘role model’ and ‘mentor’ exist then? I think they did not. But for most of the women that followed you into astronomical careers, these were the roles you filled for us.” 

    What Rubin best remembers from when she first arrived in San Diego, she wrote, “was my elation because you took me seriously and were interested in what I had to say… 

    “From you we have learned that a woman too can rise to great heights as an astronomer, and that it’s all right to be charming, gracious, brilliant, and to be concerned for others as we make our way in the world of science.”

    Vera Rubin at scope

    Courtesy of Carnegie Institution for Science

    The view from Palomar

    In 1964, Rubin and her family (which now included four children, between ages 4 and 13) returned home. Shortly thereafter, Vera and Bob took off again for the meeting of the International Astronomical Union in Hamburg. (“Fortunately, my parents enjoyed being with their grandchildren,” Rubin wrote.) 

    On the last evening of the conference, influential astronomer Allan Sandage, who in 1958 had published the first good estimate of the Hubble constant, asked Rubin if she were interested in observing on Palomar Mountain at the Carnegie Institution’s 200-inch telescope. It was a telescope, located on a mountain northeast of San Diego, that women had officially been prohibited from using (though it was a “known secret” that both Margaret and Geoffrey Burbidge had observed there together as postgraduate students). “Of course, I said yes,” Rubin wrote.

    Rubin would be observing on the same mountain where, in 1933, astronomer Fritz Zwicky made a startling discovery. He noticed that the galaxies in the Coma Cluster were moving too quickly—so quickly that they should have broken apart. Judging by the mass of their visible matter, they should not have had the gravitational pull to hold together. 

    He concluded that the cluster must be more massive than it appeared, and that most of this mass must come from matter that could not be seen. The Swiss astronomer called the source of the missing mass dunkle Materie, or dark matter. He presented this idea to the Swiss Physical Society, but it did not catch on. (He made several other big splashes in astronomy, though.)

    On Rubin’s first night at Palomar in December 1965, clouds prevented anyone from observing, so another observer took her on an unofficial tour of the facilities. The tour included the single available toilet, labeled “MEN.” 

    On Rubin’s next visit, “I drew a skirted woman and pasted her up on the door,” she wrote. The third time she came to observe, heating had been added to the observing room, along with a gender-neutral bathroom.

    The world’s best spectrograph

    In 1965, Rubin decided to prioritize observing over teaching. She asked her colleague Bernie Burke—famous for co-discovering the first detection of radio noise from another planet, Jupiter—for a job at the Carnegie Institution’s Department of Terrestrial Magnetism. Burke invited her to the DTM’s community lunch. And that’s where she met astronomer Kent Ford.

    Working over the previous decade, Ford had pioneered the use of highly sensitive light detectors called photomultiplier tubes for astronomical observation. “Kent Ford had built a very exceptional spectrograph,” Rubin said. “He probably had the best spectrograph anywhere. He had a spectrograph that could do things that no other spectrographs could do.” 

    Rubin got the job at DTM, becoming the first female scientist on its staff. Using Ford’s spectrograph on the telescope at Lowell Observatory in Arizona, Ford and Rubin could observe objects that were not otherwise detectable. Among the astronomers who noticed was Jim Peebles, winner of the 2019 Nobel Prize for Physics.

    By 1968, Rubin and Ford had published nine papers. “It was an exciting time,” Rubin wrote, “but I was not comfortable with the very rapid pace of the competition. Even very polite phone calls asking me which galaxies I was studying (so as not to overlap) made me uncomfortable.” 

    So she decided to go back to a subject she had previously dabbled in: the velocity of stars and regions of ionized hydrogen in M31, the Andromeda galaxy. “I decided to pick a problem that I could go observing and make headway on, hopefully a problem that people would be interested in, but not so interested [in] that anyone would bother me before I was done,” Rubin said. 

    Astronomers had been studying the spectra of light from Andromeda since at least January 1899, but no one had taken a look with an instrument as advanced as Ford’s. 

    One astronomer had gotten a better look than most, though. In the 1940s, astronomer Walter Baade had taken advantage of wartime blackout rules—meant to make it difficult for enemy planes to hit targets during World War II—to observe Andromeda from Mount Wilson Observatory northeast of Los Angeles. He resolved the stars at the center of the galaxy for the first time and identified 688 emission regions worthy of study.

    Not knowing this, Rubin and Ford set out to do the same for themselves. They spent a frustrating night taking turns at the US Naval Observatory telescope in Arizona, huddled next to a small heater in negative 20 degree cold, before deciding they needed a new tactic. 

    On their way out in the morning, they ran into Naval Observatory Director Gerald Kron. “He took us into his warm office, opened a large cabinet and showed us copies of Baade’s many plates of stars in M31!” Rubin wrote. Rubin and Ford obtained copies of the images from the Carnegie Institute and went to work.

    A rotation curveball

    Rubin and Ford made their observations at Lowell Observatory and Kitt Peak. “On a typical clear night we would obtain four to five spectra,” Rubin wrote. “The surprises came very quickly.”

    In our solar system, planets closest to the center are the fastest-moving, as they are most affected by the gravitational pull of the sun. Mercury, the closest, moves about 1.6 times as rapidly as Earth, whereas Neptune, the farthest, moves at less than 0.2 times Earth’s speed.

    “The expectation was that galaxies behaved the same way, in that stars farthest from the massive center would be moving most slowly,” Rubin wrote. 

    But that’s not what they found. The rotation curves were flat, meaning that objects closer to the center of Andromeda were moving at the same speed as objects closer to the outskirts. “This was discovered over the course of about 4 ice cream cones that first night,” Rubin wrote, “as I alternated between developing the plates and eating (Kent would be starting the next observation).” 

    This time, Rubin said, people believed the data. “It just piled up too fast. Soon there were 20, then 40, then 60 rotation curves, and they were all flat… And it was just a joy to have that kind of a program, after a program where you had to go through deep analysis and everybody doubted the answer.”

    But what did the flat rotation curves mean? The popularly accepted answer is that the way the galaxies in Andromeda move is influenced by dark matter. 

    If a galaxy is formed in the center of a disk of invisible dark matter, the gravitational pull of the dark matter will affect how quickly each of its parts moves, flattening the rotation curves.

    Theorists Peebles, Jeremiah P. Ostriker, Amos Yahil and others had predicted the existence of dark matter independent of Rubin and Ford’s findings, Rubin said. “The ideas had been around for a while… But the observations fit in so well, [since] there was already a framework, so some people embraced the observations very enthusiastically.” 

    Rubin was agnostic about the idea of dark matter and wrote that she would be delighted if the explanation actually came in the form of a new understanding of how gravity works on the cosmic scale. “One needs to keep an open mind in seeking solutions,” she wrote.

    A scientific legacy

    Rubin continued her work, receiving recognition for her contributions in various ways. 

    From 1972 to 1977 she served as associate editor of the Astronomical Journal, and from 1977 to 1982 she served as associate editor of Astrophysical Journal Letters. In 1993, she received the National Medal of Science from President Bill Clinton. In 1994 she received the Dickson Prize in Science from Carnegie-Mellon University and the Henry Norris Russell Lectureship from the American Astronomical Society. In 1996 she became the second woman to receive the Gold Medal of the Royal Astronomical Society in London (168 years after the first, Caroline Herschel in 1828). In 1996 President Clinton nominated her to provide input to Congress as a member of the National Science Board for a term of six years. 

    In 1997 she and a few other members of the board were invited to visit the McMurdo research station at the South Pole. Rubin wrote that she was asked if she would spend her time at McMurdo with the astronomers. “With a little embarrassment, I asked if that meant that I would miss everything else, the penguins, the mountains and all the other events,” she wrote. “Without much difficulty, I voted for the penguins.”

    In 2004 the National Academy of Sciences awarded Rubin the James Craig Watson Medal for “her seminal observations of dark matter in galaxies… and for generous mentoring of young astronomers, men and women.” 

    Rubin made it a priority to listen to and encourage students and up-and-coming astronomers, and she was especially interested in improving the chances for women in science. 

    Asked by Lightman, “Do you think that your experience in science has been different because you are a woman rather than a man?” she replied, “Of course. Yes, of course. But I’m the wrong person to ask that question. The tragedy in that question is all the women who would have liked to have become astronomers and didn’t.”

    Rubin shared her love of astronomy far and wide. “We are fortunate to live in an era when it is possible to learn so much about the [u]niverse,” she wrote. “But I envy our children, our grandchildren, and their children. They will know more than any of us do now, and they may even be able to travel there!”

    All four of the Rubin children have gone into science. 

    Her son Allan, quoted in the 2010 article, remembered his parents often spent evenings “with their work spread out along the very long dining room table, which wasn’t used for eating unless a lot of company was expected,” he said. “At some point I grew old enough to realize that if what they really wanted to do after dinner was the same thing they did all day at work, then they must have pretty good jobs.”

    Rubin’s daughter followed Vera into the field of astronomy, initially hooked by a lesson her mother taught on black holes. Over several decades, Judy has collaborated on numerous publications and attended meetings around the world with her mom. 

    Rubin died in 2016 at the age of 88. Her name lives on in the AAS Vera Rubin Early Career Prize, Vera Rubin Ridge on the planet Mars, Asteroid 5726 Rubin and, now, the Vera C. Rubin Observatory on Cerro Pachón.

    ( Feed URL: )
  • Weel 50 at the Pole

    2020-01-02T20:27:19Z via NavierStokesApp To: Public

    "Weel 50 at the Pole"

    It’s always a white Christmas at the South Pole. It was also summer solstice at the Pole, and the winterovers got outdoors for some nice shots of the station.

    ( Feed URL: )
  • Areas to watch in 2020, and how carnivorous plants evolved impressive traps

    2020-01-02T19:27:16Z via NavierStokesApp To: Public

    "Areas to watch in 2020, and how carnivorous plants evolved impressive traps"

    We start our first episode of the new year looking at future trends in policy and research with host Joel Goldberg and several Science News writers. Jeffrey Mervis discusses upcoming policy changes, Kelly Servick gives a rundown of areas to watch in the life sciences, and Ann Gibbons talks about potential advances in ancient proteins and DNA. In research news, host Meagan Cantwell talks with Beatriz Pinto-Goncalves, a postdoctoral researcher at the John Innes Centre, about carnivorous plant traps. Through understanding the mechanisms that create these traps, Pinto-Goncalves and colleagues elucidate what this could mean for how they emerged in the evolutionary history of plants. This week’s episode was edited by Podigy. Ads on this week’s show: KiwiCo Listen to previous podcasts. About the Science Podcast

    ( Feed URL: )
  • Week 49 at the Pole

    2019-12-20T16:28:49Z via NavierStokesApp To: Public

    "Week 49 at the Pole"

    Why are the winterovers playing chess out on the ice? The answer might just be a question itself—why not? Yes, it’s cold outside...but you just can’t let the weather get in your way.

    ( Feed URL: )
  • Relive 2019 at CERN

    2019-12-20T15:28:10Z via NavierStokesApp To: Public

    "Relive 2019 at CERN"

    Relive 2019 at CERN katebrad Fri, 12/20/2019 - 15:54

    ALICE experiment
    (Video: CERN)

    As the year draws to a close, here is a chance to look back on the highlights of 2019.

    Whether it be ground-breaking civil engineering or major improvements across the entire CERN accelerator network, it has been a year of change to the CERN infrastructures.

    The year also marked 30 years of the World Wide Web, as the CERN family grew with a new Member State and Associate Member State. CERN opened its doors to the public and saw 75 000 visitors over two days.

    Physics results included greater insights into properties of the Higgs boson, as well as matter–antimatter asymmetry, as experiments work to seek answers to remaining mysteries including dark matter.

    This video will take you on a journey through key moments of 2019 at CERN. Enjoy!

    ( Feed URL: )