Some reflections

28/11/2010

It is a lot of time that I am thinking about the scenario is emerging from our current understanding of reality through physics. There is a lot to be understood yet, mostly the very nature of space and time and a proof of the real number of dimensions our universe emerged from. Notwithstanding these noteworthy missing questions, we can make an idea of what is going on as the depth of our understanding is already quite sensible.

At the dawn of the last century, Albert Einstein put forward an important conclusion: mass and energy are the same thing. Indeed, what Einstein had in mind is a deeper understanding of the concept of mass that is for us an important concern. Where does mass come from? What is it made of? At the start of the last century these questions could not have a proper answer. But having reduced the mass to another concept, like energy, was of paramount importance.

On a similar ground it was relevant to understand the role of another, apparently not reducible, concept: Charge. Today we know that the number of charges, the couplings that make all change around us, will be at last reduced to a single number. Maybe. So far we only know for certain that, thanks to Steven Weinberg, Shelly Glashow and Abdus Salam, we have reduced the number of interacting fields. But strong coupling and gravitational constant are still there disconnected if we limit to our current experimental knowledge. Of course, theoretical physics has gone really far in this area and we hope that LHC will help us to give a way to cut out most of what was done here to get the real understanding of the way things work. Somebody will be happy others won’t but this how our World works.

Today, we have a better understanding of the concept of mass and, while waiting for LHC to confirm us our ideas, we can draw some conclusions about all these questions. The fact that mass is energy is an important clue of the idea that this concept is reducible to more fundamentals concepts and that a mechanism for its emergence must exist. Higgs mechanism goes in this direction as also our ideas emerging from QCD about the mass gap that confirm the idea that mass is not a fundamental concept by itself.

So, we can conclude that, so far, our ideas of the World reduce to two fundamental non-reducible ideas: Energy and charge. The former is just a safety lock with respect to the changes provoked by the latter. So, I leave you with a final question: If things stay in this way, does space-time entail a wider concept to embed them or we can reduce also this to them?


ITER delays

18/06/2009

ITER is our hope for our energy requirements in the future, together with NIF (see here). The success of these two experiments should grant that one of the greatest problems of humankind will be solved.iter ITER is a fusion reactor based on tokamak, a toroidal chamber confining a high-temperature plasma with magnetic fields. Its main aim will be just to demonstrate the feasibility of a full working reactor to satisfy our energy needs. Rumors are widespreading about delays and increasing costs of this project. I have read about this matter on an Italian newspaper (see here). General director Kaname Ikeda is nor confirmirg neither denying these rumors but presently it seems that costs are doubled and the start-up is delayed to 2025 (2018 foreseen) making a large scale available technology a century far in the future. If all this will be confirmed, it will represent a serious setback to our hope for a better future.

Update: A very informative article is appeared in Physics World. See here to read it.


NIF at start

26/05/2009

National Ignition Facility started this year at Lawrence Livermore Laboratories. This project has the ambition to give an answer to our quest for nuclear fusion as a reliable source of energy.NIF_homeFunded by US government, it has implied delays and cost increase during its realization. But the aims are so relevant that this is worthwhile spent money. The approach for this experiment is that of inertial fusion. This technique uses power lasers to hit a pellet of fusion material. Pressure of light, when applied uniformly on the target, will push nuclei so near to win the effect of the Coulomb barrier and so they start to fuse each other relaxing a large amount of energy. This is our dream of a sun on earth. I think people is also aware of the other way research is pursuing through tokamak where a plasma is heated through different means to achieve the same goal. For this track, ITER is still at very start of its realization.

As usual,  there is a very good article on the New York Times about NIF (see here).  The hope is to solve one of the most difficult problems of humankind. So, we can only wish the best of lucks at NIF.


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