Maybe I should change my blog name to supernaut … i whore for science, I’ve been blogging so much about planetary physics, Mars, other stuff is totally off the art trail. Anyway, particle physics is one of those things that just gets me delirious with excitement, smashing stuff together at the speed of light and watching pretty new things grow in the universe. I was quite surprised that there is an old not so large accelerator in Beijing, that compared to CERN and Fermilab is merely a sleepy backyard playground, but is both fascinating as a historical artifact of communist science and as a low energy collider that is managing to do some impressive research. And then there’s China’s interest in the International Linear Collider.
The energy range of the Beijing collider, 1 to 2.2 billion electron volts per beam, contained a lot of puzzling left-behind physics, including the tau, a sort of superfat electron, for which nature has no obvious purpose, and the so-called J/psi. The J/psi, consisting of a pair of quarks each exhibiting the quantum property known whimsically as charm, set off a revolution and led to Nobel prizes when it was discovered in 1974.
“There is a lot going on in that energy region,” said Frederick A. Harris, a professor of physics at the University of Hawaii, who works often at the Beijing collider. By tuning the energy of their colliding beams, the Chinese researchers have been able to measure the mass of the tau very precisely, as well as carry out detailed studies of the J/psi and similar particles.
In the collider’s energy range, Dr. Chen said simply, “We dominate.”
Among the collider’s achievements, Dr. Harris said, was the most precise measurement yet of a number called “R.” In the so-called standard model, which currently rules particle physics, this parameter measures the likelihood of fireballs produced in the collider to materialize into so-called hadrons, particles made of quarks as opposed to other, simpler particles known as muons. That involved “changing the machine energy 91 times,” explained Dr. Harris.