#dark matter
Bucketlist: Google, BuzzFeed

Recommended

  • “Google Visits the J-School: Ask Your Questions of Eric Schmidt and Jared Cohen” Tuesday, 4:00 pm – 5:00 pm, Lecture Hall, Journalism, Eric Schmidt, Jared Cohen
  • “Delacorte Lecture: BuzzFeed” Thursday, 7:00 pm – 8:30 pm, World Room, Journalism, Jonah Peretti, Ken Lerer

(more…)

BunsenBwog: A Matter Darkly

Each week, amateur astronomer Zach Kagan watches the skies for signs of SCIENCE. We present here this week’s findings—a special offering that highlights the search for dark matter.

Dark Matter is a term that’s thrown around a lot when people talk about unsolved mysteries in astrophysics. You’ve probably heard about the stuff, but you may not know what it is, which is fine because neither do the astrophysicists. The problem is that galaxies don’t rotate the way that they should. We predicted that outer stars should move much slower than inner cluster stars. However, they tend to move at similar velocities on the galaxy’s edge. That isn’t possible according to our understanding of gravity, so an explanation was developed: there must be much more mass in the galaxy than is observed. Much much more. Around 20 times more. And all that mass, which drives the rotation of outer stars, must completely be non-visible.

So what was this stuff? Two theories emerged. The first supposed that all this dark matter was made up of large, dim objects like black holes, rogue planets, and dense neutron stars. These objects were collectively called MACHOs (Massively Compact Halo Objects). The second theory supposed that dark matter was made up of Weakly Interacting Massive Particles, or WIMPs because scientists have a sense of humor too. Over time, as experiments found negative results for MACHOs, WIMPs became the popular theory for the nature of dark matter, even though no one was sure what WIMPs were anyway.

But WIMPs are elusive, as Columbia astrophysics professor Elena Aprile has found. Prof. Aprile led a team of scientists at Italy’s Gran Sasso laboratory on a 13 month search for the most promising WIMP candidates. The Columbia team built a sophisticated device called the XENON100, which uses ultra dense liquid Xenon to sense rare collisions with the faint WIMP particles. The device is brought deep—roughly 5,000 feet—underground in a chamber lined with copper and lead to filter out the hailstorm of particles we normally experience on the surface (such as cosmic and background radiation). However Aprile’s team didn’t find anything, not even after 225 full days of data gathering by XENON100.

(more…)

BunsenBwog: Science is Fiction

Doing science.

Science is back! Bwog’s resident test tube aficionado Zach Kagan reports.

After an exhaustive series of tests at CERN’s Large Hadron Collider, Scientists have ruled out all possible masses for the elusive Higgs Boson between 145 and 466 GeV with 95% certainty. Professor Peter Woit vented his frustration, saying “a malicious deity has carefully chosen the Higgs mass to make it as hard as possible for physicists to study it.” Come on, Higgs Boson, be a team player.

Speaking of illusive matter, some physicists are beginning to doubt dark matter’s existence. Columbia’s XENON100 lab in Gran Sasso, Italy has found no evidence of the particles that theoretically make up dark matter. However, the dark matter detector next door, Gran Sasso National Laboratory’s CRESST-II, has published data suggesting that WIMPS are indeed out there. XENON100 physicists doubt CRESST-II’s data, so the fate of dark matter is unsure, baring some sort of decisive cage match between the labs.

World War II may have seen the greatest generation, but ours certainly knows how to party harder, or so says a new Columbia study. Those born in the past half of the century are more likely go on binges and develop drinking problems. While the jury is still out over the cause of the spike in drinking, but the past year’s Billboard top 40 hits certainly aren’t helping.

The freighting plausible and star-studded epidemic thriller “Contagion” is winning praise with critics and audiences alike partially due to efforts of Columbia epidemiologist W. Ian. Lipkin. Professor Lipkin designed the (thankfully fictional) virus that wrecks havoc on Minneapolis and trained the actors how to  effectively act its symptoms. His help was so appreciated that a writers created a character based off of him.

Bwoglines: Dark Times Edition

Dark times, like the one in which this elusive photo was taken.

Brace yourselves for The (Less) Social Network Part II: Gratuitous Hashtags. Some allegations about Twitter’s beginnings have been made and it doesn’t look like it’ll play out in less that 140 characters. #SoMuchDrama (Business Insider, NYMag)

Kobe Bryant was fined $100,000 over a homophobic slur he made to a ref during a game on Tuesday. We’re not going to beat around the bush—this fining for swearing thing already happened on 30 Rock, and it didn’t go so well. (CNN)

Columbia professor Elena Aprile leads the search for dark matter. But wait—it gets darker. The hunt has netted almost nothing so far. Participants remain optimistic, though. Aprile says, “when we are searching for the unknown, the more we probe the closer we get to truth.” (NYT)

Barring any snark, we were shocked and saddened to read that a Yale senior died in a chem lab accident after her hair got caught in a machine. Our thoughts are with the Yale community and the student’s family. (Yale Daily News)

Sketchy selfie photo via Wikimedia Commons.