You asked questions about the LHC (and in particular, the believed discovery of the Higgs Boson) of physicist Giovanni Organtini. Organtini has responded (answers below), and written a brief introduction to explain what the Higgs boson is and how it provides mass to other particles: "The Higgs mechanism was introduced to explain the fact that experimentally particles have mass. In fact, without the Higgs mechanism, the equations of motion for particles can only be written for massless particles. The actual mechanism is rather difficult to understand without a solid Quantum Field Theory background, but can be understood as follows: most of you know that particles gain some energy when they interact with a field. As an example, consider a book on a table. Since the book is subject to the earth's gravitational field, it has some potential energy that transforms into kinetic energy if it is free to fall. The potential energy depends on the mass of the book and on the intensity of the gravitational field. With the introduction of Special Relativity, however, we have to add an extra term to the energy of the book depending on its mass only (the famous E=mc^2). Introducing a special field (the Higgs field), we can turn this term into something similar to the gravitational potential energy, i.e. something that contributes to the energy of the book because it interacts with a field. The mass of a particle, then, is nothing but its potential energy in the Higgs field. The Higgs field is auto-interacting, i.e. it interacts with itself, as the electric and magnetic fields do. As the electromagnetic field can, the Higgs field can also propagate through space, but since it's auto-interacting, it gains some energy from itself, as the book gains energy from the interaction with it, resulting in the appearance of a mass for such a field, that becomes observable as a particle called the Higgs boson. You can find a more formal, yet simple, explanation of the mechanism here." Read on for his answers to reader questions.
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Joseph Palaia is an entrepreneur, engineer and technologist who is working on creating the first permanent settlement on Mars. In 2009, he served as executive officer and chief engineer for a one-month simulated Mars mission at the Mars Society's Flashline Mars Arctic Research Station on Devon Island in the Canadian arctic. He has played an integral role in two commercial design studies of the first permanent Mars settlement. He is co-author of technical papers on the topics of Mars nuclear power plant design, Mars settlement architecture, space economics and the economics of energy on Mars. In addition to his work on inhabiting Mars, Joseph is also the Chief Operating Officer & Director of Earthrise Space, Inc. ESI is a research laboratory whose goal is to design, build, and operate spacecraft with the help of students. They are currently working on both a lunar lander and lunar rover for the Google Lunar X Prize. Joseph has agreed to take off his spacesuit and answer any of your questions about building moon machines with students, long-term survival in space, and all things Kuato related. Ask as many questions as you like, but please confine your questions to one per post.
Giovanni Organtini of Italy's National Institute of Nuclear Physics (well, Instituto Nazionale di Fisica Nucleare) has agreed to answer questions about the recent observations of a particle consistent with the Higgs Boson. Dr. Organtini is part of the CMS experiment at the Large Hadron Collider. He is careful to note that while the researchers "[believe] that this new particle, with a mass 125 times that of a proton, is the famous Higgs boson," they "need to study that new particle more deeply in the next months to be conclusive on that. Organtini likes free software (he's written Linux device drivers, too) and has his own physics-heavy YouTube channel, mostly in Italian. Please confine questions to one per post, but feel free to ask as many as you'd like.
Dr. Ramsey Faragher graduated from the University of Cambridge in 2004 with a first-class degree in Experimental and Theoretical Physics. He then completed a PhD in 2007 at Cambridge in Opportunistic Radio Positioning under the direction of Dr. Peter Duffett-Smith, a world expert in this field. He is now a Principal Scientist at the BAE Systems Advanced Technology Centre specializing in positioning, navigation, sensor fusion and remote sensing technologies in the land, air, sea and space domains. We recently covered his NAVSOP project, an advanced positioning system that exploits existing transmissions such as Wi-Fi, TV, radio and mobile phone signals, to calculate the user’s location to within a few meters. Dr. Faragher has graciously agreed to answer any questions you may have about NAVSOP, the future of GPS, or what a theoretical physicist puts on his business card. Ask as many questions as you like, but please confine your questions to one per post.
NASA's been solicited ideas for exploring Mars, but Dutch entrepreneur Bas Lansdorp is already planning a different kind of trip than is likely to come from the U.S. government. Lansdorp's Mars One project has the goal of putting humans on Mars in 2022, with a twist that might dampen many people's hopes to be a Mars-exploring astronaut: the trip Lansdorp plans is one-way only. That means dramatically less fuel on board, because unlike typical Mars voyage plans, there would be no need (or ability) to carry the mechanism or the energy storage to return to Earth. If you (and three close companions) are willing to go be the first people to die on Mars, you'll also need to give up more than a pinch of privacy, because the Mars One plan to obtain the necessary funding is straightforward: create a media spectacle, and monetize it through advertising. (Note: If Elon Musk's optimistic sounding predictions are right, maybe one-way Marstronauts can get a return ticket, after all.) Many questions about the proposed journey are answered in the project's FAQ; check there before formulating questions. Ask Lansdorp about the practicalities and impracticalities of reaching Mars with as many questions as you'd like, but (lest ye be modded down) please only one question per post.
Last week, you asked questions of Vermont Senate candidate Jeremy Hansen, running on an unusual platform: Hansen pledges to take advantage of modern communications if elected, and (with exceptions he outlines in his answers) vote based on the opinion of his district's voters on a per-issue basis. Read below Hansen's answers about such a system could work; he addresses concerns about security, practicality, morality, and more. "Before I start with the answers," he writes in introduction, "I want to clear a few things up. I am running as an independent for a Vermont Senate seat, not the U.S. Senate, so questions about classified and similar material do not (for the most part) apply. Also, for everyone's reference, there are 44,000 registered voters in Vermont's Washington County Senate district. Many of the concerns about managing input from very large populations are not as applicable here." Read on for more.
Last week you got a chance to ask the team behind Space Command about their project and all things sci-fi. Marc Zicree, Doug Drexler, David Raiklen, and Neil Johnson were nice enough to put down the blasters and answer a handful of your best questions. David even answered one of his own! Read below to see what they had to say.
Marc Zicree, Doug Drexler, David Raiklen, and Neil Johnson are the guys behind the fastest funded film project ever on Kickstarter, Space Command. The project will feature a number of Star Trek vets behind the camera and a number of Trek actors are also involved, including Armin Shimerman, George Takei, Ethan Phillips and Robert Picardo. The team has graciously agreed to take some time from trying to make a crowd-funded movie, building spaceships, and exploring alien worlds to answer your questions. Ask as many as you like but please confine your questions to one per post.
We mentioned yesterday Jeremy Hansen's run for the Vermont Senate. There are a lot of political races currently active in the U.S.; what makes Hansen's interesting (besides his background in computer science) is his pledge to use modern communication technology to provide a taste of direct representation within a representative democracy. He makes a claim not many candidates (and probably even fewer elected officials) ever will: "A representative should be elected who would work strictly as an advisor and make all policy and voting decisions based on the will of his or her constituents, regardless of personal opinion." To that end, Hansen says that if he's elected, he'll employ "an accessible online voting platform to allow discussion and voting on bills" for his constituents. He's agreed to answer questions about how such a system could work, and the nature of democracy in today's ultra-connected world, in which distance and communication delays are much smaller than they were even 20 years ago, never mind 200. So ask Hansen whatever questions you'd like about his plans and philosophy; as always, ask as many questions as you please, but please separate them into separate posts, lest ye be modded down.
You recently got the chance to ask a group of MIT researchers questions about fusion power, and they've now finished writing some incredibly detailed answers. They discuss the things we've learned about fusion in the past decade, how long it's likely to take for fusion to power your home, the biggest problems fusion researchers are working to solve, and why it's important to continue funding fusion projects. They also delve into the specifics of tokamak operation, like dealing with disruption events and the limitations on reactor size, and provide some insight into fusion as a career. Hit the link below for a wealth of information about fusion.
kodiaktau writes "Salary.com profiles 14 questions that interviewers may or may not ask during the interview process such as the standards of age, gender and sexual orientation. They also profile several lesser known illegal or border line questions like height/weight, military background, country of origin and family status. With the recent flap over companies asking potential employees for passwords during the interview process it is important to know and review your legal rights before entering the interview. Have you been confronted with borderline or illegal interview questions in the past? How have you responded to those questions?"
Nuclear fusion power is the process of fusing light nuclei together to release energy, and ultimately, to put electricity on the grid. Today, we have six researchers from MIT's Plasma Science and Fusion Center here to answer your questions about fusion power, tokamaks, and public support and funding in the U.S. for this research. The Obama Administration's budget request for fiscal year 2013 is paying for the U.S. share of ITER construction out of the domestic program, starting with the closure of the MIT fusion lab. The interviewees are ready to answer technical and policy questions, so don't be shy! And, as always, please break unrelated questions into separate posts. Read on for information about the researchers who will answer your questions.
A few weeks back, you asked gaming-world academic and game designer Ian Bogost questions from the business, philosophical, and aesthetic sides of gaming; below, find his responses. Thanks, Ian!
You asked Carl Malamud about his experiences and hopes in the gargantuan project he's undertaken to prod the U.S. government into scanning archived documents, and to make public access (rather than availability only through special dispensation) the default for newly created, timely government data. (Malamud points out that if you have comments on what the government should be focusing on preserving, and how they should go about it, the National Archives would like to read them.) Below find answers with a mix of heartening and disheartening information about how the vast project is progressing.
If you've ever tried to look up public records online, you may have run into byzantine sign-up procedures, proprietary formats, charges just to view what are ostensibly public documents, and generally the sense that you're in a snooty library with closed stacks. Carl Malamud of Public.Resource.Org has for years been forging a path through the grey goo of U.S. government data, helping to publicize the need for accessible digital archives — not just awkward, fee-per-page access. (Mother Jones calls him a "badass.") Malamud has (with help) been making it easier to get to the huge swathes of data in government sources like PACER, EDGAR, and the U.S. Patent Office. He's got a new initiative now to establish a "Federal Scanning Commission," the task of which would be to assess the scope and outcomes of a large-scale effort to actually digitize and make available online as much as practical of the vast holdings of the U.S. government. ("If we were able to put a man on the moon, why can't we launch the Library of Congress into cyberspace?") Ask Malamud below questions about his plans and challenges in disseminating public information. (But please, post unrelated questions separately, lest ye be modded down.)