The Large Hadron Collider (LHC) is currently undergoing upgrades that will allow it to finally reach its intended top energy of 14TeV. When it comes back online, researchers will use it to probe the properties of the Higgs boson it discovered and to continue the search for particles beyond those described by the Standard Model. But no matter how many Higgs particles pop out of the machine, there’s a limit to how much we can discover there.
That’s because the hadrons it uses create messy collisions that are hard to characterize. The solution to this is to switch to leptons, a class of particles that includes the familiar electron. Leptons present their own challenges but allow for clean collisions at precise energies, allowing the machine to produce little beyond the intended particles. So now, the international physics community is putting agreements in place that will see a new lepton collider start construction before the decade is out, most likely in Japan.
Via The International Linear Collider will be a Higgs factory | Ars Technica.
A new X-ray observation of the region surrounding the supermassive black hole in the Great Barred Spiral Galaxy may have answered one of the big questions. G. Risaliti and colleagues found the distinct signature of X-rays reflecting off gas orbiting the black hole at nearly the speed of light. The detailed information the astronomers gleaned allowed them to rule out some explanations for the bright X-ray emission, bringing us closer to an understanding of the extreme environment near these gravitational engines.
Via X-rays spotted bouncing off relativistic matter spiraling into black hole | Ars Technica.
They found distinct signs of a supernova with strong jets shooting from the poles. The astronomers failed to find any sign of a neutron star, meaning the supernova must have left a black hole instead. And the emissions suggest it’s only 1,000 years of age, which would make the black hole the youngest known in our galaxy.
Via Strange supernova remnant harbors Milky Way’s youngest black hole | Ars Technica.
Is the biosphere today on the verge of anything like the mass extinctions of the geological past? Could some equivalent of meteorite impacts or dramatic climate change be underway, as humankind’s rapid destruction of natural habitats forces animals and plants out of existence?
Increasingly, researchers are doing the numbers, and saying, yes, if present trends continue, a mass extinction is very likely underway. The evidence is pieced together from details drawn from all over the world, but it adds up to a disturbing picture. This time, unlike the past, it’s not a chance asteroid collision, nor a chain of climatic circumstances alone that’s at fault. Instead, it is chiefly the activities of an ever-growing human population, in concert with long-term environmental change.
Via Evolution: Library: The Current Mass Extinction.