Language Selection

English French German Italian Portuguese Spanish

Playing catch on tiny scale

Filed under

An hour north of Duluth, Minn., and a half-mile down, the dim tunnels of the Soudan mine open up to a bright, comfortably warm cavern roughly the size of a gymnasium, 45 feet high, 50 feet wide, 270 feet long.

Well hidden from the lakes, pine forests and small towns of northern Minnesota, the mine churned out almost pure iron ore until it closed in 1962. Today, it is a state park, and it houses a $55 million particle physics experiment that is part of a worldwide effort to unravel the secrets of the neutrino, one of the least known and most common elementary particles.

Because of discoveries over the past decade, the ubiquitous neutrino, once a curiosity in a corner of particle physics, now has the potential to disrupt much of what physicists think they know about the subatomic world. It may hold a key to understanding the creation of hydrogen, helium and other light elements minutes after the Big Bang and to how dying stars explode.

The experiment at Soudan will measure the rate that neutrinos seemingly magically change their types, giving physicists a better idea of the minute mass they carry. An experiment at Fermilab outside Chicago is looking for a particle called a "sterile neutrino" that never interacts with the rest of the universe except through gravity.

Astrophysicists are building neutrino observatories in Antarctica and the Mediterranean, which will provide new views of the cosmos, illuminating the violent happenings at the centers of galaxies, distant bright quasars and elsewhere.

The particle is nothing if not elusive. In 1987, astronomers counted 19 neutrinos from an explosion of a star in the nearby Large Magellanic Cloud, 19 out of the billion trillion trillion trillion trillion neutrinos that flew from the supernova. The observation confirmed the basic understanding that supernovas are set off by the gravitational collapse of stars, but there was not enough information to discern much about the neutrinos.

The much larger detectors in operation today, Super-Kamiokande in Japan, filled with 12.5 million gallons of water, and the Sudbury Neutrino Observatory in Canada, would capture thousands of neutrinos from a similar outburst.
Because neutrinos are so aloof, successful experiments must have either a lot of neutrinos, produced en masse by accelerators or nuclear reactors, or a lot of matter for neutrinos to run into. Given the cost of building huge detectors, scientists are now turning to places where nature will cooperate.

In Antarctica, the IceCube project will consist of 80 strings holding 4,800 detectors in the ice, turning a cubic kilometer of ice into a neutrino telescope. Fourteen European laboratories are collaborating on a project called Antares that will similarly turn a section of the Mediterranean off the French Riviera into a neutrino detector.

The Soudan experiment takes the other approach, using bountiful bursts of neutrinos generated by a particle accelerator. Shoehorned into the back of the underground cavern is a detector of modest size, a mere 6,000 tons, consisting of 486 octagonal steel plates and standing upright like a loaf of bread. Each plate, 1 inch thick and 30 feet wide, weighs 12 tons.

On a visit to the cavern last month, William H. Miller, the laboratory manager, pointed at the far rock wall. "Fermilab, that way," he said. This experiment is intended to catch just a few of the neutrinos created

Continued ...

More in Tux Machines

FATHOM releases Crystallon

  • FATHOM releases Crystallon, an open-source software for lattice-based design
    Lattice structures are integral to 3D printed designs, and Aaron Porterfield, an industrial designer at additive manufacturing service bureau FATHOM, has developed Crystallon, an open source project for shaping them into structures.
  • FATHOM Introduces Open Source Software Project for Generating 3D Lattice Structures
    California-based FATHOM, which expanded its on-site managed services and announced important partnerships with Stratasys and Desktop Metal last year, is introducing a fascinating new open source project called Crystallon, which uses Rhino and Grasshopper3D to create lattice structures. FATHOM industrial designer Aaron Porterfield, also an Instructables member, developed the project as an alternative to designing lattices with commercially available software. He joined the company’s design and engineering team three years ago, and is often a featured speaker for its Design for Additive Manufacturing (DfAM) Training Program – and as the project developer, who better to explain the Crystallon project?

Kernel and Graphics: Machine Learning, Mesa, Wayland/Mir, AMDGPU

  • AI-Powered / Machine Learning Linux Performance Tuning Is Now A Thing
    A year and a half ago I wrote about a start-up working on dynamically-tuned, self-optimizing Linux servers. That company is now known as Concertio and they just launched their "AI powered" toolkit for IT administrators and performance engineers to optimize their server performance. Concertio Optimizer Studio is their product making use of machine learning that aims to optimize Linux systems with Intel CPUs for peak performance by scoping out the impact of hundreds of different tunables for trying to deliver an optimal configuration package for that workload on that hardware.
  • Pengutronix Gets Open-Source 3D Working On MX8M/GC7000 Hardware
    We've known that Pengutronix developers had been working on i.MX8M / GC7000 graphics support within their Etnaviv open-source driver stack from initial patches posted in January. Those patches back at the start of the year were for the DRM kernel driver, but it turns out they have already got basic 3D acceleration working.
  • SDL Now Disables Mir By Default In Favor Of Wayland Compatibility
    With Mir focusing on Wayland compatibility now, toolkits and other software making direct use of Mir's APIs can begin making use of any existing Wayland back-end instead. GTK4 drops the Mir back-end since the same can be achieved with the Wayland compatibility and now SDL is now making a similar move.
  • Mesa 18.1 Receives OpenGL 3.1 With ARB_compatibility For Gallium3D Drivers
    Going back to last October, Marek of AMD's open-source driver team has been working on ARB_compatibility support for Mesa with a focus on RadeonSI/Gallium3D. Today that work was finally merged. The ARB_compatibility support allows use of deprecated/removed features of OpenGL by newer versions of the specification. ARB_compatibility is particularly useful for OpenGL workstation users where there are many applications notorious for relying upon compatibility contexts / deprecated GL functionality. But ARB_compatibility is also used by a handful of Linux games too.
  • AMDGPU In Linux 4.17 Exposes WattMan Features, GPU Voltage/Power Via Hwmon
    AMD's Alex Deucher today sent in the first pull request to DRM-Next of AMDGPU (and Radeon) DRM driver feature material that will in turn be merged with the Linux 4.17 kernel down the road. There's some fun features for AMDGPU users coming with this next kernel! First up, Linux is finally getting some WattMan-like functionality after it's been available via the Windows Radeon Software driver since 2016. WattMan allows for more fine-tuning of GPU clocks, voltages, and more for trying to maximize the power efficiency. See the aforelinked article for details but currently without any GUI panel for tweaking all of the driver tunables, this WattMan-like support needs to be toggled from the command-line.

Wine and Ganes: World of Warcraft, Farm Together, Madcap Castle, Cityglitch

Security Leftovers