back to article 20 years on, physicists are still figuring out anomaly in proton experiment

Physicists in America have confirmed a strange measurement that was first discovered by scientists probing the internal structure of protons two decades ago.  This latest experiment – conducted at the Thomas Jefferson National Accelerator Facility by a team of academics primarily from Temple University in Philadelphia – shows …

  1. Version 1.0 Silver badge

    It's a facinating field

    Studying atomic details is like doing a crossword puzzle - you have clues and come up with "answers" that look good and then the next few clues result in different "answers" that indicate the first one might have been wrong unless the new answers are wrong too. That's fascinating and very helpful when you look for the next "answer" in both atomics and crosswords.

    We're all made of protons and every physical thing in our world is too ... OK, I'm off to have a beer full of protons, I guess they must taste great!

    1. Steve Graham

      Re: It's a facinating field

      Beer is mostly composed of empty space. Perhaps that's where the taste comes from?

      1. Anonymous Coward

        Re: It's a facinating field

        You've been drinking too much Coors.

      2. Tessier-Ashpool

        Re: It's a facinating field

        Protons are composed of empty space, too. AFAIK their constituent quarks are fundamental point-like particles with no intrinsic size. Quantum Field Theory postulates that quark fields permeate the entire universe but at any time some places are a bit quarkier than others (an excitation) and that’s what you call a quark. Similar story for electrons. How big something is and where it is all goes to pot when Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle comes into play, so I might as well stop using English right now. The universe doesn’t care about the notions of us macroscopic humans, and plays by different rules.

        1. Jaybus

          Re: It's a facinating field

          The Uncertainty Principle, in discussing wavelet theory, is the notion that we cannot know precisely what frequencies exist in a waveform at a precise time, but only what frequency bands exist in a time interval. Basically the same thing Heisenberg described for moving particles, since he discussed particle motion in terms of its Fourier components. He discovered a fundamental limitation of the maths involved in Schrodinger's wave mechanics. But is it real, or is it an artifact of the maths being used to model the physical World? It seems these particular boffins have shown that the standard model is not yet complete.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: It's a facinating field

      This is the sort of 'Science' I really like !!!

      At the limit of ..... 'Did I just measure that or did someone stand-on/Trip over a cable !!!???'


      I read the paper and could understand every word .... individually ....

      when stringing them together it got harder (Cue Frankie Howerd interjection .... so to speak !!!)


      1. herman Silver badge

        Re: It's a facinating field

        That explains it - the bump is due to string theory.

        1. Jim Mitchell

          Re: It's a facinating field

          Bumps in strings are due to knot theory.

          1. jmch Silver badge

            Re: It's a facinating field

            Surely not!

        2. bombastic bob Silver badge

          Re: It's a facinating field

          actually it reminds me of resonance. This is the kind of thing that needs to be leveraged for fusion energy. A resonance at a particular energy could be used to make fusion happen more readily, or might prevent it. In either case it is important.

          Yep. Energy resonance. Makes the most sense to me. Like an atomic tuned circuit of sorts. Now hit it with particles at THAT energy and see what it does. Might be interesting.

          ("resonance capture" of neutrons is a known phenomenon in nuclear physics, like with how fission works. At some neutron energies, generally during the thermalization (slowing down) of the neutrons, the neutron is captured but does not fission the nucleus of the fuel. It is considered to be a loss factor, like neutrons leaking out of the material. Making this 'slowing down' distance shorter helps to keep resonance capture from happening)

      2. breakfast Silver badge

        Re: It's a facinating field

        I read the start of the paper and felt like I somehow knew less than I had before, and not just about this, about everything.

    3. Michael Hoffmann Silver badge

      Re: It's a facinating field

      And Ponder Stibbons' Law must also be considered: sometimes it's the wrong type of question!

    4. Schultz

      "Studying atomic details is like doing a crossword puzzle"

      But only if your crossword puzzle extends into 4 dimensions and has new questions popping up when you take a closer look.

      1. ThatOne Silver badge

        Re: "Studying atomic details is like doing a crossword puzzle"

        Only because we're still so totally clueless about how this all actually works. Somebody at some point will have an epiphany, but till then we're in the dark. Quite fascinating domain.

        1. Eclectic Man Silver badge

          Re: "Studying atomic details is like doing a crossword puzzle"

          Clears throat: AHEMMMM.

          “Nature and Nature's laws lay hid in night:

          God said, Let Newton be! and all was light.”*

          It did not last, the Devil Howling "Ho,

          Let Einstein Be" restored the status quo.**

          Sorry, couldn't resist.

          *Alexander Pope:

          **John Collings Squire:

    5. Ben Bonsall

      Re: It's a facinating field

      We're all made of protons and every physical thing in our world is too ... OK, I'm off to have a beer full of protons, I guess they must taste great!

      So, you must be a fan of lambics... The sour tastebuds basically just respond to the H+ ions floating about in acidic substances, and H+ is just a proton. :)

  2. Pete 2 Silver badge

    A smashing time

    > bombarded liquid hydrogen with electrons

    Although I have considerable interest in sub-atomic physics, I cannot shake the idea that current research is more like trying to determine the internal structure of an egg by firing ball bearings at it.

    1. Ken Hagan Gold badge

      Re: A smashing time

      Since the proton doesn't actually break, I think it's more like trying to determine the internal structure of the ball bearing by throwing eggs at it.

      1. ThatOne Silver badge

        Re: A smashing time

        > I think it's more like trying to determine the internal structure of the ball bearing by throwing eggs at it.

        Well, electrons don't break any more than protons, so it's actually like throwing ball bearings at other ball bearings, and trying to guess their composition by the sound they make when colliding.

        Although it might indeed sound strange to normal people, there is nothing odd about this technique, after all, how do you examine something you can't apprehend through your usual 5-6 senses? The only way left is through it's interactions with its environment: Throw an electron at it, check if it says "ouch!", sues you, or goes "crunch!". This will already tell you something.

    2. OhForF' Silver badge

      Re: A smashing time

      I just love the analogy set up by Sir Pterry in the science of discworld IV "Judgement Day".

      Pianologists: creatures that have great facility with sound, but can't see a piano or feel what shape it is and can only observe the sound when throwing things at it.

    3. Contrex

      Re: A smashing time

      And finding out, like Rutherford, that sometimes they bounce back.

    4. bombastic bob Silver badge

      Re: A smashing time

      more like an X ray if you think about it, one that is unfortunately destructive. The thing is you kinda need a "something" that you can fire at it that is small enough to get any kind of resoloution, even if that just means a splat on the wall. But yeah, ball bearings shot through an egg. Or maybe 00 buck shot.

    5. KittenHuffer Silver badge

      Re: A smashing time

      I seem to remember a quote something like - Current particle physics (LHC etc.) is equivalent to trying to determine what a grand piano looks like by studying the sound it makes after you drop it from the roof of a tall building!

      I have JFGIed but am unable to find the original quote at the moment.

  3. Ken Hagan Gold badge

    New physics?

    Wouldn't it be funny if sticking a proton in an electric field delivered more new physics than the LHC?

    1. herman Silver badge

      Re: New physics?

      The LHC is the modern equivalent of a caveman with a big club smashing coconuts to see if there is something edible inside.

    2. This post has been deleted by its author

      1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

        Re: New physics?

        > LHC research has produced over 3,000 published papers

        One of our professors produced >25,000 papers on his own.

        He had a semi-automated gadget in the 60s/70s for making an astronomical measurement that was previously done slowly and tediously photographically.

        Either he was trying to make a point about the publish-or-perish nature of academe, or he was just bloody-minded. But he published each measurement as its own paper - several per day - by inserting the new number on a carbon copy.

        1. bombastic bob Silver badge

          Re: New physics?

          a database and some charts would've been more useful and easier to read...

          (I guess you could say he published an ASTRONOMICAL number of papers on his idea...)

          1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

            Re: New physics?

            His own catalog would have been normal and more useful but I think his was a general FU to the world

          2. herman Silver badge

            Re: New physics?

            As Ol Bill Wobblestick said: Much ado about nothing.

        2. Loyal Commenter Silver badge

          Re: New physics?

          But published where? Did he bind them up, and put them in the university library and say, "look I've published it", or was it in a peer-reviewed journal? Because if it's the latter, I'd like to know how the hell he found anyone willing to review them, and if it's the former, then he's stretching the definition of the word "published" a bit.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: New physics?

        Probably most of which say:

        We did this, saw that, here's the result: Fecktifino!

  4. Eclectic Man Silver badge

    The graph

    An image of the graph would have been nice. I wonder whether there is some rearrangement of quarks within the proton which has to pass some sort of threshold, like a catastrophe curve ( A common everyday object that exhibits such an event is a snap bracelet ( which has two states of stability one straight and the other curved and transitions between the two with a small amount of effort.

    Not sure I've explained this at all well, but the proton result is interesting.

    1. Charlie Clark Silver badge

      Re: The graph

      At the quantum level I'm not sure if "arrangement" really applies: quarks are as much a mathematical model as a physical one. I do also wonder why, in the quantum world, uniformity is expected, especially in an experiment that seems predicated on the anthropic principle.

      But, as you say, the result is indeed interesting.

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    It will eventually become clear they didn't allow for the effect of adding custard.

  6. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge


    If we were living in a simulation, "proton"+"antiproton" would either equal "protonantiproton" cos it had been hacked up in Javascript as a weekend project. Or it was done in Python and would result in a crash cos the result was either 0 or None, or False and they weren't sure which.

    1. Kevin McMurtrie Silver badge

      Re: Simulation

      Time to add a few more bits to the floating point numbers.

    2. Charlie Clark Silver badge

      Re: Simulation

      FWIW in Python False == 0 but 3VL (three valued logic) is rarely a problem where logical tests are applied.

  7. Will Godfrey Silver badge

    Look, I keep telling you

    It's turtles all the way down.

    1. navidier

      Re: Look, I keep telling you

      It's turtles all the way down.

      No, It's *turkeys* all the way down!

      1. Bowlers

        Re: Look, I keep telling you

        'It's turtles all the way down'

        From my point of view It's turtles all the way up. And please stop dropping things over the edge.

  8. StuntMisanthrope

    Fray Bentos

    Pass the sellotape again, it’s proton exchange membrane time. #stickytheory

  9. trindflo Bronze badge

    Riemann sheet?

    I've been speculating that the atomic nucleus is the result of folding space; that is the nucleus (or a single proton - a bare nucleus) is encapsulated in an event horizon. It explains the spin and some other things. I doubt it is an original thought now that I understand where I've been heading for a while. I'm certain it will be a long time before I put together math to substantiate or refute the notion.

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Ever since learning electricity isn't actually electrons flowing down wires I've never trusted anything scientists tell me.

    1. ghp

      But it is, although very slowly, since they hop from one atom to the next, slower than a slug IIRC, aa bit like the river Ouze.

      1. Kubla Cant

        Why the gratuitous disrespect for the River Ouse*? It's just across the road from my house, and I can confirm that although not fast-flowing, it's quicker than a slug.

        *I appreciate that there are several rivers called Ouse, but the other Ouses are generally subject to a geographical qualification. Ours is the Great Ouse, and therefore the defining instance.

        1. ghp

          Sorry for misspelling, haven't been to Britain since it drifted further away from Europe. I was referring to the one along which there was/is a well-known brewery, if I could only remember the name.

  11. Neil Barnes Silver badge

    Notched Quanta!

    That's obviously what it is. I blame it all on notched quanta!

  12. J.G.Harston Silver badge

    Good god! 44 co-authors!

  13. Loyal Commenter Silver badge

    VIrtual Compton Scattering

    Isn't that when NWA split up?

    Alright, alright, my coat's on already...

  14. thondwe

    Current state of Quantum Mechanics Theory is closer to Newtonian Mechanics than to Einstein's General Relativity? A good approximation but not the final deal? Sort of 41.2314364 rather than 42?

  15. anom086421

    When the Lambda-CDM model states that a cloud of gas and dust can become a star that will burn for billions of years, the normal matter itself is forced to create the force of gravity. What role does that give space? Einstein knew that space created gravity but what happens when the normal matter creates the gravity?

    It means that 95% of the mass of our universe has no role at all. Even though Einstein initially called Georges Lamaîtres interpretation of Hubbles discovery "abominable" as far as physics are concerned, he still accepted the theory. Unfortunately, that one assumption kept Einstein, and everyone else, unable to explain quantum gravity. It also, consequently, is keeping science from understanding the atom itself.

    If someone comes up with a law-abiding theory that explains the atom, will the scientific community listen? Is the Lambda-CDM model a theory or a fact?

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