The Standard Model is the Duke Basketball of Physics

August 24, 2010

As I was reading an article on quantum mechanics in New Scientist the other day, Ann asked me why I still read quantum mechanics articles since the pace of discovery has slowed so much. I told her that mostly I was hoping that a flaw with the standard model might be found, opening up at least the possibility of new physics and cool technologies. Today it occurred to me that I am a standard model hater. Just as Duke draws television viewers hoping to see them lose, I am hoping to see the standard model fail.

This should sound familiar: Don’t get me wrong, I recognize the amazing achievement that the standard model represents. I am not trying to disparage it. I just would like to see it upset.

So it was with a bit of glee that I heard about the following series of papers. Apparently the decay rates for heavy isotopes varies slightly as the earth orbits the sun. This variation is consistent with the position of the earth relative to the sun and may be consistent with the rotation of the core of the sun, assuming that that rotation is slightly slower than the surface. What’s really cool is that the decay rates seem to alter a day and a half before solar flares hit the earth, implying a wave of faster moving particles washing over the earth’s surface. What they are and how they interact with nuclear decay are unknown.

As in His Master’s Voice, the discovery was made after searching for a good random number generator.

Greece Fire

August 27, 2007

This NASA satellite image of the wildfires in Greece is absolutely astounding.

Fires in Greece from Space