I try to keep up with advances in quantum physics, but I’m ashamed to admit that, until today, I had never studied Delbrück scattering, which occurs when quantum pairs spontaneously appear in a region dominated by a magnetic field. I’m intrigued that Delbrück scattering is similar to Hawking radiation, but instead of quantum pairs appearing near a black hole, it’s quantum pairs appearing near a magnet.
I get it. To become a famous physicist, all one has to do is think of some disruptive environment for quantum pairs to appear in, and imagine (no more than that, really) what the results would be.
What the heck, I’ll have a go. For my next Nobel Prize in physics, I will ponder the consequences of quantum pairs spontaneously appearing near the following items:
- A vacuum sweeper.
- A blender.
- Fly paper.
- A SPINNING thing, like a tire, or maybe another blender.
- Rainbows. (Yeah, that’s a difficult one, but why not?)
- Unicorns. (I’ll invoke the unfalsifiable “You-Can’t-Prove-Me-Wrong” argument.)
- A time vortex. (It could happen.)
- That chubby man on the Internet who believes he’s magnetic because pennies stick to his skin, but he really just needs to take a bath.
I’ll alert the Nobel Prize Committee that my work is underway. And I’ll get a good 8×10 head shot. I’ll need a good 8×10 head shot, don’t you think? I really should do that first.
OOH! I just thought of something new: Rainbows AND unicorns… TOGETHER!
Yep, I’d say this one’s in the bag.
How is it possible to collide two protons and get a Higgs boson? Is there a Higgs boson hiding inside the proton somewhere?
Well, no. But a very interesting thing about colliding particles in this manner is that it doesn’t work the way we see collisions work in the macro world. It’s as if we were to collide two 18-wheeler trucks, and instead of fragments of steel and glass — instead of pieces of truck — we see bicycles, station wagons, skate boards, and wheelchairs making up the wreckage.
And it gets even better because the wreckage produced isn’t determined by the particles we collide. We can have within the wreckage any particle that is the mass-equivalent of the energy of the collision. So it is entirely possible that we can collide two tricycles with enough speed that the energy of the collision will produce an 18-wheeler. So with sufficient energy, we can produce any particle in nature just by colliding two protons together.
And about that energy: the LHC requires an entire city’s worth of electrical energy to operate. We toss about huge numbers — over a hundred billion electron volts — and we are in awe of what we’ve accomplished.
So how much energy are we really talking about? The LHC speeds up protons so they have the same kinetic energy as a single raindrop.
This is both impressively large and impressively small. When you think about the difference in mass between a proton and a raindrop, this is a mind-boggling increase in energy, worthy of the numbers and power production we have devoted to it. But when you think about the absolute amount of energy involved, it is literally a drop in a bucket.