To observe the Muon is to experience clues of immortality


The known universe seemed, briefly, muonstruck. But it only took 12 days for another Italian physicist to throw cold water on happiness. Carlo Rovelli, founder of the loop theory of quantum gravity, which seeks to combine quantum mechanics and general relativity, and the author of Helgoland: making sense of the quantum revolution, which was published in English in May, wrote in The Guardian, “Physicists love to think of themselves as radicals.”

This conception of self, Rovelli continued, is understandable, especially among physicists, who are making a name for themselves in the far reaches of human understanding. But it also leads laboratories to overexpress their findings. He cited examples of potential supersymmetric “discoveries” that initially seemed groundbreaking, but did not live up to the hype. Rovelli focused particularly on the word “clue”, which appeared in this Fermilab press release. “I don’t remember a time when a colleague spoke of ‘clues’ that new supersymmetric particles had been ‘almost discovered’. almost and tips, presumably, are often at a value which, unlike 0.0000002 percent from Fermilab, may not be statistically significant.

In 1807 William Wordsworth published an ode that was to romantic poetry as the discovery of quarks was to particle physics in 1964: a breakthrough. “Intimations of Immortality from Recollections of Early Childhood” tells of the poet’s emotional detachment from nature; his happy rediscovery of it in childhood memories; and his bittersweet resolution that although Earth will die, the suggestions of immortality in the present moment will sustain him in his grief.

Although nothing can bring the clock back
Splendor in the grass, glory in the flower;
We won’t cry, instead we will find
Strength in what remains behind;
In primitive sympathy
What has been must always be;
In the soothing thoughts that spring
Out of human suffering; In the faith that looks through death …

An intriguing approach to literature called ecocritism, pioneered in the 1990s by English philosopher Jonathan Bate, argues that romantic poetry like this ode may suggest ways to conceive of our dying planet as a planet we must save – or perhaps , in sorrow, and maybe love, let die. But Wordsworth’s poem is not just about the fate of humans and the blue planet. Its subject is also suggestions – what the physicists of the Muon g-2 project call “clues”.

In fact, they are allusions to the same thing: immortality.

The central argument of physics is that the building blocks of the universe will last even if, or even when, the humans who calculate them, and the planet we live on, all die. To see in the immortal universe is to try not to see anything as flamboyant as Wordsworth’s favorite daffodils and walnut trees, but to peer into the coldest spaces, black holes, and the fractional electric charge of theoretical subatomic particles. . These entities have no blood flow, of course, but also no DNA; they are not susceptible to pandemics, however virulent they may be, nor to the dividends and ravages of carbon. They don’t live, so they don’t die. To model the universe as accurately as possible is to try to see the one thing that even the strictest atheist agrees to say is eternal – to try to obtain, in a laboratory, an indication of immortality.



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