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物理学的未来

时间:2011-10-01 14:00:23  来源:  作者:

欧洲最大的粒子物理实验室CERN(欧洲核子研究中心)的研究员们给世界抛出了一颗重磅炸弹。他们指出,谜一样的中微子充盈着整个宇宙但是几乎不与任何物质发生相互作用,但是一旦它们相互作用中微子将超越光速。根据爱因斯坦的狭义相对论,这是不可能的。
Physicists from OPERA, one of the experiments at CERN, sent beams of neutrinos through the Earth’s crust from the organisation’s headquarters on the outskirts of Geneva to an underground laboratory 730km (450 miles) away beneath Gran Sasso, a mountain in the Apennines. The neutrinos appeared to be reaching the detector 60 nanoseconds faster than light would take to cover the same distance—a small deviation, and one that might be written off as experimental error if an experiment in America, called MINOS, had not detected a similar anomaly in 2007.
CERN下属实验室OPERA(译者注:即Oscillation Project with Emulsion Tracking Apparatus的首字母缩写,直译即“戏剧”,不少科学家开玩笑称这的确很戏剧化)的物理学家接受到了日内瓦市郊总部发出的中微子束,它穿过地壳到达距日内瓦730km的意大利亚平宁山格兰萨索峰的地下实验室。通过相同的距离,中微子到达探测器的时间比光早了60ns,略有差别。倘若不是2007美国MINOS实验探测到了类似结果,这一差别将被忽略。
The MINOS result, too, was thought an error. Now researchers are not so sure. Most are unwilling to believe Einstein was wrong. A few, though, are contemplating the idea that OPERA’s neutrinos are interacting with the matter of the Earth’s crust in a way, hitherto unknown, that allows them to take a shortcut through one of the extra seven dimensions that are hypothesised, by some versions of theoretical physics, to exist alongside the familiar four of length, breadth, height and time. If that is true, it would take physics beyond the theory of relativity, just as Einstein took the subject beyond Newton’s laws of motion and gravity, and might allow physicists to merge relativistic ideas with those of quantum theory—a goal of the subject for almost a century.
MINOS的结果同样被认为是实验错误造成的。目前研究者还不确定。大部分科学家都不愿相信爱因斯坦错了。即便如此,部分科学家认为OPERA发射的中微子以一种目前不知的方式和地壳中的物质发生了相互作用,使得它们可以从隐藏的七维中走捷径到达。根据某些理论物理,除了长、宽、高、时间四维之外还有隐藏的七维。如果这是真的,这将取代相对论,就像爱因斯坦取代牛顿运动定律一样,也可能使得物理学家将相对论与量子力学结合,这是近百年来物理学的目标。(译者注:弦论认为宇宙是有十一维的,除了我们所知的四维,还有七维隐藏着,这是一种将相对论和量子力学结合的方法之一。另一种是圈量子理论,不过两者的实验证据都不是十分充分。)
As science cuts ever deeper into the fabric of nature, discoveries like this have become the preserve of huge, costly machines. Ironically, the news arrived at the moment one such device faces execution. At 2pm on September 30th, the last day of the American fiscal year, Helen Edwards, a septuagenarian American physicist, will press a red switch, and then a green one. By doing so, she will kill the Tevatron—a particle accelerator (pictured above), with a circumference of 6.3km, that she helped, in her younger days, to build.
随着科学研究的深入,像这样的发现已经演变成了维持大型烧钱机器的运作。相反,在这一消息公布的同时,一台机器面临搁置。9月30日下午2时,美国财政年度预算的最后一天,年过七旬的物理学家海伦·德华兹(Helen Edwards)按下了红色按钮然后是个绿色的。她这么做,就意味着海伦早年曾帮助建造,周长为6.3km的万亿电子伏特加速器(Tevatron,上图所示)将被关闭。
Grand OPERA
完美“戏剧”
For a quarter of a century before CERN’s Large Hadron Collider (LHC) began working in earnest in 2009 the Tevatron, at the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory (Fermilab) in Batavia, near Chicago, dominated high-energy physics. It was the first machine to smash particles together with energies in excess of 1 trillion electron-volts—or 1 TeV, whence its name. This led to the discovery of the top quark, the heaviest elementary particle seen to date and the penultimate piece of the jigsaw puzzle known as the Standard Model that is the best description physicists have of the basic components of the universe.
CERN大型强子对撞机(LHC)2009年初开始运作,在这之前的四分之一个世纪芝加哥附近巴达维亚的费米实验室已将 Tevatron用在高能物理领域。顾名思义,这是世界上首次用1Tev高能轰击粒子。它也因此发现了顶夸克,按照物理学家描述宇宙基本组成的标准模型,顶夸克是已知最重的粒子,也是物理界完美拼图中的倒数第二块。
For a few months in 2010 it looked as though the Tevatron might get a reprieve in order to find the last (and heaviest) missing bit of the model—the Higgs boson, which is thought to give other particles their mass. That would have been a delicious victory, as the LHC’s first goal is the discovery of the Higgs. In the event, though, Congress pulled the plug.
2010年的几个月里尽管 Tevatron为了寻找标准模型中最后(也是最重的)的希格斯玻色子(标准模型认为正是它使得其他粒子具有质量)而暂免关闭。那是不错的胜利,因为LHC的首要目标就是发现希格斯子。但这一次,国会取消了预算。

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