Saturday, November 19, 2011

The results of repeat Neutrino experiment

The team which found that neutrinos may travel faster than light has carried out an improved version of their experiment - and confirmed the result.

If confirmed by other experiments, the find could undermine one of the basic principles of modern physics.

Critics of the first report in September had said that the long bunches of neutrinos (tiny particles) used could introduce an error into the test.

The new work used much shorter bunches.

It has been posted to the Arxiv repository and submitted to the Journal of High Energy Physics, but has not yet been reviewed by the scientific community.

The experiments have been carried out by the Opera collaboration - short for Oscillation Project with Emulsion (T)racking Apparatus.

It hinges on sending bunches of neutrinos created at the Cern facility (actually produced as decays within a long bunch of protons produced at Cern) through 730km (454 miles) of rock to a giant detector at the INFN-Gran Sasso laboratory in Italy.

The initial series of experiments, comprising 15,000 separate measurements spread out over three years, found that the neutrinos arrived 60 billionths of a second faster than light would have, travelling unimpeded over the same distance.

The idea that nothing can exceed the speed of light in a vacuum forms a cornerstone in physics - first laid out by James Clerk Maxwell and later incorporated into Albert Einstein's theory of special relativity. Initial analysis of the work by the wider scientific community argued that the relatively long-lasting bunches of neutrinos could introduce a significant error into the measurement.

Those bunches lasted 10 millionths of a second - 160 times longer than the discrepancy the team initially reported in the neutrinos' travel time.

To address that, scientists at Cern adjusted the way in which the proton beams were produced, resulting in bunches just three billionths of a second long.

When the Opera team ran the improved experiment 20 times, they found almost exactly the same result. The error in the length of the bunches, however, is just the largest among several potential sources of uncertainty in the measurement, which must all now be addressed in turn; these mostly centre on the precise departure and arrival times of the bunches.

"So far no arguments have been put forward that rule out our effect," Dr Ereditato said.

"This additional test we made is confirming our original finding, but still we have to be very prudent, still we have to look forward to independent confirmation. But this is a positive result."

That confirmation may be much longer in coming, as only a few facilities worldwide have the detectors needed to catch the notoriously flighty neutrinos - which interact with matter so rarely as to have earned the nickname "ghost particles".

Next year, teams working on two other experiments at Gran Sasso experiments - Borexino and Icarus - will begin independent cross-checks of Opera's results.

The US Minos experiment and Japan's T2K experiment will also test the observations. It is likely to be several months before they report back.
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Iran not to turn back in its nuclear program

Senior Iranian lawmaker Kazem Jalali said that there would be no turning back in Iran's " peaceful" nuclear program, local daily Tehran Times reported on Saturday.

The remarks of Jalali, the rapporteur of Iran's Majlis ( parliament) National Security and Foreign Policy Commission, came after the board of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) adopted Friday a resolution on Iran's disputed nuclear program.

The IAEA resolution calls for Iran to engage "seriously and without preconditions" in talks aimed at restoring international confidence in the exclusively peaceful nature of the country's nuclear program.

Friday's meeting of the IAEA Board of Governors actually provided a good opportunity for the international body to correct its previous mistakes and promote better interactions between Iran and the agency, said Jalali.

However, the anti-Iran resolution once again proved that the IAEA is being controlled by the Western powers. The resolution " sullied the IAEA's image even more," he was quoted as saying.

Iran is now in serious doubt about the legitimacy of a number of international organizations, most notably the IAEA, said the Iranian lawmaker.

There is nothing new in Friday's resolution and the Iranian nation will never pay any attention to such "unfounded allegations " meant to undermine the country's peaceful nuclear energy program, Jalali said, adding that "there is no turning back."

Also, Iran's ambassador to the IAEA Ali Asghar Soltanieh said Friday that the resolution was "not legally binding" because it was based on the IAEA's report, which he criticized as " unprofessional, biased, illegal and politically-motivated."

On Friday, the resolution was proposed by the six international mediators on the Iranian nuclear issue, including the United States, Britain, France, Russia, China and Germany, and adopted by a majority at the closing of the two-day IAEA board meeting.

Contrary to some analysts' speculations, the resolution contained no recommendation for new sanctions, but requested the IAEA to update findings in its recent report on the Iranian nuclear issue in a new report for the board meeting scheduled for March, 2012.
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Detectives re-investigating Natalie Wood case

Natalie Wood’s drowning death nearly 30 years ago came after a night of dinner, drinking and arguments but the question remains — was it anything more than a tragic accident?

Conflicting versions of what happened on the yacht shared by Wood, her actor-husband Robert Wagner and their friend, actor Christopher Walken, have contributed to the mystery of how the actress died on Thanksgiving weekend in 1981. Two sheriff’s detectives are now diving into the mysterious events on the yacht Splendour, although whether they reach any different conclusions than their predecessors remains to be seen. They recently received new, seemingly credible information and heard from potential witnesses who weren’t included in the original investigation of Wood’s death, sheriff’s Lt. John Corina said Friday.

But he said nothing has happened to changed the official view that Wood’s death was originally an accidental drowning. Wagner, the star of “Hart and Hart” is not considered a suspect, he added.

Corina released few details about who investigators have contacted or plan to re-interview, but the inquiry will certainly lead them to speak with the three survivors of the trip — Wagner, Walken and skipper Dennis Davern.

Wood’s sister, Lana, was not on the boat, but told CNN’s Piers Morgan on Friday that she has spoken with Davern many times and believes her sister did not fall off the boat.

“I don’t think she fell, I don’t know if she was pushed, I don’t know whether there was an altercation and it happened accidentally but she shouldn’t have died and that does stay with me and hurt,” Lana Wood said.

“I would prefer to always believe that RJ (Wagner) would never do anything to hurt Natalie and that he loved her dearly, which he did, and I don’t believe that whatever went on was deliberate. I’ve always cared about him. I always will care about him,” she said.
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Nurse charged with murder Case

A nurse has been charged with murder following Friday's fire at a Sydney nursing home that killed five elderly residents, Australian police say.

Roger Dean, 35, appeared via video link at Parramatta court, from local cells, but said nothing and was remanded into custody until next week.

More than 30 people injured in the fire at the Quakers Hill Nursing Home remain in hospital, some in intensive care.

Prime Minister Julia Gillard called it "a very dark day".

"To imagine the frail, elderly people caught up in a fire like that, at risk of being engulfed by flames, is truly horrifying," she said.

"My condolences go to the families who have lost loved ones and to those whose loved ones are now in hospital and who are with them and awaiting news of their condition."

Officials say it was the worst nursing home fire in Sydney in decades.

New South Wales police said Mr Dean was arrested soon after the blaze, following a thorough investigation at the scene.

"All I can say is that last night detectives were speaking to the man at Mount Druitt Police Station, where they formed the opinion that they had sufficient evidence to place him under arrest," said Superintendent Michael Willing, who is leading the case.

It has been reported that police suspect the fire broke out in two separate wings of the facility.

Mr Dean was held on Friday and charged with four counts of murder. The fifth victim died later. During the fire, hundreds of fire fighters battled the flames and plumes of thick smoke, which engulfed the home. About 100 elderly residents were later evacuated from the building.

"This has been a very, very serious fire, a tragic scene - a lot of people injured," Fire and Rescue New South Wales Commissioner Greg Mullins told reporters.

He described the blaze as a firefighter's "worst nightmare".

"Crews had to literally crawl on their hands and knees into every room in the complex, reach up under the beds, searching cupboards, anywhere where someone may have crawled away."

TV pictures later showed a number of elderly residents lying in beds or sitting in wheelchairs just outside the building.

Three people were pronounced dead at the scene, while another died in hospital overnight and a fifth died on Saturday.
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Obama meets with Chinese premier

President Barack Obama and Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao conferred Saturday in a surprise meeting on the sidelines of a major Asian summit, likely focusing on the economic matters that have prompted disputes between the two major world powers.

The session was not a formally planned moment of diplomacy, but rather a late add-on to let the two men continue their conversation from a group dinner the night before, a senior Obama official said.

Photographers and a videographer were allowed in at the start of the meeting, where the two men exchanged small talk. They were not expected to make formal statements.

The meeting came on the last leg of Obama's nine-day Asia-Pacific trip, in which he has focused on bulking up America's presence in the region, including setting up a Marine task force in Australia, in moves largely seen as hedges against China's rise.

U.S. sends message to China with military buildup in Australia

China has also been angered by the U.S. stand that it has a stake in security and unhampered international commerce in the disputed territorial waters of the South China Sea. Wen had told a meeting of Southeast Asian nations on Friday that "external forces should not use any excuse to interfere" in territorial disputes in the sea.

China claims all of the sea, while several Southeast Asian nations claim parts.

Wen's portfolio, though, is chiefly economic, and that is where his conversation with Obama was expected to focus. The United States and China have been tussling over China's currency, which the United States contends is deeply undervalued, and over intellectual property. Obama has been challenging China to operate with a greater sense of international rules.
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Supercommittee Moving Further Apart as Talks Enter Homestretch

Lawmakers on the congressional supercommittee made no visible progress ahead of a Nov. 23 deadline for a debt-reduction deal even as negotiators picked up the pace of bipartisan talks aimed at an agreement.
Republicans and Democrats offered a series of competing plans in the past week as they seek at least $1.2 trillion in deficit savings over the next decade, all of them rejected by the opposite side as negotiators offered little sign of progress or optimism.
The 12-member supercommittee, created in the aftermath of a rancorous debate over raising the nation’s debt ceiling in August, is struggling to find deficit reductions while Republicans reject Democrats’ demands for tax increases and Democrats oppose Republican efforts to make changes in entitlement programs such as Medicare.
“It looks like a standoff,” said former Democratic U.S. Senator Byron Dorgan, who is now a lobbyist. “Nobody’s ever created a supercommittee where you have 523 members of Congress that are not involved and 12 who are working largely in secret,” he said. “It was generally a bad idea from the start.”
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