Stop! In the Name of Physics

In Brookhaven Collider, Scientists Briefly Break a Law of Nature

The departure from normal physics manifested itself in the apparent ability of the briefly freed quarks to tell right from left. That breaks one of the fundamental laws of nature, known as parity, which requires that the laws of physics remain unchanged if we view nature in a mirror.

Ok, that’s interesting — that the reaction violated parity conservation, which I imagine has implications for the matter/antimatter asymmetry issue (I have long wondered if symmetry violation conditions changed with energy, and now it appears that they can and do). But if a reaction violates parity conservation, then parity conservation is not a law of nature; at best you have a “parity conservation zone.” Laws of nature describe how nature behaves. Whatever nature does, it is in accordance with these laws.

The editor who came up with the title needs to write “It is impossible to violate the laws of nature” a thousand times.

For more on the science, and confirmation that this follows, rather than breaks, the laws of physics, check out Cosmic Variance

Update: for some backstory on parity violation, check out Symmetry: It’s More Like a Guideline about the confirmation of how weak interactions don’t “keep to the code.”

4 thoughts on “Stop! In the Name of Physics

  1. Physics demands the universe and its mirror image are indistinguishable. They aren’t; physics gets petulant. Physics demands all bodies vacuum free fall identically, the Equivalence Principle. If two lumps fell differently physics is in a boiling vat of whoop-ass. Do opposite shoes violate the Equivalence Principle? Opposite geometic parity atomic mass distributions are chemistry – crystal lattices – and physics is vulnerable.
    Two EP-violating experiments. Somebody should look.

    Two more: 3) Parity gyroball experiment in quartz: Two niobium-plated solid single crystal spheres of quartz, one in space group P3(1)21 and the other in space group P3(2)21. Hard vacuum, cool to 4K, Meissner-effect levitate. Will the two gyroballs spontaneously rotate in opposite directions, stop, reverse, stop each 24 hours?
    pdf pp. 25-27, calculation of the handed case.

    4) Parity molecular rotation experiment: will two molecular propellers on a rigid shaft (right-right, right-left, left-left), vacuum gas phase, show a divergence in microwave rotation spectra over 24 hours?

    Did you take undergrad physics? If you are near 45 latitude, payback awaits.

  2. 1) I didn’t think parity violation was new. I thought they’ve been seeing that for 40-50 years or something from the old beta-decay experiments?

    2) I suspect the energy dependence comes from the fact that parity violation occurs (generally? always?) through the weak force, and the weak-force-carrying particles are very high rest mass, so you need to be at very high energies (or very short distances) to get much weak force action.

    But what do I know? I was too lazy to read the paper.

  3. Long chain molecules can be right or left handed in there construction. They can have the same chemical formula and seem to be identical when tested. However they can have very different effects when used as drugs. Thalidomide was a terrible example. Don’t know whether this is relevant.

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