Thursday, February 18, 2010

APS Meeting: List of Some Things I Want to Understand Better

These next juicy days/weeks are going to be full of APS meeting reporter goodness, because I took a lot of notes, and I had with me the power of a digital recorder.

Working on the "official report," that's still gonna take some time, because it's lengthy.

I jotted this down on a slip of paper, during a plenary talk about some recent work at Fermilab in relation to that Higgs Boson everyone's so excited about. It's a list of physics subjects I still don't understand, because my undergrad didn't cover it, because I was sick that day, because it's just weird stuff.

Need to Learn
  • Radio transients--apparently, these come from supernova remnants and such, and can be used to predict gamma ray bursts. There is a whole-sky instrument dedicated to finding those things, but I'm not sure I'm clear on what a "transient" is. Nor how they are related to gamma ray bursts.
  • quark stuff, in general. Did you know the top quark is much more massive than all the other ones? This fact is directly related, via in some way I cannot begin to explain, to the need for a Higgs Boson.
  • Feynman diagrams. I'm pretty sure I was sick that day.
  • Symmetry as a physical concept, and symmetry breaking. I get the analogy about standing a pencil on it's end (that's symmetry), and then letting it fall, and because it has to fall one way, the symmetry of it standing on it's end has been broken. What I fail to understand is what is so profound about that anyway? How does that relate to all this particle stuff?
  • Hadron vs lepton verses fermion vs boson. This is easy to look up, I just haven't done it yet. I already know that a fermion has half integer spin and a boson has an integer spin. Spin is not something you can understand in a real way 'til you've had quantum.
  • weak and electroweak forces--we just didn't really cover that in undergrad.

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