Monthly Archives: March 2010

Big Bang experiment by CERN explained

Imagine a car crash. Two vehicles, way over the speed limit. Smash into each other. Glass, metal and plastic pieces fly out. That’s what the big bang experiment is. Only those cars, are now the size of atoms. But is that all?

Gravity, is what makes our world go round. If it moves such huge planets, it must be very powerful, right? But actually, it’s much weaker, than even the electricity that powers our bulbs. Nobody knows why. Yet.

CRACKING BIG BANG: Ninety-six per cent of our world  is made of anti-matter.

The more mass we have, the more gravity we exert. And what gives us all mass? Scientists say it’s called a Higgs Boson particle. And that’s what they are looking for in the Large Hadron Collider.

If they find it, they will have more proof for a weird theory. That gravity is actually very strong. It’s just leaking out through world’s dimensions, that we have never seen. That there are parallel universes, peopled perhaps by our own body doubles, who we will never meet.

There’s more. Ninety-six per cent of our world is made of anti-matter. Dan Brown’s “Da Vinci Code” says anti-matter destroys everything it touches. Yet, we’re all alive. Why? One part of this experiment manufactures and studies anti-matter, in a lab.

And finally, the temperature inside the tunnel, is 100,000 times higher than the heart of the sun.

Atoms here melt into a plasma – it’s neither liquid, nor solid, nor gas. Exactly like they were when the universe was born. How that plasma cooled into our stars and planets, is what scientists want to learn.


Large Hadron Collider Test Successful

A scientist gestures in front of  computer animations of the first successful proton beam collisions  conducted at full power, completed 100 metres underground near Geneva on  Tuesday. The Large Hadron Collider is designed to collide proton beams  at energies not seen since the Big Bang.

Geneva, 30 March 2010. Beams collided at 7 TeV in the LHC at 13:06 CEST, marking the start of the LHC research programme. Particle physicists around the world are looking forward to a potentially rich harvest of new physics as the LHC begins its first long run at an energy three and a half times higher than previously achieved at a particle accelerator.

“It’s a great day to be a particle physicist,” said CERN1 Director General Rolf Heuer. “A lot of people have waited a long time for this moment, but their patience and dedication is starting to pay dividends.”

“With these record-shattering collision energies, the LHC experiments are propelled into a vast region to explore, and the hunt begins for dark matter, new forces, new dimensions and the Higgs boson,” said ATLAS collaboration spokesperson, Fabiola Gianotti. “The fact that the experiments have published papers already on the basis of last year’s data bodes very well for this first physics run.”

“We’ve all been impressed with the way the LHC has performed so far,” said Guido Tonelli, spokesperson of the CMS experiment, “and it’s particularly gratifying to see how well our particle detectors are working while our physics teams worldwide are already analysing data. We’ll address soon some of the major puzzles of modern physics like the origin of mass, the grand unification of forces and the presence of abundant dark matter in the universe. I expect very exciting times in front of us.”

“This is the moment we have been waiting and preparing for”, said ALICE spokesperson Jürgen Schukraft. “We’re very much looking forward to the results from proton collisions, and later this year from lead-ion collisions, to give us new insights into the nature of the strong interaction and the evolution of matter in the early Universe.”

“LHCb is ready for physics,” said the experiment’s spokesperson Andrei Golutvin, “we have a great research programme ahead of us exploring the nature of matter-antimatter asymmetry more profoundly than has ever been done before.”

CERN will run the LHC for 18-24 months with the objective of delivering enough data to the experiments to make significant advances across a wide range of physics channels. As soon as they have “re-discovered” the known Standard Model particles, a necessary precursor to looking for new physics, the LHC experiments will start the systematic search for the Higgs boson. With the amount of data expected, called one inverse femtobarn by physicists, the combined analysis of ATLAS and CMS will be able to explore a wide mass range, and there’s even a chance of discovery if the Higgs has a mass near 160 GeV. If it’s much lighter or very heavy, it will be harder to find in this first LHC run.

For supersymmetry, ATLAS and CMS will each have enough data to double today’s sensitivity to certain new discoveries. Experiments today are sensitive to some supersymmetric particles with masses up to 400 GeV. An inverse femtobarn at the LHC pushes the discovery range up to 800 GeV.

“The LHC has a real chance over the next two years of discovering supersymmetric particles,” explained Heuer, “and possibly giving insights into the composition of about a quarter of the Universe.”

Even at the more exotic end of the LHC’s potential discovery spectrum, this LHC run will extend the current reach by a factor of two. LHC experiments will be sensitive to new massive particles indicating the presence of extra dimensions up to masses of 2 TeV, where today’s reach is around 1 TeV.

“Over 2000 graduate students are eagerly awaiting data from the LHC experiments,” said Heuer. “They’re a privileged bunch, set to produce the first theses at the new high-energy frontier.”

Following this run, the LHC will shutdown for routine maintenance, and to complete the repairs and consolidation work needed to reach the LHC’s design energy of 14 TeV following the incident of 19 September 2008. Traditionally, CERN has operated its accelerators on an annual cycle, running for seven to eight months with a four to five month shutdown each year. Being a cryogenic machine operating at very low temperature, the LHC takes about a month to bring up to room temperature and another month to cool down. A four-month shutdown as part of an annual cycle no longer makes sense for such a machine, so CERN has decided to move to a longer cycle with longer periods of operation accompanied by longer shutdown periods when needed.

“Two years of continuous running is a tall order both for the LHC operators and the experiments, but it will be well worth the effort,” said Heuer. “By starting with a long run and concentrating preparations for 14 TeV collisions into a single shutdown, we’re increasing the overall running time over the next three years, making up for lost time and giving the experiments the chance to make their mark.”


Ford sells Volvo to Chinese group

Ford sells Volvo to Chinese group

• £1.2bn Volvo deal underscores China’s world role in business
• Beijing factory will make 300,000 Volvos a year

Volvo on sale in ChinaVolvo car on display at a shopping mall in Beijing where 300,000 could be produced at Zhejiang Geely’s factory. Photograph: Goh Chai Hin/AFP/Getty Images

A Chinese company is buying Volvo from Ford for £1.2bn, making it China‘s biggest purchase of an overseas carmaker and one of its largest foreign investments.

The acquisition of the loss-making Swedish unit by Zhejiang Geely Holding Group underscores China’s arrival as a force in the global car industry, as well as flagging up its ambition to become a big player on the world business stage.

China has more than £1.4tn in reserves and its companies are investing heavily overseas, particularly in energy and commodities in an attempt to secure supplies for its fast-growing economy.

Yesterday’s announcement demonstrates the ambition of the Chinese to snap up western consumer industries and so gain greater industrial expertise.

Geely is planning a factory in Beijing that will make 300,000 Volvo-branded cars a year, or as many Volvos for China as are now made abroad for foreigners.

The Chinese company will gain access to Volvo’s technology, as well as an image boost because of the brand’s premium status in China, said Vivien Chan, an analyst at SinoPac Securities.

China raced past the US to become the world’s top auto market last year, with sales surging by 46% to a record 13.6m vehicles. It is keen to move into western markets but has so far lacked the technology and brand recognition to do so. The Volvo deal should help it to get around some of those obstacles more quickly.

Unlike the abortive attempt by General Motors (GM) to sell its gas-guzzling Hummer brand to Tengzhong, a little-known Chinese machinery maker, Geely’s Volvo purchase has been backed by Beijing. The company is paying about £1bn of the asking price in cash.

Volvo may get a boost from Beijing’s plan to support domestic brands and replace Volkswagen’s Audi A6 as Chinese state officials’ car of choice.

“We want to stabilise and enhance the traditional markets in Europe and North America, and at the same time develop Volvo in emerging markets, including China,” Geely’s chairman, Li Shufu, said.

Today’s deal ends nearly two years of talks with Geely over Volvo – the last sale from Ford’s luxury brands division, which used to include Aston Martin, Jaguar and Land Rover.

“Today represents a milestone in the history of Geely,” Li said, adding that Volvo Cars would remain a separate company with its own management team based in Sweden.

Such a deal would have been nearly unimaginable a few years ago for the Chinese carmaker, which on 2009 forecasts has a turnover of only 16% of Volvo’s, and has just over half the workforce. It highlights in particular the opportunities that have emerged from the financial crisis for smaller players. For example, Spyker, the tiny Dutch sports car maker, clinched a deal in January to buy Saab from GM.

Geely said that it had secured all the necessary financing to complete the deal, though it remained open to a possible loan from the European Investment Bank.

Addressing questions regarding Geely’s plans to keep production lines running in Europe, Li said that it was important Volvo stayed close to supply centres: “I have a deep belief that the manufacturing footprint in Gothenburg and Belgium will be preserved in the longer term.”

Volvo labour unions, which had been critical of the proposed sale and complained about a lack of information, said that they now backed the takeover.

The deal, which both sides aim to close in the third quarter, will help free up cash for the number-two US carmaker and enable it to focus on its core Ford brand.

Geely was named by Ford as the preferred bidder for Volvo in October 2009.

The Chinese carmaker clinched the company at a price tag well below the $6.5bn Ford paid for it in 1999. Ford’s finance director, Lewis Booth, said: “We think it’s a fair price for a good business.”

VIA Guardian

SAP Makes Capital-Expenditure Planning Easier

In an effort to further help organizations streamline the entire capital-expenditure planning process, SAP AG (NYSE: SAP) today announced a starter kit for capital planning available for the SAP® BusinessObjects™ Planning and Consolidation application. Often capital planning is done manually by aggregating content from individual spreadsheets or building custom applications. The new starter kit provides an automated way to request, plan, model and evaluate large, complex projects as well as smaller, simpler ones. The announcement was made at Financials 2010, being held in Orlando, Fla., March 16-19.

Developed in collaboration with SAP partner Aster Group, the starter kit is especially helpful for organizations in capital-intensive industries like automotive, chemicals and oil and gas. Pre-built templates and content guide business users through the planning process, and can be tailored to meet their specific needs. The starter kit features embedded analyses of investment returns using industry-standard methodologies such as internal rate of return and payback period. It can be used as a stand-alone solution, or with customers’ existing deployments of SAP BusinessObjects Planning and Consolidation, version for the Microsoft platform.

“The new starter kit from SAP will greatly simplify our capital-expenditure planning projects,” said Michael Curley, budget and financial analyst, Rappahannock Electric Cooperative (REC). “Since REC operates in a capital-intensive environment, by enhancing our budgeting and forecasting we will be able to execute these processes in a fraction of the time, allowing us to more efficiently pursue our growth strategy.”

REC is a member-owned cooperative providing service to more than 103,000 homes and businesses in portions of 16 Virginia counties. Visit for more information about the cooperative and its community involvement.


Fossil finger points to new human species

DNA analysis reveals lost relative from 40,000 years ago.

In the summer of 2008, Russian researchers dug up a sliver of human finger bone from an isolated Siberian cave. The team stored it away for later testing, assuming that the nondescript fragment came from one of the Neanderthals who left a welter of tools in the cave between 30,000 and 48,000 years ago. Nothing about the bone shard seemed extraordinary.

A finger bone found in Denisova Cave in Siberia could add a branch  to the human family tree.A finger bone found in Denisova Cave in Siberia could add a branch to the human family tree.B. VIOLA

Its genetic material told another story. When German researchers extracted and sequenced DNA from the fossil, they found that it did not match that of Neanderthals — or of modern humans, which were also living nearby at the time. The genetic data, published online in Nature1, reveal that the bone may belong to a previously unrecognized, extinct human species that migrated out of Africa long before our known relatives.

“This really surpassed our hopes,” says Svante Pääbo, senior author on the international study and director of evolutionary genetics at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany. “I almost could not believe it. It sounded too fantastic to be true.”

Researchers not involved in the work applauded the findings but cautioned against drawing too many conclusions from a single study. “With the data in hand, you cannot claim the discovery of a new species,” says Eske Willerslev, an evolutionary biologist and director of the Centre for GeoGenetics at the University of Copenhagen.

“I almost could not believe it. It sounded too fantastic to be true.”

If further work does support the initial conclusions, the discovery would mark the first time that an extinct human relative had been identified by DNA analysis. It would also suggest that ice-age humans were more diverse than had been thought. Since the late nineteenth century, researchers have known that two species of Homo — Neanderthals and modern humans — coexisted during the later part of the last ice age. In 2003, a third species, Homo floresiensis, was discovered on the island of Flores in Indonesia, but there has been no sign of this tiny ‘hobbit’ elsewhere. The relative identified in Siberia, however, raises the possibility that several Homo species ranged across Europe and Asia, overlapping with the direct ancestors of modern people.

The Siberian site in the Altai Mountains, called Denisova Cave, was already known as a rich source of Mousterian and Levallois artefacts, two styles of tool attributed to Neanderthals. For more than a decade, Russian scientists from the Institute of Archaeology and Ethnology in Novosibirsk have been searching for the toolmakers’ bones. They discovered several bone specimens, handling each potentially important new find with gloves to prevent contamination with modern human DNA. The bones’ own DNA could then be extracted and analysed.

When the finger bone was discovered, “we didn’t pay special attention to it”, says archaeologist Michael Shunkov of the Novosibirsk institute. But Pääbo had established a relationship with the Russian team years before to gather material for genetic testing from ice-age humans. After obtaining the bone, the German team extracted the bone’s genetic material and sequenced its mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) — the most abundant kind of DNA and the best bet for getting an undegraded sequence from ancient tissue.

After re-reading the mtDNA sequences an average of 156 times each to ensure accuracy, the researchers compared them with the mtDNA genomes of 54 modern humans, a 30,000-year-old modern human found in Russia and six Neanderthals. The Denisova Cave DNA fell into a class of its own. Although a Neanderthal mtDNA genome differs from that of Homo sapiens at 202 nucleotide positions on average, the Denisova Cave sample differed at an average of 385 positions.

The differences imply that the Siberian ancestor branched off from the human family tree a million years ago, well before the split between modern humans and Neanderthals. If so, the proposed species must have left Africa in a previously unknown migration, between that of Homo erectus 1.9 million years ago and that of the Neanderthal ancestor Homo heidelbergensis, 300,000 to 500,000 years ago.

Study author Johannes Krause, also at the Max Planck Institute in Leipzig, says that the researchers are now generating nuclear DNA sequences from the bone with the hope of sequencing its entire genome. If they are successful, it would be the oldest human genome sequenced, eclipsing that of the 4,000-year-old Eskimo from Greenland that Willerslev and his colleagues reported last month2.

A complete genome might also enable the researchers to give the proposed new species a formal name. They had originally planned to do so on the basis of the mtDNA genome. But they opted to wait until more bones are found — or until the DNA gives a clearer picture of its relationship to modern humans and Neanderthals.

Willerslev emphasizes that, on its own, the mtDNA evidence does not verify that the Siberian find represents a new species because mtDNA is inherited only from the mother. It is possible that some modern humans or Neanderthals living in Siberia 40,000 years ago had unusual mtDNA, which may have come from earlier interbreeding among H. erectus, Neanderthals, archaic modern humans or another, unknown species of Homo. Only probes of the nuclear DNA will properly define the position of the Siberian relative in the human family tree.


What the Ancient Maya Tell Us About 2012

It’s Not the End of the World:
What the Ancient Maya Tell Us About 2012
by Mark Van Stone
The Maya Cosmic Prophecy: From Sensation to Sensibility

Maya Scholars, in Mexico, Guatemala, Belize, Honduras, El Salvador and North America, have been watching with amusement and dismay as self-styled experts proclaim that ancient Maya prophets foretold an earth-shattering happening to occur December 21, 2012. This predicted phenomenon gets described in contradictory but often cataclysmic fashion–as an ecological collapse, a sunspot storm, a rare cosmic conjunction of the earth, sun, and the galactic center, a new and awesome stage of our evolution, and even a sudden reversal of the Earth’s magnetic field which will erase all our computer drives. One even predicts the earth’s initiation into a Galactic Federation, whose elders have been accelerating our evolution with a “galactic beam” for the last 5000 years. In sum, the world as we know it will suddenly come to a screeching halt.

These predictions are alleged to be prophecies by so-called “Ancient Mayans” whose “astronomically precise” calendar supposedly terminates on that date. According to such accounts, these mysterious Maya geniuses appeared suddenly, built an extraordinary civilization, designed in it clues for us, and then suddenly, inexplicably, vanished, as if they had completed their terrestrial mission. These same experts claim special credibility for the Maya prophecies by asserting that these historic sages, with their possible extraterrestrial origins, had tapped into an astonishing esoteric wisdom.

Could any of this be true?

The credibility of those claims deserves rational attention-which is what I intend to provide. Neither mystic nor prophet, I am a Mayanist. More specifically, I am a professional art historian and an epigrapher (less formally, a glypher), one who can read and write Maya hieroglyphs. For over a decade, I have focused my scholarly research specifically on Maya culture and writing, making some surprising discoveries that can present a more definitive perspective on the prophecies of the ancient Maya seers. As we approach the critical year, it is time to offer a more viable account of the Maya prophecy and expose both the fallacies and ethnocentricism tainting the current sensational accounts.

Here I intend to explain what we actually know about (1) Maya knowledge and attitudes, both ancient and modern, (2) the date and (3) their many Creation stories and prophecies. I shall draw from recent decipherment, ethnography, interviews with Maya priests and knowledge-keepers, and especially from their surviving prophetic literature. That literature includes The Books of Chilam Balam, among others, the pre-Columbian Codices, and ancient inscriptions. The evidence is sometimes fragmentary and often puzzling to us moderns, at least at first. But I believe the effort will be worth it.

First, let me affirm that the year 2012 does hold particular significance in Mayan scholarship. Those of us who study the ancient and modern Maya — anthropologists, archaeologists, art historians, linguists, historians, amateurs, collectors — have been anticipating the end of the Maya Great Cycle for some time. We write it 4 Ajaw 3 K’ank’in. We have known for half a century that this date probably correlates to December 21 (or December 23) in the year 2012 in the Gregorian calendar.

It’s Not The End Of The World
Part I – Introduction to the “2012 issue” (4.36 MB)

  • What is the 2012 issue?
  • Precession: How rare is the “2012 Galactic Alignment?”
  • Precession: Did the Maya know about it?
  • Solstices: How important were they?
Part II – A look at the Creation (14.2 MB)
The past and future cycles

  • Aztec Leyenda de los Soles & Stone of the Sun
  • What Ancient Maya records actually say about the upcoming in 2012 (Chilam Balam & Tortuguero Monument 6)

What Happens at the “End of the Calendar?”

  • Ancient Maya accounts of the last  (Quirigua Stela C, Naranjo Creation Vases, Coba Stela 1, Dresden Codex, “Jerusalem Panel”, Rio Azul Mask)
  • Comparing Ancient Maya accounts of both’s
  • Ancient Maya accounts of the next Reprise of Tortuguero Monument 6

Is Really the “End of the Calendar?”

  • Will the Long Count Always Reset to Zero – a look at Yaxchilan Hieroglyphic Stairway 2, Step 7, Palenque Temple of the Inscriptions West Panel, and Tikal Stela 10
  • Local Variations in the Creation Myth of various Maya cities: the “Triad gods”
  • Summary: “Long Count Calendars Don’t Stop at 13”
Part III – Maya Conceptions of Time & Truth (14.0 MB)
  • The Maya Conception of Time is Different from Ours – Snake Lady Vases, World Trees, and Three Stones
  • Summary
Part IV – Appendix: Technicalities of the Calendars (5.02 MB)
  • How the Maya Calendar works
  • 4 Ajaw 8 Kumk’u and what it means
  • Correlation
  • All the Aztec calendrics you need to know
  • Two 260-day cosmograms


FAMSIFoundation for the Advancement of Mesoamerican Studies, Inc