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  (Source: Stephen van Vuuren)
The world of physics takes a bold leap forward with a single laborious finding

The world's two most advanced particle detector experiments -- ATLAS and CMS -- have both detected signs of a particle that eluded physicists for almost a half century -- a particle researchers suspect is the Higgs boson.

I. Hunting for Higgs -- Inside the Most Expensive Machine Created by Man

The two detectors are housed within a 17 mile in circumference underground tunnel in the Alps, a tunnel which is chilled to temperatures colder then outer space.  The particle accelerator and attached detection apparatus is a triumph of engineering, and at $10B USD is the single most expensive piece of laboratory equipment in the history of mankind.
 

Brought online in 2008, the collider suffered from early hiccups, typical of large particle accelerators.  But before long it was setting records and gathering data which led to the discovery of new exotic particles.
 
LHC Track
The LHC track stretchs 17 miles and is colder than space. [Image Source: Entropy Bound]

But the biggest payoff for the high cost and years of effort came when the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) announced that they had detected signs of the Higgs-like boson, a particle whose operation necessitates a super-powerful collider and world class detection equipment.

Just a couple days before U.S. Department of Energy's FermiLab published data from their now-defunct Tevatron indicating that they were 99.8 percent (roughly 3σ) sure that they had detected a Higgs-like boson.  That level of confidence is called an "observation" in particle physics.

II. From "Observation" to "Discovery"

By contrast the threshold of confidence for a "discovery" is 5σ -- and CERN delivered precisely that on Wednesday.

Using data gleaned from record 7 TeV and 8 TeV proton collisions, the CMS and ATLAS teams jointly pinpointed a Higgs boson or similar particle to within the 125-126 GeV mass region, with the requisite 5σ confidence.

That result is strengthened by the fact that the observation at the Tevatron predicted a mass between 115 and 135 GeV.

The CMS experiment spokesperson Joe Incandela comments:

The results are preliminary but the 5 sigma signal at around 125 GeV we’re seeing is dramatic. This is indeed a new particle. We know it must be a boson and it’s the heaviest boson ever found.  The implications are very significant and it is precisely for this reason that we must be extremely diligent in all of our studies and cross-checks.

Higgs boson observation
A CMS detector view of a Higgs boson creation from a 8 TeV collision. [Image Source: CERN]

ATLAS experiment spokesperson Fabiola Gianotti comments:

We observe in our data clear signs of a new particle, at the level of 5 sigma, in the mass region around 126 GeV. The outstanding performance of the LHC and ATLAS and the huge efforts of many people have brought us to this exciting stage, but a little more time is needed to prepare these results for publication.

Atlas Higgs
An ATLAS detector view of a Higgs boson creation from a 8 TeV collision. [Image Source: CERN]

III. The Hunt is Over, But the Discoveries Have Just Begun

The discovery of the new boson is a momentous day for particle physics, and one that comes despite wise caution on the parts of the men and women involved.  Physicists were wary of jumping the gun and announcing the discovery, lest they make a mistake and alienate a public who already is less than highly interested in taking a trip into the cerebral land of modern particle physics.

The Higgs boson is theorized to give rise to the so-called Higgs mechanism, a form of electroweak symmetry breaking.  A simple analogy of this complex effect is to think of a sort of "sticky field" that coats particles like a spoon dipping through a jar of honey.  This "sticky" effect is thought to give protons, neutrons, and electrons -- the building blocks of matter that most of us are familiar with -- their mass.

To summarize in the simplest terms, researchers are now have detected a particle which they believe may give all standard particles their mass.

 Nebula wide
Finding the Higgs boson is a major step on the road to discovering the secrets of the universe.
[Image Source: NASA]

The discovery takes researchers a step closer to confirming the "Standard Model of particle physics", a theory which in turn opens the door to more advanced applications, such as string theory.

Much work remains to be done, though.  The particle, while observed with a high measure of confidence, was poorly quantified, aside from its mass.  By further probing observed Higgs-like bosons, researchers will be able to tune, accept, or reject certain compenents of Standard Model theory.  These changes could help researchers better understand mysterious components that make up much of the non-visible universe -- such as dark matter and energy.

In short, Higgs boson -- also nicknamed the "Goddamn particle" or "God Particle", for short, by a famous Nobel laureate -- is only the first step in a bold journey for mankind, a journey which will take humans, quite literally where no man has gone before.

Sources: CERN, Atlas Team, CMS Team



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RE: I beg to differ
By MrBlastman on 7/5/2012 12:49:10 PM , Rating: 2
Well, I can appreciate the concepts he is trying to distill even if I differ with a couple of them.

I think that philosophy does belong when talking about science. You see, philosphy governs our perception of things and how we as humans potentially react to circumstances and consequences. It encompasses our nature as humans and subsequently how we may interpret or perceive scientific data or results. Philosophy also can govern what we might test and explore and what we may not.

At its core, Philosophy is the crux of our existence. As science seeks to prove it and everything around us--or even disprove it, I think philosophical inquiries cannot be completely ignored when looking at deep, theoretical scientific issues. At the core of it all, they can at the basic level seek to explain motive. Motive is the unseen force that drives everyone and without knowing motive, you can never properly interpret data that has been presented--as data can statistically be manipulated to influence almost anything in a favorable light.

So, they are intertwined--at least, to properly classify and summarize results or studies.

He does have some good points,

quote:
What real evidence do we have that space exists? Don't tell me because it's what we perceive. What evidence do we have that time exists? We don't - it's another human invention (limitation) we apply to make things more palatable to our way of thinking.


While at face value, it might seem philosophical and in reality, this question is as it determines the course a researcher might take and why they do so. But if you dig even deeper, it asks the most essential question all physicists seek to solve. The single most important question that science can solve right now--and that is the question of "What is nothing?"

We don't know what nothing is. If I open my clenched fist and you look at it, what do you see?

Most people would answer--I see what is in your hand. So, assuming there isn't anything in my hand, they reply, "I see nothing in your hand." So then you ask them, "So you see nothing, well, classify that nothing, what is it?"

Most people would look at you with a blank face and blink their eyes. Some might attempt to satisfy you muse with the next obvious retort, "Well, there's air!" Assuming, of course, you open your hand in our atmosphere. Air isn't nothing, right? So pushing the air aside and say you open your clenched palm in a vacuum, you then pose the query to which they reply, "Well, there's electromagnetic radiation that we cannot see," so you take it a step further and place your clenched palm in an isolated booth devoid of all external forces, being a complete vacuum, no stray radiation, none of the fundamental forces acting upon that vapid space, so you ask it once more after releasing your held fingers.

They reply, "Well, there's nothing there because well, nothing is nothing!" Well, that's where things break down. How do you define and classify that nothing? What is it? It has to be something because spacetime is something. Our universe does not allow for "nothing" per our psychological sense to exist given the propensity for accelerative expansion about a brane centered upon a figurative axis of origination, ergo the "big bang" which, for all intents and purposes, is a theory with evidence, i.e. cosmic background radiation but beyond that, the point of witness for it can not be had.

So when they reply with that answer, I pose yet another question, "How can you be so sure?"

Well, we can't! We can't be sure. There is no certainty of it, at least, right now since the scientific community can not even wrap their hands around such a seemingly simple concept and provide an intelligent, accurate answer. They can't.

Thus, it remains unsolved and until we understand this concept, we understand little about everything else as "nothing" is essentially the broadest, most abundant "thing" about us all. Some might say it is dark matter or dark energy but I say it goes deeper down the hole than that, boiling in the vat of our very own fabric, spacetime itself.

The question has to be asked because it has to be answered. You can't help but not analyze philosophy when addressing the master of all masters of the unseen.


RE: I beg to differ
By Reclaimer77 on 7/5/2012 3:54:38 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
You see, philosphy governs our perception of things


I disagree. Philosophy QUESTIONS our perceptions on the things around us. But our perceptions of reality aren't governed by it.

quote:
We don't know what nothing is. If I open my clenched fist and you look at it, what do you see? Most people would answer--I see what is in your hand. So, assuming there isn't anything in my hand, they reply, "I see nothing in your hand." So then you ask them, "So you see nothing, well, classify that nothing, what is it?" Most people would look at you with a blank face and blink their eyes.


I don't think that's philosophy more than it is a silly mind game or thought exercise. And yes, a tree falling in the woods DOES make a sound even if nobody is there to hear it :)

quote:
Well, we can't! We can't be sure. There is no certainty of it, at least, right now since the scientific community can not even wrap their hands around such a seemingly simple concept and provide an intelligent, accurate answer. They can't.


Not following to be honest. The fact that we cannot always quantify something or explain how it works, doesn't change it's reality. That's a typically arrogant human way of looking at things.

We know space exists, and we can be sure of that. This is obvious. The fact that all it's secrets haven't been revealed is irrelevant to the philosophical discussion here imo.

If space isn't real, than obviously, neither are we. At which point I guess this discussion is moot lol.


RE: I beg to differ
By EricMartello on 7/5/2012 8:17:45 PM , Rating: 1
quote:
I disagree. Philosophy QUESTIONS our perceptions on the things around us. But our perceptions of reality aren't governed by it.


Philosophy is simply a fancy word to describe abstract thought processes. It can be as mundane as trying to understand why people are the way they are, or it can be expanded to something like trying to understand existence.

Our perceptions of reality are just that - perceptions. A perception doesn't make something real. We choose to acknowledge something as being real.

I said this before...but I'll repeat it. Imagine you are holding a cup of coffee in your hand, about to drink it. It's real, right? You feel the cup in your hand and you smell the coffee. That's your perception of the scenario.

Now, at the very same moment you are holding that cup of coffee, imagine looking down on yourself from a third party view and then imagine that your vantage point is 1:1 with the size of an atom. What do you see?

Do still you see yourself sitting there? Do you see or smell the coffee anymore? If you are the size of an atom, all you would see (maybe) is a cluster of atoms in an apparent "chaotic" state.

If we did the same thing but scaled upwards until the sun is the size of an atom relative to us, meaning we are larger, how would the universe appear to us? Would we see intricate stars and galaxies or would it be very similar to the above?

quote:
I don't think that's philosophy more than it is a silly mind game or thought exercise. And yes, a tree falling in the woods DOES make a sound even if nobody is there to hear it :)


It's just an attempt to explain a way of looking at things from a different perspective.

quote:
Not following to be honest. The fact that we cannot always quantify something or explain how it works, doesn't change it's reality. That's a typically arrogant human way of looking at things.


Reality is a human invention...perhaps not deliberate, but what you're referring to as reality isn't actually there on any vantage point aside from your own.

quote:
We know space exists, and we can be sure of that. This is obvious. The fact that all it's secrets haven't been revealed is irrelevant to the philosophical discussion here imo.


How do we know space exists? We assume it does because we're assuming that we're "inside a universe". People are not looking at it from the top down, they're looking at it from within and yet they want to understand what it is.

quote:
If space isn't real, than obviously, neither are we. At which point I guess this discussion is moot lol.


Why must we be real or not? If, at the fundamental level, everything and nothing can coexist eternally then we simply are...but due to peoples' egos, they expect a more profound explanation.


RE: I beg to differ
By Reclaimer77 on 7/5/2012 8:37:20 PM , Rating: 2
Abstract thought is all well and good, but you've crossed completely over to the other side. You actually BELIEVE this crap.

I can't discuss this any further if you actually think "reality is a human invention". I understand the concepts you're tripping out on, but you're going just way too far with them.


RE: I beg to differ
By EricMartello on 7/6/2012 3:37:55 PM , Rating: 2
OK, then humor us and respond to the questions about viewing yourself from two different perspectives simultaneously as I wrote in the previous comment.

Perspective 1 is your own, and you see yourself holding a cup of coffee about to drink it.

Perspective 2 is the same "scene" as above, except the vantage point is from that of an atom.

If reality is as absolute as you believe it to be, shouldn't your perceptions of both 1 and 2 be identical?


RE: I beg to differ
By Jereb on 7/8/2012 5:55:41 PM , Rating: 2
Uhhhh, no?? Why would they be the same?

On one hand your large enough to actually smell the coffee, that being the hydrocarbons(Help me out scientists) can be registered by your olfactory senses.
On the other the scene hasn't changed at all, your just a lot smaller. You're making the assumption that if you scale down the size of you body and get really close to an atom all you'll see is a cluster of chaotic particles. That hasn't changed anything about the scene at all, why would anything change at all, of course it's the same. The coffee is still there, you're still wacthing yourself(?) smell and look at the coffee.

And just an FYI on a previous comment, reality isn't a human invention, it's a human description.


RE: I beg to differ
By EricMartello on 7/8/2012 6:52:50 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
Uhhhh, no?? Why would they be the same?


By saying this you're essentially agreeing with me that reality is entirely based upon our perception, and that is not an absolute.

quote:
On the other the scene hasn't changed at all, your just a lot smaller.


You're right so far...

quote:
You're making the assumption that if you scale down the size of you body and get really close to an atom all you'll see is a cluster of chaotic particles. That hasn't changed anything about the scene at all, why would anything change at all, of course it's the same. The coffee is still there, you're still wacthing yourself(?) smell and look at the coffee.


This is where you're getting tripped up...the scene IS identical and nothing is changing per se, however depending on your vantage point the scene is vastly different in both appearance AND physical characteristics.

Reclaimer was saying that reality is absolute, meaning that regardless of what we believe or think, reality is a constant that doesn't change. My point is that reality is simply and illusion because the very same cubic meter of "space" could be anything depending on your perspective.

We're not even talking about other dimensions here...yet if you are at the perspective of an atom vs your "normal" perspective as a human, the very same scene is vastly different in appearance and physical properties.

On your human perspective, the smell of coffee is your body perceiving molecules being emitted into the air from the coffee, but what are molecules?

If you are the size of an atom, you will be much smaller than a molecule and therefore would not be able to inhale one. In fact, you would not be able to breath because you'd be smaller than air molecules themselves.

If your entire existence was from the perspective of an atom, what would lead you to believe that the apparently chaotic cluster of atoms is also a person holding a cup of coffee?

For all we know, our perspective as humans in this universe is no different. If we could enlarge ourselves to be a million times larger than a star, we may discover that the universe is actually a cup of coffee someone is about to drink. :) But from our current perspective nobody has any reason to even consider that as a possibility.

What points am I trying to make here?

- Space does not exist because there is no "smallest possible unit of existence". Meaning you can be infinitely large or small, and therefore there is an unlimited amount of apparent "space".

- Time does not exist because time implies change and nothing ever changes within existence fundamentally. Change is a perception, and perception is an illusion.

- For any given "unit" of measure ANYTHING is possible and ANYTHING can exist at any given moment.

- Our perspective determines reality, not just appearance but also the physics of our existence. This is the best way to understand our existence on a fundamental level.

If science wants to find a way to control this, it would need to discover a way for us to change our perspective of existence...but we are physically bound to our current scale (as stated above, we as humans could not exist at the scale of an atom because, for one thing, we could not breath).

Funny how the answer to everything is right in front of us and is remarkably simplistic, but we really can't do anything about it...yet. :)


RE: I beg to differ
By MrBlastman on 7/5/2012 10:35:54 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
I disagree. Philosophy QUESTIONS our perceptions on the things around us. But our perceptions of reality aren't governed by it.


Not at all. We see what we want to see and nothing more. If I expect to see a rainbow in the sky, I will keep looking until I see one and once I do, I will say to myself, "Ah, it is there, just as I expected." People do this all the time and not only that, scientists do it to whether they will admit it or not.

This is why understanding philosophy, and any researcher's philosophy is paramount to fully interpreting any data they collect and any hypotheses and inferences they derive from it.

quote:
I don't think that's philosophy more than it is a silly mind game or thought exercise. And yes, a tree falling in the woods DOES make a sound even if nobody is there to hear it :)


It's not a mind game at all. It is asking the ultimate question in science right now. One we have no answer for.

quote:
The fact that we cannot always quantify something or explain how it works, doesn't change it's reality.


Once again, our perceptions of reality are distorted by our philosophies. In the Salem, when bad things happen, their philosophies influenced them to burn women at stakes. It wasn't logical at all but they figured it must be the source of their problems. Scientists seek to clear the air with fact and figures but deep inside they have core beliefs that deeply influence their findings. Only the noblest and most committed ever manage to break through this barrier and they are quite rare.

Thus, for the majority, understanding philosophy and how it ties into things lets the reader better come to a conclusion of the results far more objectively.


RE: I beg to differ
By EricMartello on 7/5/2012 7:56:56 PM , Rating: 2
Blastman seems to be picking up what I'm putting down. :)

I can't explain true "nothingness" and it is a paradox if we think of it in terms of absolutes. Even if there was some kind of void with "nothing" in it, the fact that it is a void with nothing in it is something in itself.

The infinite number line example makes it easier to understand why we are "nothing" or at least zero. If you are standing on a number line that extends infinitely in either direction, no matter how far you travel in either direct you never move from point zero. You're always in the "middle"...despite never changing position or changing anything you can move.

Now expand the idea of number line to a coordinate graph with infinite axis. We can understand 3D space, and it's the same thing...no matter were we go within that graph we're always at point zero.

I think that is how existence works on a fundamental level. It's really just nothing, but since nothing can also be anything simultaneously we get to exist as just one of an infinite number of somethings.

What we end up perceiving is what we want to see. We can't understand the concept of infinity, but we can understand that point 0 and point 5 are 5 spaces apart. That limitation is being created by us, it's not a limitation created by something or someone else and it's not actually there. On an infinite number line point 5 IS point 0 and counting their relative positions is basically irrelevant...in fact, numbering the line is a limitation in itself being created by us.

Going on a bit of a tangent, consider that it is impossible for a perfect curve, circle or sphere to exist within our universe. Even if it appears round, when examined at the appropriate scale its edge will always be "stepped". Kind of odd that the only shapes that can truly exist are straight lines and angles, while anything curved is simply an illusion. I wonder if this has any significance.


RE: I beg to differ
By Reclaimer77 on 7/5/2012 8:28:20 PM , Rating: 2
Matter is simply large pockets of "nothing" loosely, or densely, held together by molecules. It's really not THAT hard to comprehend that outer space is a much more vast area of pockets of "nothing" interspersed with dense galaxies, radiation, and other molecules. Space is actually not a true vacuum, there's about 2 hydrogen atoms per cubic meter of space on average. So it's not "nothing".

This philosophical trip you're on, at some point, needs to acknowledge that there IS an actual reality on which we exist.

quote:
I think that is how existence works on a fundamental level. It's really just nothing, but since nothing can also be anything simultaneously we get to exist as just one of an infinite number of somethings.


I think it's time to cut down on the LSD.


RE: I beg to differ
By MrBlastman on 7/5/2012 10:26:32 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
Matter is simply large pockets of "nothing" loosely, or densely, held together by molecules. It's really not THAT hard to comprehend that outer space is a much more vast area of pockets of "nothing" interspersed with dense galaxies, radiation, and other molecules. Space is actually not a true vacuum, there's about 2 hydrogen atoms per cubic meter of space on average. So it's not "nothing".


You're missing it though. There might be two hydrogen atoms per cubic meter but within that vast meter (to a hydrogen atom it is quite vast), what is between them? What is that "nothing" that segments them?

We can't define it. At best we can say it is "spacetime" and per the poster of this particular thread whom wrote a book, has a marvelous equation which sums it up nicely with simplicity, g=tc^2, if you plot the curvature and its subsequent ripples and folds, the correlation is quite obvious. But graphing it doesn't solve it. It helps us visualize something. Something intangible that at first glance must just be a simple brane (or medium) but after great thought, as incomprehensible as it might be, is far from insignificant.

This "nothing" manipulates, defines and influences all of us completely. Yet, despite this massive contribution to not just entropy but also perceived order (and do not forget the statistical chaos in the smallest of the small that is merely quantifiable but neigh observable), we still don't know what it is.

Until we do, everything else we do is moot and subject to great change. If you ask any physicist I'm sure they'll tell you the same thing.

We have to understand what this "nothing" is. It is as I see it, the key to everything around us that we can see, hold, imagine... or even beyond our wildest comprehension.


RE: I beg to differ
By Reclaimer77 on 7/5/2012 10:44:18 PM , Rating: 2
The "nothing" is dark matter and dark energy. Forming a "cosmic scaffold" that holds spacetime, the Universe, together.

Just because we perceive it as "nothing", doesn't make it so.


RE: I beg to differ
By MrBlastman on 7/6/2012 1:12:42 AM , Rating: 2
How you can you be so sure? Heck, we don't even know what dark matter and energy are. They serve as nothing more than terminology placeholders to fill a gap that we have zero explanation for. We have theorized they exist but beyond that it is a mystery. We know the universe is accelerating in its expansion and rather than use the cosmological constant which itself was another placeholder than Einstein himself used to make his equations "work" regarding a stationary universe--we've created stubs.

quote:
Just because we perceive it as "nothing", doesn't make it so.


That is correct and that is why we must solve it.


RE: I beg to differ
By Reclaimer77 on 7/6/2012 1:40:15 AM , Rating: 2
Because we can observe it's effects. It might not be a perfect theory, but that's the best we have. And when more evidence comes into play, theories will be revised and further understanding begins.

That's how science works. You and Eric can philosophize all you want, but that kind of thinking doesn't really get us anywhere.

quote:
That is correct and that is why we must solve it.


Well I don't know what to tell ya, people are working on it. :)


RE: I beg to differ
By EricMartello on 7/6/2012 3:31:17 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
That's how science works. You and Eric can philosophize all you want, but that kind of thinking doesn't really get us anywhere.


On the contrary; being unwilling or unable to look at things from a perspective other than your own ensures that many mysteries will remain mysteries.

We're talking about things that scientists are spending a lot of time and money trying to figure out, but due to the abstract nature of the subject matter and the general unwillingness of most scientists to truly think (rather than to simply observe) holds progress back.

Performing a scientific experiment is like asking a question - you need to be able to think this way to determine the optimal questions (experiments) to ask.


RE: I beg to differ
By Reclaimer77 on 7/6/2012 4:16:19 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
On the contrary; being unwilling or unable to look at things from a perspective other than your own ensures that many mysteries will remain mysteries.


Eric, shut up. Science cannot work under your philosophical proclamations. Because if "reality is a human invention", and we're just making up everything we perceive, then the truth is simply what we imagine it to be. In which case things like science, proof, facts, and truth are subjective in the extreme.

I'm glad you got your Liberal Arts Major degree, but when it comes to science, your opinions are useless and actually dangerous.


RE: I beg to differ
By EricMartello on 7/6/2012 11:36:13 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
Because if "reality is a human invention", and we're just making up everything we perceive, then the truth is simply what we imagine it to be. In which case things like science, proof, facts, and truth are subjective in the extreme.


Much like a video game has rules, and to win at the game you play by those rules, so does our particular niche of existence. Regardless of whether the rules are fabricated by our minds or by some external force, they exist as far as we're concerned and we have not found a way to transcend them.

Science, the way it is practiced today, may enable us to gain more mastery over our little niche (i.e. the game world and its pre-defined ruleset) but it has little chance of going beyond that much in the same way your in-game avatar could not exist outside of the game even if it was aware that it was an avatar within a game (remember, the avatar doesn't really exist; it's just an illusion).

I noticed that you still haven't answered my other question about viewing yourself drinking coffee on the scale of an atom. Why not? You're not going to even take a stab at it?

If I am an atom and I see an apparently chaotic cluster of atoms and other particles, explain to me why the "absolute, indisputable reality" I should accept is you drinking a cup of coffee.


RE: I beg to differ
By Jereb on 7/8/2012 7:08:44 PM , Rating: 2
Are you trying to say that if I look at only a single atom of the coffee mug scene, that all i'm going to understand is that there is only a single atom (that's what i observed). Where as if I step back and look at the big picture i'll go "gee whiz, there is a whole lot more to this than I thought".

Wow, you are truly a Davinci of our modern era. Nobody, has heard of this concept prior these postings. How naive and ignorant of you to suggest that others haven't contemplated this also.

Also your game analogy is bit bogus, yeah the avatar exists, it exists within the box as 1 & 0's resulting in pixels etc.

The infinite line thought, did you fail math?? Yeah if you setup an infinite line it goes on forever, but if you move in one direction for a while, you are most definately not in the same spot you just where. It's called relativity, when you set an axis no matter the extremity's of the axis you have a set/start point, and resolution. When you compare any other point you are always comparing it to another set point. If you travel along the x axis, then yeah, delta x, if you are travelling along the y axis, delta y. You can make a far out claim that, you are still in the same place because infinity imposes this proof upon us. Well guess what, singularities also exist in maths', they often mean, an error has occured, we lack the capability to describe it with that concept of mathematics. It's exactly why the whole field of imaginary numbers where created.


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