Come Along for a Fall Foliage Hike

I’m going walking around Sessions Lake, a reservoir in central Michigan. Want to come? It’s four miles long and winds through the woods and along the shore.

And look! Finn’s going to join us. While we’re walking, let’s talk about Finn’s work in physics, in a very basic way.

Particle physics is the study of subatomic particles. 

Finn studies particles called neutrinos.  Some neutrinos come from violent events in space (such as exploding stars), and they travel at near light speed, right through everything, including the Earth.

Particle physics is also called high energy physics, because the particles being studied are high energy.  This is in contrast, for example, to nuclear physics where what’s being studied are low-energy particles. 

Finn’s work is on a particle physics project called IceCube at the South Pole. IceCube is both a telescope and a detector, and it uses glacier ice as a medium.

As a telescope, IceCube uses neutrinos to see “high-energy happenings” (mysteries!) very far away. As a detector, it allows people to study the fundamental properties of neutrinos.

Finn’s work looks at neutrinos that originate in the atmosphere and travel through the Earth to Antarctica.

As a side project (the following is technical; skip ahead for simplified), Finn is “creating and testing properties of laser-induced graphene for potential use as a material for a field cage in a time-projection chamber in space that would detect astrophysical gamma rays.”

In other words, he makes and studies a substance to be used in a special research box. That box might help people study light particles in space.

Studying particle physics will help further our understanding of how the universe works. It may even provide direct evidence as to why the universe exists, a question rooted in the balance of matter and antimatter.  

(Check out those whooping sandhill cranes overhead!)

Thanks for walking with us and listening to me practice my physics vocabulary. It was fun!

11 thoughts to “Come Along for a Fall Foliage Hike”

    1. Thanks about the photos! I was hoping the physics stuff would be accessible, but that writing trick is super hard to do. I would have asked the knowledgeable one to write it, but he’s busy doing physics! Thanks for the feedback.

        1. I am so sorry! Clearly I need to read your blog more often to get your sarcasm vibe. Now your comment makes total sense. D’oh!

    1. Yes!! The project in SD is called DUNE and will be the endpoint of a neutrino beam that starts at Fermilab. Apparently a joke is that all particle physicists’ work will one day be in support of DUNE, I guess because it’s going to be giant. Yeah, Deep Underground Neutrino Experiment. Go South Dakota!

    1. Sure! Here’s a link to the area of IceCube that Finn works in; from there you can click around to see other stuff. I’ll send this via email, as well.
      More details for Finn’s stuff:
      Recent research that made it into mainstream science media: