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March 14, 2013 at 7:03 PM   |   Comments

Analysis brings Higgs confirmation closer

UPTON, N.Y., March 14 (UPI) -- The new particle detected by the Large Hadron Collider in Switzerland last summer is looking more and more like the long-sought Higgs boson, scientists report.

Results of analysis of the LHC data released Thursday bolster confidence the particle discovered is the Standard Model Higgs, U.S. researchers said.

Confirmation of the Higgs, a particle thought to give mass to other elementary particles, could confirm the last remaining piece of the Standard Model of particle physics, a collection of the smallest particles and forces and how they interact to make up the universe, a release from the Brookhaven National Laboratory in New York said.

The latest results, released at a conference in Italy, indicate the new particle is matching predictions of the behavior of the Higgs boson, sometimes referred to as the "God particle" because of its fundamental place at the center of physics theory.

"When we discovered the particle, we knew we found something significant," LHC team member Kyle Cranmer of New York University said. "Now, we're just trying to establish the properties."

However, even if the particle is confirmed as the Higgs, it won't mean the end of physics research and theory, one scientist said.

"Clear evidence that the new particle is the Standard Model Higgs boson still would not complete our understanding of the universe," Patty McBride, a researcher at Fermilab in Batavia, Ill, said. "We still wouldn't understand why gravity is so weak and we would have the mysteries of dark matter to confront. But it is satisfying to come a step closer to validating a 48-year-old theory."


Study: People go 'tribal' on Twitter

LONDON, March 14 (UPI) -- Social sites like Twitter lead people with a common character, occupation or interest to form "tribes" with their own language, British researchers say.

Scientists from Royal Holloway, University of London in collaboration with Princeton University have published a study of these Internet "tribe-like" communities and their distinctive vocabularies, producing a map of the groupings showing how they have vocations, politics, ethnicities and hobbies in common.

"This means that by looking at the language someone uses, it is possible to predict which community he or she is likely to belong to, with up to 80 percent accuracy," researcher John Bryden said in a Royal Holloway release Thursday.

"We searched for unusual words that are used a lot by one community, but relatively infrequently by the others. For example, one community often mentioned Justin Bieber, while another talked about President Obama."

The scientists analyzed Twitter postings using algorithms to look for differences in word use among individuals who tend to send messages to other members of the same community.

"Interestingly, just as people have varying regional accents, we also found that communities would misspell words in different ways," Royal Holloway researchers Vincent Jansen said.

"The Justin Bieber fans have a habit of ending words in 'ee', as in 'pleasee', while school teachers tend to use long words."


Russian meteor million of years old

MOSCOW, March 14 (UPI) -- The meteor that exploded over Russia last month probably broke off an asteroid and collided with another space body millions of years ago, a scientist says.

"It was formed within an asteroid, separated from it, and then, tens of millions of years ago, it suffered a collision, receiving multiple cracks as a result," Erik Galimov of the Russian Academy of Sciences said Thursday.

The meteor entered the atmosphere and exploded Feb. 15, causing a massive sonic boom that blew out windows and damaged thousands of buildings around the city of Chelyabinsk, injuring over 1,500 people.

"It was because of the large number of cracks that it exploded so powerfully," Galimov, director of the academy's Vernadsky Institute of Geochemistry and Analytical Chemistry, told RIA Novosti.

More than 100 meteorite fragments that have been recovered along a 30-mile trail along the object's flight path, scientists said, with the largest weighing about 2.2 pounds.


'Sniffer' can find illicit prison phones

ROCKVILLE, Md., March 14 (UPI) -- A cellphone "sniffer" could hunt down and pinpoint illicit cellphones in prisons, often used to conduct criminal activity, its U.S. developers says.

While it is virtually impossible to stop cellphones being used inside prisons, a way of pinpointing exactly where a call is coming from could help clamp down on the practice, researchers at Intelligent Automation Inc. in Maryland said.

There is no way currently to block individual signals, so the only option would be to jam all signals at one cellphone tower, which would disrupt calls by people living in the neighborhood of the prison.

Instead, IAI's system would analyze phone signals from immediately outside the prison walls to triangulate and pinpoint their origin.

IAI engineers said by installing four small antennas at the corners of a prison building, they managed to locate an in-use cellphone within about 2 feet, NewScientist.com reported.

A signal processing computer that measures the time it takes for a digital phone signal to reach each antenna allows the software to triangulate, from the best three signals, which cell the phone is in, engineers said.

"We can detect phone activity, whether it is voice, text or data, in the monitored area, and map the cellphone location," IAI's Eric van Doorn said.

A full field test of the system will be conducted at a state prison in Lawrenceville, Va., this year, he said.

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