Friday, July 17, 2020

Discovery of a new particle: A Charming Tetraquark

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The Large Hadron Collider | Source: Anna Pantelia via CERN

While the world is horrified by the novel Coronavirus, scientists at the European Centre for Nuclear Research (CERN) announced the discovery of a never seen before tetraquark. Any finding in particle physics is a phenomenal one because it could tell us a lot about the origins of the universe and how everything came to be. And this discovery is quite charming and quarky (quirky).

Quarks are the elementary particles so any further division of these particles is not possible. This means everything in the universe is ultimately a combination of Quarks. Any new discovery of Quarks  therefore increase our understanding about the origin of universe

When three Quarks come together, they form familiar particles known as Baryons, for instance, protons and neutrons, found in the nucleus of an atom. A tetraquark, in particle physics, is an exotic meson composed of four quarks.

Murray Gell-Mann, recipient of the 1969 Nobel Prize in Physics for his work on the theory of Elementary particles, chose the name ‘Quark’. Another scientist,  George Zweig from CERN also proposed the Quark theory independently of Gell-Mann.

All the new particles are detected using particle accelerators where particles are accelerated at almost the speed of light and collide to look into their subsets. It is like knocking two rocks together so that they break into smaller constituents.

The most recent tetraquark, named X (6900) was discovered by CERN physicists while working on LHCb (Large Hadron Collider beauty experiment). The already known tetraquarks contain a particular combination of two relatively heavy quarks and two light Quarks. On the other hand X(6900) consists of four heavy Quarks: two Quarks and two anti-Quarks.

This exclusive particle made of unusual combinations is a perfect setting for understanding the fundamental force of nature known as Strong Interaction. The strong force is vital to comprehend as it binds together protons, neutrons and the nucleus that ultimately make up matter. Another perk of X(6900)  is its relatively heavy mass, so these are simpler to look at and are more stable as compared to notoriously fast moving-lighter ones.

The paper written by 800 scientists is yet to be peer-reviewed. The bump observed has a statistical significance of more than five sigma (standard deviations) that is good enough to claim the discovery of a new particle.

In any scenario, this unusual discovery will serve as a piece for completing the puzzle of our universe while serving as evidence of the presence of new particles not yet found.

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October 23, 2020 3:57 PM

Male gaze, their female guardians and sports-wear

In Helen Cixous’ essay, ‘The Laugh of Medusa’, she urges women to redefine what their body means to them, not just physically but also socially, emotionally and politically. This could happen by re-writing about your body in a way you deem  fit, the expression you identify with and separating it from how your body has been written about by men. The expression could be how you view your body separate from the patriarchal lense.

It is no secret that a woman’s body is subject to critique. While clothing for men is just a tool to cover themselves as per the surrounding environment, clothing for women isa social and political narrative that dictates their life or as we affectionately call it ‘culturally appropriate’.

The clothing style could vary. It could be a woman covered head to toe in a Burqa, it could be a woman who decides to wear sports-wear in a park or it could be jeans and a top. Everything is critically evaluated by men and by women who work towards protecting the male gaze.

The male gaze is a heterosexual way of looking at female bodies that sexualises these bodies into an object. It is a gaze that runs on the self-affirmative notion that the bodies of women, and what they do with it, is directly linked to how they  appear in front of a man.

In a recent incident in Bangalore, India, popular Indian actress Samyuktha Hegde was abused and threatened by senior political leader of the congress party, Kavitha Reddy,  for wearing sports-wear, in Bangalore’s Agara Lake park. She was exercising with her friend.

Kavitha Reddy initially claimed she was in indecent attire and went onto morally police and then later abused the actress and her friend.  A supposedly progressive political leader gets uncomfortable by what women are wearing. It breaks into an argument and a fight where the politician is supported by five to six men. Later on, the police appear to be appeasing the politician instead of the women who were harassed. Although she did apologise, her apology came after her video went viral, and as a protection for her own political reputation.

To look at Samyuktha Hegde’s clothing as a threat is to view her clothing as an act of obscenity therefore bullying her identity and sense of agency and reducing her to sexual object, who, by putting her in public, apparently gives the men present a right to look at her? Nevermind that she was there to workout like everyone else, her actions were confused as to how men look at her. In the video posted by the actress, the politician is surrounded by men who are championing her on. The politician choses to side with the patriarchal figures in shaming these women. Asking to protect from the male gaze is a far stretch but punishing women for the male gaze is where we should draw a line.

What roles does Kavitha Reddy play? She is the guardian of the male gaze. We find her in our mothers, in our grandmothers, in aunties and sometimes our friends. She understands a woman’s body as an object that is there to be looked at by men. She gets angry at women for wearing certain kinds of clothing but she is not angry at men for looking. The agency in this case always belongs to men.

When Cixous asks women to re-define their identity, she urges us to strangle the moral police that comes alive in such instances. It is the moral police that shames women for wearing clothes that don’t flatter their bodies or clothes that do flatter them. She urges us to reflect upon the source of such vigilance. Do we shame other women because we believe in what we are saying or our identity is partially (or  wholly) shaped by the male gaze?

Whether we chose to wear a burqa, or a dress, or variations of the new type clothing produced everyday, the crux of the matter is that it should not worry anyone apart from the one wearing it. The identity of a woman, sexual or otherwise, has to be redefined to be separated from the men and their gaze. We have to draw a line otherwise people in power will continue to abuse their power and preserve patriarchy and male gaze.

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