Only a month after Carl Nassib became the first NFL athlete to come out as homosexual, Luke Prokop of the Nashville Predators became the first active player under an NHL contract to do so on Tuesday. This is momentous and breakthrough news to those who have always appreciated and valued sports. But is this the new normal for the next generation of young sports enthusiasts and players?
Luke Prokop Opened up to the World
Professional male sportsmen are idolized in society for their incredible toughness, masculinity, and, perhaps most importantly, their bravery on the court, pitch, field, or arena floor. Isn’t it strange that some of the strongest and most courageous among them are terrified of being themselves and losing a game/career that they’ve spent countless years perfecting? Many LGBTQ+ male athletes have been afraid to live an open and true life outside of their sport. Choosing between liking yourself and enjoying your sport is an impossible choice that has proven to be an ultimatum and, ultimately, a downfall for countless professional athletes.
Fear of What?
So, what were we afraid of? And why is that? Many of the current cautions to athletes were antiquated conceptions of loss and consequence based on little to no actual data or instances. Whether it was conservative fans who wanted football to be a place where they wouldn’t be judged for their views on exclusion, or owners who were solely interested in making money, the athletic world has finally moved on from this antiquated idea. Every male professional player who has come out before Luke Prokop’s confession has contributed to the breakdown of this fear-based mindset. We are on the edge of the most open and progressive age in male sports history, now that the hate and bigotry against LGBTQ+ male athletes have lost their anonymous and nameless perpetrators.
Let’s leave Luke Prokop’s confession aside for a minute. Those who have spent their entire lives seeing people who look, love, and believe like them sometimes forget the value of representation. When it comes to LGBTQ+ inclusivity, politics, movies, and television have all been years ahead of masculine sports. Sports seemed like the only place many people didn’t belong since they didn’t see anyone who looked like them there. The only industry with such low numbers is professional male athletes, which people can count on one hand. Look to our female sports leagues, for an example, of how to build a league that is not only inclusive but also allows its athletes to be themselves and speak up for who they are and what they believe in. They have been setting the example and laying the groundwork for years.
Famous Einstein Equation Is Used to Create Matter from Light
According to Albert Einstein’s famous E=mc2 equation, if two suitably energetic photons, or light particles, collide, matter in the form of an electron and its antimatter opponent, a positron, should result.
However, the process that was discovered by Einstein, which was first described in 1934 by American physicists Gregory Breit and John Wheeler, has long been one of the most difficult to observe in physics, because the colliding photons would have to be highly energetic gamma rays, which scientists have yet to create. Alternative experiments have demonstrated the production of matter from many photons, but never in the one-to-one ratio required to confirm the phenomenon.
However, experts at the Brookhaven National Laboratory in New York believe they have discovered a solution. They were able to make data that can fit expectations for the bizarre changing act using the laboratory’s Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider (RHIC).
Zhangbu Xu, who is a physicist at Brookhaven Lab, says in a statement that in their paper, Wheeler and Breit already realized that Einstein’s equation is a nearly impossible thing to be done, given that lasers didn’t even exist back then. However, Wheeler and Breit proposed another alternative: accelerating heavy ions. Their alternative is what they are doing at RHIC.
How Does It Work?
Instead of directly accelerating photons, the researchers sped up two ions, positively charged atomic nuclei stripped of their electrons, in a large loop before sending them past each other in a near collision. Because ions are charged particles traveling at near-light speeds, they also take an electromagnetic field with them, which contains a bunch of not-quite-real ‘virtual’ photons “flying with [the ion] like a cloud,” according to Xu.
Virtual particles are particles that exist only for a brief moment as perturbations in the fields between genuine particles. They aren’t as populous as their real-life equivalents (unlike their real counterparts that have no mass, virtual photons do have a mass). When the ions whizzed past each other in a close call in this experiment, their two clouds of virtual photons functioned as if they were real. When the real-acting virtual particles collided, they created a very real electron-positron pair, which the scientists were able to detect.
The physicists had to make sure that their virtual photons behaved like actual ones to be a valid observation of the Breit-Wheeler process, or as true as feasible using virtual particles. The physicists observed and examined the angles between more than 6,000 electron-positron pairs produced by their experiment to check the behavior of the virtual photons.
When two real particles collide, the secondary products should emerge at different angles than if two simulated particles collided. However, the simulated particles’ secondary products bounced off at the same angles as real particle secondary products in this experiment. As a result, the researchers were able to confirm that the particles they were observing behaved as if they had been created by a real encounter. The Breit-Wheeler process had been successfully demonstrated.
Albert Einstein’s Huge Contribution to Science
The energy and mass distribution of the systems were also measured by the researchers. In a statement, Brookhaven physicist Daniel Brandenburg said, “They are compatible with theory calculations for what would happen with real photons.”
Nonetheless, the virtual photons utilized in the experiment related to Einstein’s equation are indisputably virtual, even if they appear to behave like actual particles. This raises the question of whether the experiment truly demonstrated the Breit-Wheeler process, but it’s still a crucial first step until scientists build lasers powerful enough to demonstrate the process with real photons.