[blog post] Margaret Thatcher, politician, scientist

15 04 2013

Early last week Margaret Thatcher, former British Prime Minister, pass away, aged 87. She was a charismatic figure who was known internationally for being a strong and decisive leader. She had close political ties with President Ronald Reagan, she opposed the communist policies in Eastern Europe, and she was skeptical of increasing integration of the UK with Western Europe. Her actions and legacy are entwined with the global political stage at the time. However, in the UK she was very divisive and at times controversial, and even to this day there is a mixture of high praise a bitter resentment about her policies. Much has been said about her legacy over the past few days, and I think that, regardless of one’s own views, one of the best things we can say about Thatcher is that she knew what her vision was, and she pursued it with a great deal of energy and enthusiasm.

Thatcher, the chemist (popsci)

Thatcher, the chemist (popsci)

Keep reading…





Tweeting the Higgs

23 01 2013

Back in July two seminars took place that discussed searches for the Higgs boson at the Tevatron and the LHC. After nearly 50 years of waiting an announcement of a \(5\sigma\) signal, enough to claim discovery, was made and all of a sudden the twitter world went crazy. New Scientist presented an analysis of the tweets by Domenico et al. relating to the Higgs in their Short Sharp Scient article Twitter reveals how Higgs gossip reached fever pitch. I don’t want to repeat what is written in the article, so please take a few minutes to read it and watch the video featured in the article.

The distribution of tweets around the July 2nd and July 4th announcements (note the log scale)

The distribution of tweets around the July 2nd and July 4th announcements (note the log scale)

Keep reading…





2013: The road ahead

1 01 2013

This time last year I wrote a blog post about what 2011 delivered and what to expect for 2012. It was obvious that we’d get some answers on the Higgs question, so it’s no surprise that we saw some 5 sigma bumps in there. As Rolf Heuer, Director General of CERN said it was a “vintage year” for physics, which I think means “very good”. Personally I think that the choice of word “vintage” is a bit anticlimactic. Surely a vintage anything is best enjoyed after several years have passed, if you have the money for it? It would have been nicer to see a word that reflected the current excitement of being a part of the discovery and seeing physics a living field, rather than comparing it to a bottle of dusty (though very tasty) wine at the back of a cellar somewhere. Oh well, maybe I’m reading too much into one word. Rolf’s article gives a very nice overview of 2012. In short, 2012 was brilliant and delivered as promised.

Keep reading





[blog post] Understanding the Higgs search

15 08 2012

It’s been over a month since CERN hosted a seminar on the updated searches for the Higgs boson. Since then ATLAS and CMS and submitted papers showing what they found, and recently I got news that the ATLAS paper was accepted by Physics Letters B, a prestigious journal of good repute. For those keeping score, that means it took over five weeks to go from the announcement to publication, and believe it not, that’s actually quite fast.

Crowds watch the historic seminar from Melbourne, Australia (CERN)

Crowds watch the seminar from Melbourne, Australia (CERN)

Keep reading…





[blog post] Spinning out of control!

16 07 2012

We’ve all heard the big news from CERN by now (if not then you might want to catch up on the latest gossip!) Right now most of the focus at ATLAS and CMS is on measuring the properties of the new boson we’ve found. The numbers of events are small, so studies are very difficult. One of the most important properties that we need to study is the particle’s spin, and luckily we can say something about that right now!

A typical Higgs boson candidate in the "golden mode" (ATLAS Collaboration)

The big news: One of many Higgs boson candidates in the "golden mode" (ATLAS Collaboration)

Keep reading…





[video] Higgs Seminar postgame discussion

6 07 2012

Following the Higgs seminar on Wednesday July 4th (Higgsdependence Day), fellow bloggers Steve Sekula and Seth Zenz joined me to discuss the results. We discussed all sorts of topics from the measurements themselves, to the nature of the work, to the future of the study of the Higgs boson. Enjoy!





[blog post] Higgsdependence Day

2 07 2012

On July 4th CERN will hold a seminar where ATLAS and CMS will present their latest findings on the search for the Higgs boson. There’s a reasonable chance that either or both experiments will see a 5 sigma excess, and this would be enough to claim a “discovery”. One of my US friends at CERN called this day Higgsdependence Day, and all over the USA people will be celebrating with fireworks and barbecues. (Okay, perhaps they will be celebrating something else. My boss tells me he might tar and feather me as the token British member of the group…)

No Higgs seminar is complete without a bottle of Champagne, just in case!

No Higgs seminar is complete without a bottle of Champagne, just in case!

Keep reading…