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Archive for December, 2009

Happy holidays off the grid.

I’ll be on holidays for a while with no e-mail access and no computers. I’m hoping this will finally take away some accumulated stress.

In the meantime, I hope everyone has a very happy end of the year and I wish you all good fortune in the coming year.

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Dark Matter news

After all the recent buzz in the internet, CDMS has finally reported their data on direct dark matter detection. They saw two events after tagging and cutting in a blind analysis where about 0.6-0.8 events were expected background. The final statistical probability of the events detected being background was quoted at 23%.

So the news is “Dark matter not detected yet… but maybe it was”.

The auditorium where we saw this information revealed was full, and there was a lot of interest in the minutiae of the experiment. For more information, visit the CDMS site.

If the data are indeed due to dark matter detection, then the next round of experiments could be really impressive. Stay tuned for more.

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Grading’s done!!!

Time to celebrate. I just finished the grading for my course on General Relatvity for the quarter. That is one of the great accomplishments for  my weekend.  That and getting over a cold. For some reason, and I’m  not the only one, I find grading to be one of the most onerous and unpleasant tasks I have to do. I just don’t like it. Makes wanna sing “I don’t want to grade, I want to bang on my drum all day”. Well, if you modify lyrics of a certain song that I have linked below, you get the idea.

The thing is, I planned an easy final, and it turns out that I stumped my students. Arghh! That meant I had to read a lot more stuff carefully. Turns out that many missed a rather natural simplifying assumption that makes the problem that stumped them relatively easy to solve. Oh well, such is life.

On a related note, next week I’ll be going on a very well earned vacation. Before that, there are a lot of tasks that need getting done. For example, preparing my course for next quarter. Also, as part of the usual seasonal work overload, we have to deal with postdoc selections and making shortlists. I guess I better start singing again.

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Scientific papers have through the years introduced new terms that become words of everyday language. Energy being one of them. It used to be called vis viva by Leibnitz. the modern usage was introduced in 1807. The word comes from greek, and it is usually the case thaht greek and latin roots are used to indicate new concepts.

The name photon come from 1926, from a paper by Gilbert Lewis. Before that they were called light quanta. Lewis theory was discredited but the name stuck. Similarly, quarks were named so by Gellman.

More recently, words like embiggen (to make bigger) appeared for the first time in an episode of the Simpsons making fun of the illiteracy of the people in Springfield.

This didn’t stop the word from becoming part of the arxiv. So now it is a perfectly cromulent word.

More recently, the word emblackening has entered the physics vocabulary. Here is the first reference that seems to discuss it.

The `emblackening’ factor is a function that takes a given metric without a black hole horizon, and changes it to another function that does have a black hole horizon, therefore emblackening the metric. Gee whiz. Why couldn’t they just call it the blackening factor? Or the time warp function?

That one would be fun. Let’s do the time warp agaaaaaain!

Of course, I was complaining about the mangling of the English language and improper use of prefixes. Probably this is due to the many instances where I have heard English being mangled by my English professors when I was a kid in Latin America and the struggles I had to make my English writing acceptable. I guess I have to adapt to the changing of the language. So wth, I have to accept the new stuff, and rofl my way into using the new modes of communication. Lol.

You can also read a discussion on ‘emblackening” here. This is from the National Novel Writing month. Where people complain that it does not exist, while empurple does. It turns out that you can empurple your text (this is to make a piece of text very ornate by use of flowery language), or someone can empurple you by making you very angry. Sadly, emredding and emgreening is out of the question.

So if you’re stuck out of finding fancy new words, just consider reading a scientific paper. You might be surprised at the whole new levels of richness that your vocabulary can aspire to.

My fingers are itching to use ridiculon as nomenclature for a particle whose properties would be completely ridiculous and incompatible with experiments. There are plenty of models that are populated by ridiculons.

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I’m still busy

Please accept my apologies for the lack of updates. I have been very busy.

There are so many things I’ve wanted to write about. The LHC started working again and there have been collisions. Mercedes Sosa and Lev Kofman passed away. There was a Thanksgiving holiday where a lot of food was eaten.

I’m teaching General relativity and I have given up on keeping my notes online. I’m in a committee that takes away whatever little time I have. My capacity to do research this quarter has been slowed tremendously, in great part because I have to grade and do more work, even though supposedly I should be taking furlough days off. The University I work for is having trouble and the prospects for the near future are quite bleak. I’m also one of the people with the charge of finding ways to get donor support for the UCSB physics department. I’ll extend my begging hand in your general direction: can you spare some change for poor physics students?

On quite another note, I am troubled by the recent developments in Latin American foreign politics. I’m aghast at the recent decision by the Swiss to ban minarets by popular vote, and I just remembered that when I was a teenager in a land far away, one of my high school professors got fired for being gay. At least that was the rumor going on at the time in my high school.

Finally, to leave on a cute note, I read this comic of Xkcd on how physicists cope with being in vacuum on a frictionless surface. I can sympathize with the poor professor. At least the sound stops when the air goes out, unlike many other science fiction loud explosions in vacuum.

 

 

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