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Archive for March, 2010

Spring Break!

Spring break is finally here.

Ok, no real big news here. Final grades have been turned in for all classes and I can get a week of rest. I will comment some more on the issues of handing out grades and such in the future.

I’m also happy that the Health legislation vote passed and that we can look forward to a more modern health care system in the US.

Things to do this week:

  • Post a paper to the arxiv (it will appear tonight, so it’s done).
  • Finish the “First law trilogy” by Joe Abercrombie (I’m having a lot of fun reading this one).
  • Lots of hiking.
  • Ignore work from Tuesday until Friday: have a hectic Monday instead (in the process).
  • Write a blog post: this one.
  • Change the skin of my Firefox browser: done.

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Physics usually progresses by getting new experimental data. Given this data, we refine the theories and eventually we can come up with a picture of how the universe works. However, experimental results can be tricky to interpret. Usually, data is presented as evidence for something, but that depends many times on the model of the noise that is expected.

My most recent encounter with this aspect of physics was the recent paper on dark matter detection by the COGENT collaboration.

The paper states that they see evidence for dark matter in their results. A lot of evidence as a matter of fact. This is from a trial run on a new low noise technology before a full detector is commissioned. Being naturally somewhat skeptic, I raised my right eyebrow a bit more than usual and I hurried one floor down to the High Energy experimentalists to ask how should these new results really be interpreted: is it evidence? Or is it possible that the data reported is a bit too optimistic?

Part of the problem is that when I see the graphs, it is not obvious to me what to look for: this is mostly because I don’t usually deal with this type of data. This is when having colleagues who understand these issues can help a lot. Their expert advice really counts for something. I thought it would be a good idea to share some of this information. (more…)

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Physics videos on the net

There are fun videos of physics in the net. I occasionally look for them for my class, but my results tend to be random. A reasonably good list can be found on a website that specializes on Online education here.

Their list includes one of my favorite demos, which I performed in class this year as well: The Ruben’s tube. It is very cool to do and to watch as well. After I worked it the students clapped. Of course, there was also the time I played the guitar to show harmonics, and the time that a superconductor had issues with going to zero resistance after cooling during class.

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A little bit of fun

Did you ever wonder if grad school is just like kindergarden?

Or when is it ok to take a holiday break?

Of course, you could be completely unaware of the news.

I personally want to join the tautology club.

And for some reason, perhaps because I’m a particle theorist, the following description of snow tracking really cracks me up.

Finally, you should check this wedding cake picture as well. It uses a Standard Model of decoration.

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