Archive for the ‘high energy physics’ Category

About one year ago I lost my umbrella. I found it today. Perhaps the most amazing thing is that the umbrella was recovered. The umbrella was happily residing in the conference room of the experimental high energy physics group at UCSB. It was left untouched for a year. This shows how little need there is for general lost umbrellas in Santa Barbara.

The main reason for me being in that conference room is that we had our grant agency, the Department of Energy (DOE), visiting us. This is a yearly event that  I have always found to be very useful, since I get to learn a lot about the nitty gritty details of the high energy experiments that our group is involved in. It also is a lot of work. I’m also very grateful for the support of the DOE has given us through the years.

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Some HEP news

For those of you who are following the news, here is a link to the recent HEPAP P5 meeting report recommending the extension of the Tevatron run.

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As many of you probably know, the place to look for references in High Energy Physics for as long as I can remember has been hosted by the SPIRES website, hosted at SLAC.  In the last few year the system has become slow and clunky and I have heard various complaints about it. There is a mirror at Fermilab that works better, but it sometimes still freezes. The next generation of the search engine is called INSPIRE, and it is far superior to the SPIRES engine. This has ben jointly developed with CERN, I’m not sure who else is involved.

This week the SPIRES website is urging the visitors to move on and try INSPIRE. It is in beta testing (has  been for a while and I have used it before), but now it seems to be working much faster.


One of the things that SPIRES had troubles with was citation counts. There are some double counts that appear in some places and not in some others and the results had an inherent noise in them.

INSPIRE seems to have corrected those issues and now the counts seem to match everywhere. I have not found anything broken with the new system yet, but I have not been pushing it either.


In any case, SPIRES is  obsolete (has been for a while) and the transition is now. I think so far they have done a good job with the new software and the move to the new system is worthwhile.


I think the funniest catch phrase one can write about it is the title of this post:

Move to inspire.

It sounds like a slogan for a charity. Oh well.


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Its been a while since I have posted an entry here. Unfortunately this can not be ascribed entirely to my laziness: I just didn’t have much to say. Ha! More seriously now, I have been busy with the beginning of the quarter. This involves a lot of troubleshooting for the ‘electronic component’ of the course. Seeing as I have nothing to say, I thought it would be good to divert your attention to other stuff that should be read today written by other people.

In the arxiv, there are two very interesting papers. One is by George Smooth on ideas for a holographic Universe, and the other by Samanta on the thermodynamic origin of gravity. Of course, I haven’t had enough time to digest these ideas fully, but they look rather interesting to me.

I also had time to look at a paper on varying dimensionaliy at different length scales. Even by requiring very low standards, I can not take that proposal seriously. My guess is that a careful analysis of the data already available would show that the model they are discussing is wrong.

Finally, on a cute note, there was a humor piece article in the daily Nexus (the local student newspaper at UCSB) that was very amusing and fits the theme for physics perfectly.

Update: This was posted as an April’s fool joke, to try to get you to read what I consider to be the most unreliable papers on the arxiv for the day of April 1st 2010. I do not endorse these papers in any way whatsoever.

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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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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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The last few days I attended the conference in honor of Tom Banks and Willy Fischler on the occasion of their 60th Birthday. Here are the details of the conference.

Willy Fischler and Tom Banks at the dinner.

Willy Fischler and Tom Banks at the conference dinner.


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