Physics

In his book "Everything's Relative - And Other Fables From Science And Technology" Tony Rothman writes:

 "[The term] 'special relativity' is probably the greatest misnomer in the history of science"

I wholeheartedly agree. Amongst all scientific terms, the single word 'relativity' stands out as absolute record holder for triggering an astonishing amount of utter nonsense. 
Dynamics can be surprising at times, even when applied to well-understood and tested physical systems such as a basketball and a basket. Look what happened to a free shot executed by Kamyl Kawrzydek in a match between Idaho State University and  Utah State University, played at Gossner's Invitational: the ball bounces on the basket, and then stops there for three full seconds, before eventually dropping into the basket.
Betting a grand on the existence or not of new physics is cool, but one does not need to be that daring (or to be that daring every other day) to enjoy the game of making predictions for what the fundamental research in experimental particle physics will discover or measure in a future close enough that we can reasonably expect to experience ourselves. So here I am, at the end of this eventful 2010, to look forward rather than backward, with no additional grand to invest but some insight to use, some reputation to waste, and a bit of humour to stuff between the lines.

Some unforeseen Christmas-vigil blog activity bringing here a few visitors more than average was traced today back to BBC News, who discussed the 2010 science highlights here.

The incoming link is in this paragraph:

The evolving role of the blogosphere in science came to the fore as particle physicists were preparing to gather in Paris for their annual conference. Internet rumours suggested that the US Tevatron particle smasher had seen hints of the elusive Higgs boson.

A reader of this blog asked in the comments thread of a recent piece the following interesting question:

"Assuming mH = 201 GeV/c2, how many Higgses shoud have been produced at
the Tevatron by now with an integated luminosity of 10 inverse
femtobarns? And how many H -> ZZ -> µµµµ would one expect to see?"
As sure as death and taxes, and as timely as a Swiss watch, the Tevatron collider never ceases to awe us. Well into its twentysixth year of life, the aged and celebrated proton-antiproton collider sitting just a few meters underground in the west Chicago suburbs hit the mark of 10 inverse femtobarns of collisions delivered to the core of the CDF and DZERO detectors.

10 inverse femtobarns! Ten inverse femtobarns of proton-antiproton collisions is a HELL of a lot of them. Plus, you should multiply that number by two, since the same number of collisions happened inside two different collision areas -those manned by the two competing collaborations.
Ten years ago the trilobite molecule came into the Physics media, like Physics News, Physical Review focus etc. It reappeared about a year ago, in fact in Nature. I am planning to demonstrate here that the trilobite molecule is not at all trilobite-like, it is much more pine-cone like.
An expert is a man who has made all of the mistakes which can be made, in a narrow field.
Niels Bohr
You haven't seen any new hardcore physics posts entering this blog in recent weeks. Reason is a new role in my professional life, combined with a new science project that I have started in my spare time (if successful, you will definitely read more about the latter here). Both activities currently consume a lot of my time, and as there are only 1015 inches in a day, something has to give. 
A faithful reader of this blog has been asking me for answers to some of the 42 questions which were given at an exam for particle physics researcher wannabes in Italy in 2005. I already provided some answers in a separate post a few months back, but the reader asked for an answer to some specific exercises which I had not bothered to deal with here. I will do so now.