Physics

One of the positive side-effects of preparing a seminar is being forced to get up-to-date with the latest experimental and theoretical developments on the topic. And this is of particular benefit to lazy bums like myself, who prefer to spend their time playing online chess than reading arxiv preprints.

It happened last week, in the course of putting together a meaningful discussion of the state of the art in global electroweak fits to standard model observables, and their implications for the unknown mass of the Higgs boson: by skimming the hep-ph folder I found a very recent paper by a colleague in Padova, which I had shamefully failed to notice in the last couple of careless visits.
This afternoon I am leaving to Belgium. I have been invited by the Université Catholique de Louvain to give a seminar on the status and the future of the Higgs boson searches at the Tevatron collider. This was a good pretext to sit down and learn the latest details of the analyses carried out by CDF and DZERO, and to do some real work of my own, mainly to understand what are the discovery or exclusion prospects for the Higgs in the US in the next few years. I have somehow described my conclusions in a recent article.
Jim Croce, whose major was psychology in Villanova University, perhaps, had a minor in physics, I don't know, when he graduated in 1965. His song "Time in a Bottle" conjures physics of love, right?

So, if there is chemistry of love, then there is definitely physics of love, its sister science. See if you "find" physics in the lyrics of Time in a Bottle.

If I could save time in a bottle
The first thing that I'd like to do
Is to save every day
Till Eternity passes away
Just to spend them with you

If I could make days last forever
If words could make wishes come true
I'd save every day like a treasure and then

Earlier today I reported about the publication of a paper by a non-professional physicist, Carl Brannen. Now I have to do the same for a paper -the first one in a long and groundbreaking series, you can bet- from the CMS collaboration, one of the two main experiments at the CERN Large Hadron Collider.
This just in: Carl Brannen (here his blog) got a paper on gravitation published in a scientific magazine. Carl, who is the typical amateur who many "established scientists" in the blogosphere have labeled a crackpot in the last few years, does not actually fit the bill very well: he is a deep thinker who knows the literature of what he studies, and the fact that he is not salaried by a research institute means as little as this: he does it for Science, and not for a pay.
"Quidquid oritur, qualecumque est, causam habet a natura. Cum autem res nova et admirabilis fieri videtur, causam invetigato, si poteris, ratione confisus. Si nullam causam reperis, illud tamen certum habeto, nihil fieri potuisse sine causa naturali. Repelle igitur terrorem quem res nova tibi attulit et semper verbis sapientium confidere aude: sapiens enim facta, quae prodigiosa videntur , numquam fortuito evenisse dicet, quod nihil fieri sine causa potest, nec quicquam fit quod fieri non potest: nulla igitur portenta sunt. Nam si portentum putare debemus id quod raro fit, sapientem esse portentum est: facilius esse enim mulam parere arbitror quam sapientem esse."

Marcus Tullius Cicero

Quick and dirty translation:
To see the future, you must know the past: these nine words nicely summarize a syllogism which knows few exceptions. Turning to known data to check the power of one's extrapolations is a quite well-founded scientific approach. So if we are to try and guesstimate how much will the CDF and DZERO experiments manage to deliver in the next few years, we must check how well they delivered this far, by comparing results with early expectations.

But why bother ? Well, of course because there is a real challenge on: bookmakers need to tune the odds they offer!

Fermilab versus CERN
"Why three families ? Why the particular symmetry structure ? [...] If the Higgs particle turns out to exist as conventionally described, with a reasonably low mass (say less than 200 GeV) then that closes the Standard Model from a mathematical point of view. It is then quite conceivable that new physics, not contained in the Standard Model, will be way beyond the reach of any accelerator imaginable today. In this case, humanity might never get an answer to the questions posed above."

M.Veltman, Reflections on the Higgs System (1997).
Last Friday I was in Pisa, at the Scuola Normale Superiore (see picture), where italian members of the CMS Collaboration gathered for two days to discuss the status of their studies, exchange ideas, and try to coalesce common analysis efforts.
W bosons are amazingly interesting objects. Almost thirty years after their discovery -by Carlo Rubbia and his collaborators of the UA1 experiment at CERN- they continue to provide critical information on the theory of electroweak interactions. The front of particle physics has moved quite a bit further from 1983, and yet the weapons we use todat to try and conquer unexplored land have not changed much. Today I wish to summarize one particular search that has been done by the CDF experiment at the Tevatron proton-antiproton collider, one which tries to catch W bosons as they decay in a very uncommon way.