Physics

Patrick Draper is a graduate student in physics at the University of Chicago and Argonne National Lab. He is a native of Illinois and lives in Hyde Park, Chicago with his wife Karen and parrot Felix, to whom he is grateful for their love, patience, and correcting his sign errors. He is a supporter of the international effort to put a muon collider on Mars, and is waiting for NASA to return his phone calls.
I asked Patrick to write here about his studies on the discovery reach for a MSSM Higgs boson after I saw his paper on the arxiv a month ago, and am now glad I did. Enjoy!

Just what would time travel look like?  This question was posed to me by a movie director in L.A..  It turns out there are three parts to this question-- what physics suggests, what movies have done in the past, and what looks good.

The last is up to her and her special effects staff.  The middle one-- Hollywood traditions for time travel-- are worth examining to scope out possibilities.  I'll then conclude with what I think physics suggests is most likely.

Were I to invent categories for movie time travel effects, I'd create the following:


  1.   techno with lots of lights and whooshing (ala 2001, though that wasn't time travel)


  2.   high speed vehicle (similar to techno, but with speed lines)

Physicists at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) have devised a viable way to manipulate a single 'bit' in a quantum processor without disturbing the information stored in its neighbors, using polarized light to create "effective" magnetic fields.

A great challenge in creating a working quantum computer is maintaining control over the carriers of information, the "switches" in a quantum processor while isolating them from the environment. These quantum bits, or "qubits," have the uncanny ability to exist in both "on" and "off" positions simultaneously, giving quantum computers the power to solve problems conventional computers find intractable – such as breaking complex cryptographic codes.
Unfortunately I was right: at least in predicting that the INFN exam dubbed "R5" would not go deserted. The R5 exam, which in exchange for a stressful pair of written tests (which I am trying to get a hold of, to report on it here) guaranteed nothing that the participants did not have beforehand  -a certification of readiness for a temporary position within INFN, which the institute cannot however offer, being short of cash-, saw the participation of 178 candidates among the about 350 who had submitted their application a couple of months ago. Barely more than half: this is a victory, since the participation is sufficient to grant value to the results.
"The INFN directorate may have invented the Identity operator in the space of qualifying exams"

Guido Volpi (commenting on FB on the very offensive R5 exam held today by INFN post-docs).
The 2009 World Conference on Science Journalism took place last week in heat-wave-struck London, at the convenient location of Westminster Central Hall (see below). More than 900 delegates got together from 90 countries to discuss the future of science journalism, understand the challenges the field is facing, and finding strategies to face them. An impressive event, excellently organized.



As I promised a week ago, I am posting answers to a few of the 42 questions which constituted the first part of an the exam selecting experimental particle physicists for the INFN (the italian institute of nuclear physics) four years ago. Next week, a similar exam will take place to "qualify" post-doctoral scientists which aspire at a temporary position with INFN.
In a few days, scores of Italian post-doctoral researchers in experimental particle physics will get tested on their knowledge of the matter, without any promise of a position, but just to get one further "stamp" on their curriculum, testifying that they are competent enough to be worth offering a temporary position by INFN, the Italian Institute for (sub)Nuclear Physics. So this is a  national exam, with the sole purpose of giving a green light to be admitted to two-year positions , which are typically paid less than 1400 euros a month, and which are so far not available. Frankly, I feel ashamed, since I myself work for INFN, and I strongly disagree with its current recruitment policies.
From Prof. Chad Orzel's Graduation Speech:

Science isn't a body of facts, science is a process for figuring out how the world works: you see something interesting, come up with an idea of why that might happen, and test you're idea to see if you're right. You repeat this process until you figure out why things happen the way they do, and then you use that knowledge to explain new things, or to do things that you couldn't do before.
If you have followed this blog for long enough, dear readers, the words "multi-muons", "anomalous muons", or even "lepton jets" are not foreign to you. They all refer to a paper appeared on the ArXiv on the evening of Halloween last year. In the paper the CDF collaboration published the results of a detailed analysis which described how a component of collider data containing two or more muons could not be explained by known Standard Model processes.