Physics

A week from now, Tuesday October 5th, the winner(s) of the 2010 Nobel Prize for physics will be announced. Predicting the Nobel laureates in physics is notoriously difficult. As part of their overall Nobel prize predictions, each year Thomson Reuters attempts to predict the winners in physics, but despite their habit of listing multiple candidates, so far they never managed to hit any of the annual winner(s).

This year Thomson Reuters might, for the first time, be lucky.
Pickering is quite a name in the philosophy of science, or science studies, sociology of scientific knowledge (SSK), or science and technology studies (STS).

He is especially interested in physics and writes about so called “old” versus “new” science.  He means and to this day insists on the difference being soft versus hard scattering in particle collider experiments, the latter being something that happened around the time he started to look into physics more than 30 years ago (oh coincidence).
The Large Hadron Collider is increasing gradually the number of proton bunches that circulate in the machine. Yesterday's fill saw 104 colliding proton bunches,  producing the record instantaneous luminosity of 3.5 x 10^31 collisions per square centimeter per second. This is no surprise, of course: luminosity is essentially the product of the number of particles crossing each other per second divided by the cross section of the beams, so if you increase the particles and manage to keep the beam transverse size constant, luminosity must go up.
"At that time, although recognized for the very high quality and reliability of its accelerator engineering, CERN unfortunately did not have a similar reputation in its physics, and it was still recovering from disasters such as the "split A2" affair. CERN always seemed to be second best behind the leading U.S. laboratories, with their vastly more experienced physicists. And during the 1960s it had been repeatedly beaten into the ground, for example, over the discoveries of the Omega- hypheron, the two types of neutrinos, and CP violation in K0 decay. All these things could and should have been found first at CERN, with its far greater technical resources, but the Americans had vastly more experience and know-how."

Donald Perkins
Scientists know that time passes faster at higher elevations.  It's a curious aspect of Einstein's theories of relativity that previously had to be measured by comparing clocks on the Earth's surface and rockets.

But NIST physicists have made it a lot more personal - a scale of about 1 foot - and showed that you even age faster if you are taller than your relative.   The good news is you won't be able to see the difference, that one foot difference in height adds about 90 billionths of a second over a 79-year lifetime.

The NIST researchers also observed another aspect of relativity, that time passes more slowly when you move faster, at speeds comparable to a car traveling about 20 miles per hour.
Despite time is a scarce resource for me these days, and my "working time balance" shows deep red, I am presently spending some of it to investigate a very interesting statistical effect of general nature, although specially connected to the issue of discovery thresholds in particle physics.

I am triggered by the recent eported observation of a new particle, which has been claimed at a significance corresponding to the coveted 5 standard deviations after a previous evidence had been extracted from 40% less data at 3.8 standard deviations. The matter has left me slightly dubious about the precision of the latter claim.

Now, before I state the problem, let me explain in short how significance is calculated in these kinds of new particle searches.
I devote only a short piece today to the topic of the week -or the month- in particle physics: as many of you already know, yesterday the CMS collaboration has made public the results of their analysis of two-particle correlations, which evidences an effect never seen before in hadronic collisions, and which has been saluted very emphatically by the press around the world.

The Analysis In Ten Lines
Black holes draw audiences, because they are weird, they are profound, they are Albert Einstein and Steven Hawking rolled into a singularity. Or some such – except, none of this is actually the case. The black hole is a much more mundane concept, older than relativity, and despite much misinformation in popular and pseudo science, black holes have in a certain sense little to do with relativity (and I say this although and because I worked for many years on black holes and used general relativity when doing so).
I am currently running an experiment, with multiple aims. I have created a new blog in wordpress, where I intend to publish a translation to modern Greek of selected articles that I have written in the past. The first attempt is already there (work is in progress, though, given my multiple occupations these days). In the blog I also offer to translate older posts on demand.
"If they would only do as he did and publish posthumously, we should all be saved a lot of trouble".

[Maurice Kendall, famous British statistician, talking of Bayesians (statisticians who employ Bayes' theorem and Bayes' approach to statistical inference, particularly related to  the use of "prior beliefs") and of Bayes himself, whose groundbreaking work was only published after his death]