What is the size of the universe? How heavy is it? How big can black holes grow? How small are subatomic particles? How many orders of magnitude will I cross when going from the microscopic quantum world to the edge of the universe? Are we humans somewhere in the middle between all these length scales?
This is the second part of a two-part collection of tips for particle physics graduate students. The first part is here.

Three: be a fool today if you want to be a guru tomorrow

The third advice I have in store for Jane is maybe the toughest to follow, at least at first. But I do believe it is of critical importance for her to grow, become knowledgeable, and distinguish herself from the rest of the pack.
My blog is not a place for hot-off-the-press news - in it you are more likely to find discussions on material well digested and thought over. Nevertheless, I do not have the guts to sit on today's news. The Large Hadron Collider at CERN has produced its first high-energy proton-proton collisions, in the core of the experiments instrumenting its underground caverns.

It has been a long way since the first design of this extraordinary machine. I was reminded of just how much effort the construction and commissioning took by a slide shown by Ives Sirois at a workshop in Turin today: it is a schedule of the construction of the LHC dated 1989!

Being a graduate student in particle physics is a tough, stressful job. I know it because I once was one, and I still remember the burden of giving exams, carrying on single-handedly a difficult analysis, and desperately struggling to learn the job of particle physicist, all the while trying to prove my worth to my colleagues. On the personal side, further trouble compounds the situation: one is usually fighting with tight money, stranded away from her family and boyfriend, and finds herself in the company of people whose similar priorities make the otherwise natural impulse of "having fun whenever possible" the last of their thoughts.
Not only has the Large Hadron Collider been successfully turned back on and run particle beams in both directions at ludicrous speed, but it has now smacked them together and recorded the collision.

All I'm going to say, people, is that you cannot qualify as a geek if you are not Twitter following CERN.

Particle Physics had a short fling with Numerology in its young years, but the two have never met again since then.


It happens in the best families, so they say. Two experiments work 24/7 to produce an improved result on the Higgs search, and the result is disappointing, to say the least.

I am talking about the Tevatron, of course. For a little while longer, CDF and D0 will have the exclusive on Higgs boson searches. Last March, we all rejoyced when we saw that the Tevatron was starting to become sensitive to a high-mass Higgs, and indeed it excluded its existence in a range of masses between 160 and 170 GeV. We were waiting for more exclusions for the winter conferences of 2010, when more data would be used to produce improved results. Instead, no improvement, but actually, a retractatio. How is that possible ??

I recently discussed here the Tevatron results of searches for new Z bosons in electron-positron or dimuon samples collected by CDF and DZERO, pointing out that there seem to be a couple of intriguing upward fluctuations in the data. One of the dielectron fluctuations sits at a mass of 240 GeV, the other, also in the dielectron spectrum, is at about 720 GeV. Neither is compelling.
Today CNN features a short video with an interview to Professor Nielsen, the mastermind behind the whole "Higgs comes back from the future to prevent its own creation" crap.  I wrote about the matter a couple of times in the past, and will not reiterate here that I think his suggestions to pull out cards from a deck to decide whether to carry on basic research with the LHC is a unmitigated pile of you know what.
What is the most important object physicists manipulate everyday?

My answer with no hesitation is : the Lagrangian !

What is it? simply the object that contain everything one need to know about a given physical system.