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What Is Statistical Significance?

Yesterday, October 20, was the international day of Statistics. I took inspiration from it to select...

Merging Neutron Stars: Why It's A Breakthrough, And Why You Should Stand Your Ground

Like many others, I listened to yesterday's (10/16/17) press release at the NSF without a special...

Trevor Hastie Lectures In Padova

Trevor Hastie, the Stanford University guru on Statistical Learning (he coined the term together...

The Physics Of Boson Pairs

At 10:00 AM this morning, my smartphone alerted me that in two months I will have to deliver a...

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Tommaso DorigoRSS Feed of this column.

Tommaso Dorigo is an experimental particle physicist, who works for the INFN at the University of Padova, and collaborates with the CMS experiment at the CERN LHC. He coordinates the European network... Read More »

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The top quark is the heaviest known matter corpuscle we consider elementary. 
Elementary is an overloaded word in English, so I need to explain what it means in the context of subatomic particles. If we grab a dictionary we get several possibilities, like e.g.- elementary: pertanining to or dealing with elements, rudiments, or first principles


- elementary: of the nature of an ultimate constituent; uncompounded
- elementary: not decomposable into elements or other primary constituents
- elementary: simple
In 1952 my uncle Antonio, then 18 years old, left his family home in Venice, Italy to never return, running away from the humiliation of a failure at school. With a friend he reached the border with France and crossed it during the night, chased by border patrols and wolves. Caught by the French police Toni - that was the abbreviated name with which was known by everybody - was offered a choice: be sent back to Italy, facing three months of jail, or enrol in the French legion. Afraid of the humiliation and the consequences, he tragically chose the latter.
Another chapter in the saga of the search for the elusive, but dominant, decay mode of the Higgs boson has been reported by the CMS collaboration last month. This is one of those specific sub-fields of research where a hard competition arises on the answer to a relatively minor scientific question. That the Higgs boson couples to b-quarks is indirectly already well demonstrated by a number of other measurements - its coupling to (third generation) quarks being demonstrated by its production rate, for example. Yet, being the first ones to "observe" the H->bb decay is a coveted goal.
Back from vacations, I think I need to report a few random things before I get back into physics blogging. So I'll peruse the science20 article category aptly called "Random Thoughts" for this one occasion.
My summer vacations took place just after a week spent in Ecuador, where I gave 6 hours of lectures on LHC physics and statistics for data analysis to astrophysics PhD students. I did report about that and an eventful hike in the last post. Unfortunately, the first week of my alleged rest was mostly spent fixing a few documents that the European Commission expected to receive by August 31st. As a coordinator of a training network, I have indeed certain obligations that I cannot escape. 

If I am alive, I probably owe it to my current very good physical shape.

That does not mean I narrowly escaped a certain death; rather, it means that if I had been slower there are good chances I would have got hit by lightning, under arduous conditions, at 4300 meters of altitude.

This is the fifth and final part of Chapter 3 of the book "Anomaly! Collider Physics and the Quest for New Phenomena at Fermilab". (the beginning of the chapter was omitted since it described a different story). The chapter recounts the pioneering measurement of the Z mass by the CDF detector, and the competition with SLAC during the summer of 1989.  The title of the post is the same as the one of chapter 3, and it refers to the way some SLAC physicists called their Fermilab colleagues, whose hadron collider was to their eyes obviously inferior to the electron-positron linear collider.