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Fighting Plagiarism In Scientific Papers

Plagiarism is the most sincere form of flattery, they say (or rather, this is said of imitation)...

Another One Bites The Dust - WW Cross Section Gets Back Where It Belongs

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Spring is finally in, and with it the great expectations for a new run of the Large Hadron Collider...

Watch The Solar Eclipse On Friday!

In the morning of March 20th Europeans will be treated with the amazing show of a total solar eclipse...

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Tommaso DorigoRSS Feed of this column.

I am an experimental particle physicist working with the CMS experiment at CERN. In my spare time I play chess, abuse the piano, and aim my dobson telescope at faint galaxies.... Read More »

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After two years spent saying that Italy has a strong economy and is doing better than the rest of Europe, and strongly criticizing whomever tried to warn that the economical crisis was not over yet, the Italian government led by Silvio Berlusconi has made a sharp turn. The buzzword is now "avert the Greek risk", and while painting dreadful scenarios Berlusconi and his ministers have crafted a finance law that drags over 30 billion euros mostly from salaries. The anti-Robin-Hood strikes again.
I just received by Matin Durrani, editor of Physics World, a link to a fun game, and thought I'd give it a try. The game consists in guessing which among two titles of physics papers is right, and which one is instead artificially generated by the snarxiv, a witty endeavour which aims at showing just how arcane and odd-looking may physics abstracts be.

Try it for yourself here, it is not as easy as it sounds, but at least it is fast and immediate to play. I cannot avoid bragging about my own result here, which is more or less in line with my actual qualification as a professional physicist:
Not even a week has passed since the announcement by Carlo Rubbia that the ICARUS experiment is collecting its first neutrino interactions, that another experiment at the Gran Sasso Laboratory claims the international scene of neutrino physics. And this time with a real reason. Not the observation of the first events - the experiment in question, OPERA, has been active for more than three years now- but for the observation of a fundamental process that had never been seen before!


In a mail message sent to the INFN president Roberto Petronzio and a few other distinguished particle physicists (not me, I got it third-hand), Carlo Rubbia announced today at 3.53 PM that the ICARUS experiment has begun operations. Below is the unamended text, which I excuse myself if I distribute freely, given the scientific value of the information and my conviction that I am not harming in any way the experiment nor the people involved (leave alone my own employer, INFN):

"We have the pleasure to announce that today at 12:14. immediately after turn on of the detector, tracks have been observed by one of the cryostats of T600 triggered by the internal phototube counters.
And after all, it is just a matter of language.

I am convinced that 99% of the reason why a person with no scientific background cannot follow the developments of a particular research topic, despite a strong will, is language. Not the lack of ten years of specialization, nor the dearth of basic knowledge. Anything that can be explained in plain English -anything- can be understood by an English speaker willing to listen.

So why is it so hard then? Cannot we, the scientists, just make that little extra effort and step down a bit from our self-erected podium? Or is it not really needed, given the number of science reporters out there, who actually do a pretty good job in most cases?
"There is no better way to learn something than to write about it"

Martin Gardner (via Johannes Koelman)