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The Era Of The Atom

"The era of the atom" is a new book by Piero Martin and Alessandra Viola - for now the book is...

Guess the Plot

I used to post on this blog very abstruse graphs from time to time, asking readers to guess what...

Fun With A Dobson

It is galaxy season in the northern hemisphere, with Ursa Mayor at the zenith during the night...

The Season Of Muons

Particle physics is so cool - you get to build huge detectors with a specific goal clearly stated...

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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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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)
Since I have started to write on this site, 13 months ago, I have realized that few of the contributors here discuss their private life and thoughts. But I was used to do it in my old site and so I still do it, because I conceive a blog as an online diary, and there are things I wish to write here just for the record, as a private memo, or to let you know what is in my mind, in case you wondered. Recently some anonymous troll complained in the comments thread that what I had written was irrelevant and self-contemplating -and I agreed, but asked him (her?) to please walk away rather than bothering me with similar lamentations.