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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 »

"The basic goal for CDF is to measure the energy, momentum, and, where possible, the identity, of particles produced at the Tevatron collider over as large a fraction of the solid angle as practical. Our strategy to accomplish this was to surround the interaction region with layers of different detector components. Starting at the interaction point, particles encounter in sequence: a thin wall Be vacuum chamber, charged particle tracking chambers, sampling calorimeters, and muon detectors."

F. Abe et al., The CDF Detector: an Overview, NIM A271 (1988) 387.
Last Monday Stephen Hawking gave a lecture at the George Washington University for the 50th anniversary of NASA. There he discussed the chance of a contact between our civilization and an extraterrestrial one. And he warned about the risks we may be facing.
My friend Peppe Liberti, a physicist and blogger from southern Italy, sent me today a amusing list of essential biographies of scientists. I wish to share them with you here, after I explain what this is about.

The rules of the game are quite simple: find an amusing way to summarize as succintly as possible (usually not exceeding two lines of text) the life and works of a well-known scientist.

Here is Peppe's bid: five really good ones.

  • Ludwig Boltzmann was one that sought an equilibrium. He died in an irreversible manner.

  • Georg Cantor tried to order the infinities. Ended in a closed set.

Researchers who blog are a rare and endangered species.

As far as rarity is concerned, it is easy to understand why that is so. Scientific research is a round-the-clock occupation, not your regular nine-to-five job. If a researcher has spare time, he or she is expected to invest it in doing more research: for Science is a mission, not a job! Because of that, finding the time to do outreach in a blog, broadcasting recent scientific results, or just expressing one's views is a demanding challenge, especially when one also has a family to attend to.
"Every great man nowadays has his disciples, but it is always Judas who writes the biography."

Oscar Wilde
Analogies are a powerful way to explain complicated scientific concepts. I use them as much as I can whenever I describe particle physics in this blog or when I give a outreach talk in a school. However, good ones are not always easy to find. One usually needs examples from everyday life, which are simple to describe and which do not possess distracting features.

Today I wish to try my luck with you, to see if you come up with an analogy which is better than the one I could find to explain a feature of weak interactions. I must say I am not dissatisfied with my own find, but it is always good to subject oneselves to external judgement.