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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 »

The Fermi collaboration released yesterday a paper describing their measurement of the electron and positron flux of cosmic rays. Simultaneously, a second paper was published by the HESS collaboration on the very same topic. Together, these two important new articles provide the means for a significant advancement in our understanding of the spectrum of electrons and positrons from nearby sources.

It is especially meaningful to consider the two results together because the two instruments are as different as salt grains and tequila. Let me see where to start:

This morning I signed a contract with INFN, the Italian Institute for Nuclear Physics, which grants me tenure in the role of research scientist. Start date: 05/04/2009. End of penalty: never.

Am I happy about it ? Maybe I should, but I have to confess I feel absolutely nothing - a void. Signing the contract felt like signing the receipt of a mediocre meal. Lest I get flamed, let me explain why I am not rejoicing, nor  am ordering a box of Dom Perignon.
Triggered by a preprint appeared three days ago on the ArXiV -a fundamental resource for particle physicists willing to stay in touch with the latest developments of the theory and new experimental results-  this morning I was gearing up to write a post with a careful, didactical discussion of why we believe that the subnuclear world includes three generations of quarks and three generations of leptons, what is the evidence for this peculiar fact, and what would a fourth generation of matter imply for e.g. searches of the Higgs boson. Unfortunately, my memory is still good enough to let me remember that I did write about those things in my old blog, about one year ago.
A new report on the freedom of press has been released today by Freedom House is an independent, non-profit organization created in 1941 to monitor and defend the freedom of press in the World. The study is being presented today at the Washington News Museum, and the event can be followed via a live webcast through the organization's web site.

According to the report, freedom of press is declining everywhere, and it has been doing so for seven years in a row. The phenomenon is not just due to a few non-liberal countries:
The rollback was not confined to traditionally authoritarian states; with Israel, Italy and Hong Kong slipping from the study's Free
2008 was a horrible year for the Large Hadron Collider. Just nine days after an extremely successful, highly publicized start-up on September 10th, when hundreds of reporters gathered at CERN to follow the protons as they ventured sector by sector to manage a full turn of the 27 km ring, a stupidly crafted electrical connection failed in sector 3-4 of the machine. This brought above criticality a superconducting solenoid, vaporized six tons of liquid helium, and damaged 53 expensive magnets in the sector with a powerful blast.
These are hard times for evil guys like me, who are always willing to speculate wildly on particle physics results -only to secretly chuckle at the ripples their extrapolations make, knowing for a fact that the Standard Model is as solid as it has ever been.

Suggestive new results which offer themselves as the first hint of a breakdown of the Standard Model are indeed quite rare nowadays. In a famous post which originated a $1000 bet (taken up in part by Prof. Gordon Watts and in part by Prof. Jacques Distler), no less than 32 months ago I was writing in my old blog: