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A Cool Rare Decay

By and large, particle physicists confronted with the need to awe and enthuse an audience of laypersons...

Move Over - The Talk I Will Not Give

Last week I was in Amsterdam, where I attended the first European AI for Fundamental Physics...

Shaping The Future Of AI For Fundamental Physics

From April 30 to May 3 more than 300 researchers in fundamental physics will gather in Amsterdam...

On Rating Universities

In a world where we live hostages of advertisement, where our email addresses and phone numbers...

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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 and the SWGO experiments. He is the president of the Read More »

Peter Higgs passed away yesterday, at the age of 94. The scottish physicist, a winner of the 2013 Nobel Prize in Physics together with Francois Englert, hypothesized in 1964 the existence of the most mysterious elementary particle we know of, the Higgs boson, which was only discovered 48 years later by the ATLAS and CMS collaborations at the CERN Large Hadron Collider. 

In the course of Statistics for Data Analysis I give every spring to PhD students in Physics I spend some time discussing the apparently trivial problem of evaluating the significance of an excess of observed events N over expected background B. 

This is a quite common setup in many searches in Physics and Astrophysics: you have some detection apparatus that records the number of phenomena of a specified kind, and you let it run for some time, whereafter you declare that you have observed N of them. If the occurrence of each phenomenon has equal probability and they do not influence one another, that number N is understood to be sampled from a Poisson distribution of mean B. 
About a month ago I was contacted by a colleague who invited me to write a piece on the topic of science outreach for an electronic journal (Ithaca). I was happy to accept, but when I later pondered on what I would have liked to write, I could not help thinking back at a piece on the power and limits of the use of analogies in the explanation of physics, which I wrote 12 years ago as a proceedings paper for a conference themed on physics outreach in Torino. It dawned on me that although 12 years had gone by, my understanding of what constitutes good techniques for engagement of the public and for effective communication of scientific concepts had not widened very significantly. 
At a recent meeting of the board of editors of a journal I am an editor of, it was decided to produce a special issue (to commemorate an important anniversary). As I liked the idea I got carried away a bit, and proposed to write an article for it. 
March is here, and with it begins a season of intense travel for me - something which for some combination of reasons has become sort of a habit. First, workshops and conferences are rarely scheduled in the December-February period. Second, the Christmas vacations put a sort of break to all activities and disrupt the flow. Third, I teach a course in the first semester, which is now over. And fourth, INFN funding mechanisms imply that it is harder to travel in those months (yearly budgets close toward the end of November, and funds become again available only a bit after the new year starts).
Muon tomography is one of the most important spinoffs of fundamental research with particle detectors -if not the most important.