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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 »

Every time I lecture my students about the static quark model I find that the construction of hadrons from their constituents is really entertaining. Probably I have more fun than my students as I explain the details, but today you get to be the judge - I am going to explain it here, and test your patience and skills as a matter builder.

Hadrons are composite particles made of quarks. The word "hadron" comes from ancient Greek αδρος, which means "thick, bulky". The two hadrons we know best are protons and neutrons, which make up atomic nuclei; but there exist literally hundreds more, which are unstable and decay very quickly after they are created, in subnuclear reactions we can produce using particle accelerators. 
For some reason today I remembered that 11 years ago (wow time flies) I wrote a two-parts piece on advices for PhD students doing a thesis in experimental particle physics. As I checked it out, I found that I mostly share the views I had back then (TBH that's not necessarily a good thing - consistency requires you to be as ignorant as you were earlier on). Since I think that stuff I posted over 10 years ago are otherwise lost in oblivion and not picked up by generic google searches, I decided it is time to recycle that text - here it is below, unamended but collated into a single longish article. Enjoy!
Marco Fulvio Barozzi (b.
Particle Physics deals with the study of the elementary constituents of matter, and the interactions that they withstand. When non-insiders hear of elementary particles and the experiments that study them, probably their mind goes to experiments at the Large Hadron Collider, CERN's giant accelerator of protons and heavy ions that produced the collisions used by the ATLAS and CMS experiments in 2012 to discover the Higgs boson. The association with LHC and the Higgs particle is very likely because that discovery took the media by storm when it was announced, and rightly so.
W bosons, what are they? To answer this question, let me first tell you that our world is made of matter held together by forces. If you look deep within, you will realize that matter is essentially constituted by "fermions": quarks and leptons, particles that possess a half-integer unit of spin, in a certain meaningful system of measurement units. Forces, on the other hand, are the result of fermions exchanging different particles called "bosons", particles that possess integer units of spin.
"Anti-scientific thinking" is a bad disease of our time, and one which may affect a wide range of human beings, from illiterate fanatics such as anti-vaxxers and religious fundamentalists on one side, to highly-educated and brilliant individuals on the other side. It is a sad realization to see how diversified and strong has become this general attitude of denying the usefulness of scientific progress and research, especially in a world where science is behind every good thing you use in your daily life, from the internet to your cell-phone, or from anti-cavity toothpaste to hadron therapy against tumours.