First of all, I did some pretty chaotic travel in the past eight weeks, something which is getting unfortunately customary as of late. This brought me to Bruxelles, Santiago, Valparaiso, Paris, Lyon, and Rome. I also spent a couple of days of vacation in the Atacama desert, and will be blogging about that in another post soon.
Then, the work for my European network (AMVA4NewPhysics) took a large share of my time. This is a consortium of 15 research institutes, universities, and industrial partners that cooperate to offer "innovative training" in particle physics and advanced statistical learning methods to a few lucky Ph.D. students. As the scientific coordinator of the whole network I have my hands busy with this job. I will also discuss this in more detail somewhere else. Oh and, by the way: the network also has a blog, where students and participants describe their ongoing activities. Don't forget to have a look!
Research activities have progressed, with the submission to JHEP of an article describing a very nice compression technique that allows physicists to optimize their searches for new physics in wide and multi-dimensional spaces of the model parameters. (You can read a preliminary version of that article here).
My editorial work for the Elsevier journal "Reviews in Physics" has also started to give some fruits, as one excellent review article on single top quark production by Andrea Giammanco (a long-time reader of this blog, by the way) has been finally published. Reviews in Physics publishes "gold open access" articles, so you can read it for free here. And several other articles will soon appear, the first one by Passarino and David (the preprint is already out).
(By the way: if you are a relatively young but reknowned expert of a field of physics and you want to write a 15-20 page review of a specific topic -status and perspectives-, please contact me!)
And finally, starting on January 20th I am the new coordinator of the "Gruppo I" of the Padova section of INFN. What this means must sound very cryptic to you, but in summary I have burdened myself with some extra responsibilities, but this makes me happy as it will give me the chance to contribute -within the scope of my limited skills and wits- to the steering of the INFN research activities in accelerator-based physics during the next four years.
All of the above would not have been enough to keep me away from blogging for two months!, and in fact here I am, while the above still stands. What has finished on January 31st, though, is the polishing off of a book that I have been wrting in the past few years. Its tentative cover is shown below.
The book, which is titled "Anomaly!", tells the story of the CDF experiment at the 1.8-TeV Fermilab proton-antiproton collider, the Tevatron, from its design in the early eighties to the end of the Run 1 analyses (early 2000s). As I wrote a first draft of the back-cover of the book this afternoon, I reckon it is synergic if I just cut and paste the text I came up with below, rather than trying my hand at giving the same information with a different slant here:
Between 1985 and the early 2000's an international collaboration of 600 physicists embarked in the investigation of subnuclear physics at the high-energy frontier. Besides discovering the top quark, the heaviest elementary particle ever observed, the physicists analyzed their data to seek for new phenomena that could revolutionize our understanding of nature.
"Anomaly!" tells the story of the discovery of the top quark as well as of many other data analyses by the Collider Detector at Fermilab, focusing on several spurious signals of new physics ("anomalies") that were unearthed in the process. These surprising anomalies proved highly controversial and they created internal clashes. To some collaborators the tentative new physics effects called for a prompt publication, while to others their divulgation threatened to jeopardize the reputation of the experiment.
Using a narrative style more common in novels than in scientific essays, this book looks at the sociology of a large scientific collaboration, providing insight in the relationships between top physicists at the turn of the millennium. The stories offer an insiders' view of the genesis and life cycle of the unavoidable "failed" discoveries that accompany even the greatest endeavours in modern particle physics, from the search of the Higgs boson to the contemporary quest of new physics ongoing at the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN).
The foreseen publication date of the book, by World Scientific, is October this year -yes, it takes time to produce a book! I of course will keep you informed on its publication path, as I wrote it for you, dear reader. The book is in fact written in the same style I use for this blog, that is, with the same goal: the one of getting more and more people interested in fundamental science.
During the past couple of years I offered in this blog several clips of text that were originally written for the book. I will probably keep doing the same now, as the original product was 400-thick-pages long but I trimmed it back to a more manageable 260. I am therefore sitting on a lot of extra material, and I will have to decide what to do with it. Perhaps I will post it here, or rather use it for a second book, which should finish the job with a description of Run 2.
Run 2 of the Tevatron collider, which was upgraded to higher luminosity and to 2-TeV energy after the end of Run 1, was predicted to "be a maelstrom" in comparison to the previous run by Dan Amidei, a CDF colleague from the University of Michigan. Dan was both right and wrong in his assessment, spelt out at the end of a heated meeting 15 years ago. I remember the occasion: back then our collaborators appeared a bit too concerned with the current controversial situations CDF had found itself in, due to the lack of consensus on how to handle a few anomalies. Eventually Run 2 turn out to be more peaceful than Run 1 for CDF, but it was definitely not uneventful. Maybe I will write about that some day, too.