I have always been fascinated by optical instruments that provide magnified views of Nature: microscopes, binoculars, telescopes. As a child I badly wanted to watch the Moon, planets, and stars, and see as much detail as I could on all possible targets; at the same time, I avidly used a toy microscope to watch the microworld. So it is not a surprise to find out I have grown up into a particle physicist - I worked hard to put myself in a vantage position from where I can study the smallest building blocks of matter with the most powerful microscope ever constructed, the Large Hadron Collider (LHC).
Last night I was absolutely mesmerized by observing the transit of Ganymede and Io, two of Jupiter's largest four moons, on Jupiter's disk. Along with them, their respective ink-black shadows slowly crossed the illuminated disk of the gas giant. The show lasted a few hours, and by observing it through a telescope I could see a three-dimensional view of the bodies, and appreciate the dynamics of that miniature planetary system.
In this post I wish to explain to you, dear reader, just why the whole thing is so fascinating and fantabulous to see, in the hope that, should you have a chance to observe it yourself, you grab the occasion without considering the lack of sleep it entails. I am sure you will thank me later.
I know, the title of this article will not have you jump on your chair. Most probably, if you are reading these lines you are either terribly bored and in search of anything that can shake you from that state - but let me assure you that will not happen - or you are a freaking enthusiast of heavy flavour physics. In the latter case, you also probably do not need to read further. So why am I writing on anyway? Because I think physics is phun, and rare decays of heavy flavoured hadrons are interesting in their own right.
And there it starts. At a very important juncture for fundamental science, physicists are gathering in Granada this week
as part of a multi-pronged program that will lead to agreeing on what are the priorities for particle physics in Europe.
Given that particle physics is a global, collaborative endeavour nowadays, with experiments typically composed by thousands of physicists from all around the world, we can be sure that what will be agreed is going to shape the future years of this experimental discipline, as not only European projects are discussed, but more in general all projects to which European scientists contribute.
A few weeks ago I posted here an idea
of how one could design an algorithm that looks for new physics processes in Large Hadron Collider data, without giving the algorithm any knowledge whatsoever of how those new physics processes should behave.
Should you ever get invited to a party at my house in Padova, you will discover something that I otherwise do not publicize much - I am an avid mineral collector. I started as a child, fascinated by the colours and shapes that those shiny crystals could take - a rare instance of Nature betraying its inner secrets, for those shapes, easy to make out by sight or touch, faithfully reproduce the organization of their atomic lattice.