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The Future Of Particle Physics Discussed In Granada

And there it starts. At a very important juncture for fundamental science, physicists are gathering...

Anomaly Detection In Action

A few weeks ago I posted here an idea of how one could design an algorithm that looks for new physics...

New Mineral Specimen

Should you ever get invited to a party at my house in Padova, you will discover something that...

Anomaly Detection: Unsupervised Learning For New Physics Searches

Experimental particle physics, the field of research I have been involved in since my infancy as...

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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 »

Before you brush off this post with the answer "of course", let me qualify the title. Of course anybody can become a particle physicist, although the learning curve can be steep and hard to climb up. But what I mean here is, can a student who has been trained as a statistician (through his or her bachelor and master degree) become a successful experimental particle physicist, without investing other years of his or her life in studying quantum mechanics and lots of other arcane physics topics ?
Particle physics has been historically the ground of long-standing scientific challenges between the US and Europe, especially since the birth of the CERN laboratories in 1954. And in parallel, another challenge has kept the field alive and thriving for over half a century: the one between theoretical and experimental physics. 
The world of particle physics is in turmoil because of a presentation by Alessandro Strumia, an Italian phenomenologist, at CERN's "1st workshop on high energy theory and gender", and its aftermath. 
By now the story has been echoed by many major newscasters around the world, and discussed in public and private forums, blogs, twitter feeds. I wanted to stay away from it here, mainly because it is a sensitive issue and the situation is still evolving, but after all, why not offer to you my personal pitch on the matter? Strumia, by the way, has been an occasional commenter to this blog - you can find some of his comments signed as "AS" in threads of past articles. Usually he makes good points here, as long as physics is the subject.
Casual reader, be warned - the contents of this article, specifically the second part of it, are highly volatile, speculative stuff. But hey, that is the stuff that dreams are made of. And I have one or two good reasons to dream on.

The environment
So you're planning ahead for your next trip to a remote location, and you try to make sense of those TripAdvisor listings. Great tool - there's a bunch of there around, but let's focus on that one here. It allows you to type in your preferences, location, restrictions, and it dumps a list of facilities together with easy access to the reviews of previous customers. How could we possibly live without it, twenty years ago?
Now, the point of this article is to make sure you can USE the data you are able to get on the web. I use to say "there's not such a thing as too much information", but then I shoud qualify that statement: it all depends on whether you have a brain and a will to put it to work. 
What is a photon jet? Despite their exotic name, photon jets are a well studied thing nowadays. The original studies were performed by experimentalists who aimed to test quantum chromodynamics: they used to spend their time discriminating prompt photon production in hadron collisions from backgrounds. I remember a lot of such studies were performed in the 80ies and 90ies by my CDF colleagues, especially within the "QCD working group".
The importance of the detection of single, isolated photons of high energy has risen enormously since then, given their role in the discovery of the Higgs boson. Photon jets are in fact the background to beat down if you want a neat peak of H --> γγ decays to pop out of a mass histogram constructed from events featuring two photon candidates.