Right now (3PM Central European Time), Venice is being hit by the third biggest flood in over a century - in fact I think it is the third biggest flood ever recorded. The water is predicted to surge to 1.60 meters above average sea level, which means that most of the ground in the island will be under 50 cm of water, with some parts of the town under up to 80 cm.
The strongest high tide in history is the one of November 4th, 1966, with 1.94 meters above sea level. And the second one I recall happened in 1980, with 1.68 meters. In both cases the damage was very large. In the recent past Venice has withstood some improvements, with new pavements in many of the most used walkways, but these sea levels mean that if you want to walk around you need proper fishing gear.
What is Dark Matter (DM) and why should you care? I feel I should start this article by explaining these two things first, as we live in an age when nobody has time for long historical or context-setting introductions.
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.