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Cosmic Messengers (Part 2): A Multi-Dimensional View Of The Universe

[This is the second part of a two-part article on Cosmic Messenger astrophysics. For part 1, please...

Cosmic Messengers: A Multi-Dimensional View Of The Universe

Have you ever looked up to a clear sky on a moonless night, in a place away from large cities?...

Challenge: Measure Muons Energy With High-School Math And Win A Mug!

Today I wish to offer you, dear reader, the chance to contribute to scientific research in particle...

CMS Leads Search For Higgs Pair Production

Eight years ago the CMS and ATLAS experiments, giant electronic eyes watching proton-proton collisions...

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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 »

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I know, Google has been around for decades by now, and nobody should be surprised to learn how easy they have made the life of information seekers, among other things (I am also an addict of their search engine, scholar, maps, trends, and gmail utilities). But my mouth still dropped today as I discovered their "ngram viewer". 
It happened by chance. I was trying to find out whether "as best as possible" is really a correct English phrase, or if it is just a tad slang, and the google search pointed to a page where the matter was settled by a cool graph:



Broadly speaking, radioactivity is not something one should mess with just as a pastime. Indeed, ionizing radiation has the potential of causing carcinogenic mutations in your cells DNA, as well as produce damage to cell tissue. Indeed, it makes me chuckle that until 50 years ago or so kids could play with it by purchasing stuff like that shown below...



If you know what you are dealing with and take the necessary precautions, however, radiation _can_ be fun to study at home. The tools and the primary matter are not found at the corner grocery, though, so you need to have a specific interest in it before you get ready to start. 
Everybody would agree that 2020 was a difficult time for all of us - the pandemic forced on us dramatic changes in our way of living, working, and interacting with one another; and let's leave alone the horrible, avoidable death toll that came with it. Notwithstanding, for some reason it was a productive year for me, and one which has potentially paved the ground for an even more productive future. Below I will summarize, if only for myself, the most important work milestones of the past year, and the ones that lay ahead in the forthcoming months. But I will also touch on a few ancillary activities and their outcome, for the record.

Geometry optimization of a muon-electron scattering experiment (MUonE) 
Ever had a nervous breakdown by reading Facebook threads where absolutely incompetent people entertain similar ignoramuses by providing explanations of everything from quantum physics to the way vaccines work? Or did you ever have to apply yoga techniques to avoid jumping into a bar conversation wherein some smart ass worked his audience by explaining things he clearly did not have the dimmest clue about?
In what is a once-in-a-few-lifetimes experience, I witnessed today the conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn in the evening sky (with a crescent moon thrown in to boot). While every sixteen years or so the two planets end up angularly close because of their different orbital period (Jupiter revolves around our Sun in 11.9 years, Saturn takes 29.4 years), small differences in their orbital planes make the smallest distance they reach usually of the order a degree. 
Meteor showers are a spectacular phenomenon that takes place when the Earth intersects the path along which periodic comets (or less frequently, asteroidal bodies) orbit the Sun. Comets lose debris when they get close to perihelion, but the debris does not get lost in all directions - it continues to follow the comet's path in the solar system.