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The Magic Dimuon Decay Of B Mesons

To appreciate what B mesons are, and what is the magic of their behaviour, which is the topic of...

New Hadrons Decaying Into J/Psi Pairs

Physicists from the CMS experiment at CERN's Large Hadron Collider have used the total data sample...

A Fantasy In Db Minor

Now and then I find the time to write music for piano. It is a compelling, satisfying activity...

Artificial-Intelligence Assisted Design Of Experiments

Yes, I know - I have touched on this topic already a couple of times in this blog, so you have...

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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 »

Eight years ago the CMS and ATLAS experiments, giant electronic eyes watching proton-proton collisions delivered in their interior by the CERN Large Hadron Collider (LHC), discovered the Higgs boson. That particle was the last piece of the subnuclear puzzle of elementary particles predicted by the so-called "Standard Model", a revered theory devised by Glashow, Salam and Weinberg in 1967 to describe electromagnetic, weak, and then strong interactions between matter bodies. 
The Higgs boson itself is even older, having been hypothesized by a few theorists as far back as 1964 to explain an apparent paradox with massive vector bosons, particles that had to be massless in order to not violate a symmetry principle that could in no way be waived.
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.