If you are a follower of Science20, you probably know that I have always been very liberal in this column about what deserves to be mentioned as a possible new idea in Physics. I even invited some "non-conventional", independent scientists to write about their own ideas and pet theories here, in many occasions. I do not think this collides with the main purpose of this blog, which is to discuss real science and do some proper outreach and dissemination. In fact, I find it instructive and enlightening on what really Science is.
The title of this post is no news for particle physicists - particle detectors are complex instruments and they work by interpreting the result of stochastic phenomena taking place when radiation interacts with the matter of which detectors are built, and it looks only natural that deep learning algorithms can help improve our measurements in such a complex environment.
However, in this post I will give an example of something qualitatively different to providing an improvement of a measurement: one where a deep convolutional network model may extract information that we were simply incapable of making sense of. This means that the algorithm allows us to employ our detector in a new way.
The neutron, discovered in 1932 by Chadwick, is a fascinating particle whose existence allows for the stability of heavy nuclei and a wealth of atoms of different properties. Without neutrons, Hydrogen would be the only stable element: protons cannot be brought together and bound in a stable system, so e.g. Helium-2 (an atom made of two protons with two electrons) is very short-lived, as are atoms with more protons and no neutrons. So our Universe would be a very dull place.
Interference is a fascinating effect, and one which can be observed in a wide variety of physical systems - any system that involves the propagation of waves from different sources. We can observe interference between waves in the sea or in a lake, or even in our bathtub; we can hear the effect of interference between sound waves; or we can observe the fascinating patterns created by interference effects in light propagation. In addition to all that, we observe interference between the amplitudes of quantum phenomena by studying particle physics processes.
A bit over a half into my course of particle physics for Masters students in Statistical Sciences I usually find myself describing the CMS detector in some detail, and that is what happened last week.
My course has a duration of 64 hours, and is structured in four parts. In the first part, which usually takes about 24 hours to complete, I go over the most relevant part of 20th Century physics. We start from the old quantum theory and then we look at special relativity, the fundaments of quantum mechanics, the theory of scattering, the study of hadrons and the symmetries that lead to the quark model, to finish with the Higgs mechanism and the Standard Model.