When I took Hwy 88-E toward Fermilab, shortly after landing at the Chicago O' Hare Airport yesterday afternoon, it occurred to me that the first time I had driven there happened 26 years and five months ago, in June 1992, when I was 26 years and five months old.
What makes the observation significant is that the trip to Fermilab I made 26 years ago arguably marked the start of my career as a particle physicist, something that I consider as a non-trivial defining moment in my life. I was still a student back then, but from that point on I started doing serious research with the physics of elementary particles, and I have never stopped doing that since.
I flew to the US yesterday to get to Fermilab, where I am following a workshop titled Machine learning for jet physics
". My goal of this post is to explain what this is about in general terms, such that if I have enough stamina I will give, in follow-ups to it, a few examples of the status of this interesting research activity, which encompasses particle physics and computer science and can provide spin-offs in a number of related areas of fundamental research.
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.