Physical Sciences

As I mentioned in yesterday's post, there is a workshop going on this week at Fermilab, where 110 attendees - mostly particle physicists, but some computer scientists are also present - discuss how to push for more effective use of machine learning tools in the extraction of information on particle collisions. 

Also one goal is to understand what new ideas from the world of machine learning could find ideal applications in the typical use cases of research in fundamental physics. Here I wish to mention a few interesting things that I heard at the workshop so far, in random order. I will rarely make direct reference to the talks, to encourage you to dig into the pdf files available here.
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.

Short summary: it's an entertaining but rather far fetched proposal in an arxiv preprint not published anywhere but mentioned in a Scientific American op ed. Implausible for many reasons including its spectrum which is not the shiny spectrum you'd expect from a solar sail but the red of tholins mixed with rock and metal as you'd expect from an asteroid / comet.

I am getting many people contacting me scared of this asteroid, which was proved to miss Earth back on 1st August 2002! Right now, it is coming from below Earth's orbit, but not directly towards us. We are circling the sun at the same time. It crosses Earth's orbit ahead of us. By the time we get to the place where our orbits cross, it is already high above our orbit and moving away. It will be closest on 13th January, but even then it is at a vast distance of 61 million kilometers away. We already knew this back on 29 July, 2002,

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. 
Using FORS2, an instrument mounted on ESO’s Very Large Telescope, government astronomers have observed the active star-forming region NGC 2467 — the Skull and Crossbones Nebula, called such because of the dust, gas and bright young stars gravitationally bound into the form of a grinning skull.

NGC 2467 skulks in the constellation Puppis, which translates rather unromantically as The Poop Deck. And this was taken in March, but released near Halloween, so ESO has something to talk about.
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 ?
What would it take to grow potatoes or tomatoes in space? Some mycorrhiza, it turns out.

Currently NASA can't even get a telescope into space without being wildly over budget and 10 years behind schedule so they are not putting colonies on the moon any time soon. But the private sector might. And if that is going to be more than the plot of a film, it will take agriculture. 
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. 

This is a rather fun idea by Peter Koch originally suggested in the Moon Miner's Manifest Classics - 1987-1988 (see page 31). It's not so likely in the early stages, because of the large amounts of water needed to construct it, but it may perhaps be of great value at a later stage, especially for bases that have a lot of traffic in and out. If the liquid is water, it has to be over sixty meters deep (62.3 meters), to equalize the pressure inside and outside the habitat. The depth can be much less, if it is a denser fluid. You then don't need any doors but can just dive through it and come out on the surface of the Moon.