The Longest Now


Electron: 0.5Mev… Proton: 1Gev… Higgs: 125Gev?
Tuesday December 20th 2011, 7:28 am
Filed under: %a la mod,Glory, glory, glory,international,metrics,Uncategorized

An example of deep understanding vs. casual understanding:

Matt Strassler provides an eloquent, balanced summary of what we have recently learned about a possible Higgs particle (or particles).  He notes that recent data have simplified the possible answers to an important question, there are a limited number of possibilities left, and we can find an answer among those possibilities within the next year.  He offers a useful diagram of what we know and don’t know, as it has changed over the past year — the most significant change is the broad realm of possibilities we can now exclude, leaving a small gap to be explored further:

In a related post he noted both the hints in recent data that suggest there could be a single Standard-Model Higgs particle, but also some of the contrary evidence: cross-sections of the data which should show the same signal but do not, or hints that there might be something more complicated going on.

 

In contrast, Phil Gibbs of viXra (an alternative to arXiv.org requiring no peer vetting) offers a deceptively neat faux distribution of observations, optimistically combining data from different experiments and suggesting the result likely corresponds to a single Higgs-like particle massing around 125Gev.  Note how more jargon is used here, and less historical perspective; with a focus on coming up with The Answer, rather than providing a broad picture.

Then there are physicists who take this opportunity to promote their own pet theories, quickly publishing preprints that suggest those theories predicted this all along — subtlely modifying their past work to hone in on the remaining possible energies for a Higgs particle.

Strassler’s approach is universally useful.  It teaches others about this particular experiment, about the field of particle physics, and about how to do science.

Gibbs’s approach is a quick hack, of temporary value in the current discussion, but gives a limited understanding of the state of research and may give the wrong idea about how to analyse and interpret research.

Scientists trying to ride the coattails of a pending discovery often have received no new information about whether their ideas are right or wrong.   To show their work in the best light, they misstate the current understanding of their own field, give students a harmful model to follow, and damage the public understanding of what science does and how to understand it… in addition to possibly promoting ideas that are simply wrong.

 

 

 



The Wikipedian spirit: Dr. Senghai Poduvan
Saturday December 10th 2011, 5:48 pm
Filed under: chain-gang,Glory, glory, glory,international,meta,Uncategorized,wikipedia

Dr. Poduvan is a 75-year old farmer from Tamil Nadu and Wikipedian. He captures everything I love about Wikipedia in a few sentences:

When I purchased my first computer in 2005, just using the mouse was difficult because my hands shake. But by 2009 I had discovered Wikipedia. One day, I created an article about ancient Indian poets. I added about 30 of their names to the page and then I went to sleep. The next morning, I found 473 names on the page. That is what makes Wikipedia work!

So it is. Please remember to contribute to Wikipedia, one list and article at a time. (in Hindi · in Tamil)



cowbird: the cowcat’s meow
Friday December 09th 2011, 2:23 am
Filed under: Glory, glory, glory,indescribable,meta

Jonathan Harris is a reimaginary nomad hacker artist storyteller.

cowbird is his work of inspiration – the kind once ascribed to a muse reaching through the artist.

it may change the way you see.




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