A New Particle?

So I have two questions for the scientists at Fermilab: First, if they were going to discover a new subatomic particle, why didn’t they do that during the last two years, when I was working there? And second, if they had to make a discovery like this after I was no longer in any way affiliated with them, why did they wait to announce it until a weekend when I’m too busy to blog about it?

I’ll try to say something more substantial about the topic in a few days; hopefully scientists will know more at that point too. I’m feeling a bit cautious myself: this potential “particle” seems just a little TOO weird, and there’s not nearly enough evidence to say for sure that it exists at this point. Its sort of like finding a big smudge in the mud that looks like a two-food long lizard footprint. Could it be evidence of a six-foot-long lizard? Definitely. But then you have all kinds of other questions to ask, including the all-important “if there are six-foot-long lizards running around, how come all anyone has ever seen is this one footprint?”

Still, if it turns out they’ve got a new particle, it would be the moment physicists have been waiting for for probably 20 years, and it would mean I picked a really, really exciting time to be a graduate student :-).

So, expect some more explanations of the science from me in the next week or so. Until then, I’ve selected the two best articles on the subject for your edification.

Advertisements

“I Can’t, I Can’t Lift Anything Up At All”

Maybe it’s because I’m a sucker for good voiceover work, but I’m mesmerized by the excellence of this YouTube video:

 

Making Things Too Simple

I’m all for efforts to make cutting-edge science accessible to people without technical training. Slicing away layers of jargon and technobabble is an important part of that process, but there’s a second edge to many of the rhetorical blades used for that kind of pruning. Without meaning to, I’m sure, sometimes authors seriously undersell the magnitude and significance of the science they’re trying to describe, which can leave the public feeling unimpressed and, consequently, uninterested in helping with funding for important projects. Here’s a short piece I wrote for class recently reacting to something I saw in “Newsday.” Yes, Newsday, the “Chicken Wyngz” of actual news sources. I don’t read it regularly; stop judging me. Anyway, here’s a short piece in defense of a cool piece of technology in my backyard:

Read more of this post