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Anybody with an AAAS subscription willing to do me a favor ? February 20, 2009

Posted by dorigo in news, personal, physics, science.
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Here I am, once again improperly and shamelessly using this public arena for my personal gain. This time, I need help from one of you who has a subscription to the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

It so happens that a couple of weeks ago I gave a phone interview to Adrian Cho about the LHC, the Tevatron, and the hunt for the Higgs boson. We discussed various scenarios, the hunt going on at the Tevatron, and other stuff. I am curious to know what Adrian made of our half-hour chat. Today, I realized that the article has been published, but I have no access to the it, since it is available at the Science Magazine site only for AAAS members.

I have to say, Adrian should have been kind enough to forward me a copy of the piece that benefitted from the interiew. I am sure he forgot to do it and once he reads this he will regret it, or maybe he thinks I am a member of the AAAS already… Adrian, you are excused. But this leaves me without the article for a while, and I am a curious person… So if you have an AAAS account and you are willing to break copyright rules, I beg you to send me a file with the article! My email is dorigo (at) pd (dot) infn (dot) it. Thank you!

And, to show you just how serious I am when I say I am shameless, here’s more embarassment: if you are a big shot of the AAAS, do you by any chance give free membership to people who do science outreach to the sole benefit of the advancement of Science  ?

UPDATE: I am always amazed by the power of internet and blogging. These days you just have to ask and you will be given! So, thanks to Peter and Senth, I got to read the article by Adrian Cho.

I must admit I am underwhelmed. Not by the article, which is incisive and to the point. Only, I should know that science journalists quote you for 1% of what you tell them, and use the rest to get informed and write a better piece. In fact, the piece starts by quoting me:

“Three years ago, nobody would have bet a lot that the Tevatron
would be competitive [with the LHC] in the Higgs search. Now I think the tables are almost turned,” says Tommaso Dorigo, a physicist from the University of Padua in Italy who works with the CDF particle detector fed by the Tevatron and the CMS particle detector fed by the LHC.

… but that is the only quote. I can console myself by noting I am in quite good company: experiment spokespersons, Fermilab director Pier Oddone, CERN spokesperson James Gillies…


Traffic summary for 2008 December 27, 2008

Posted by dorigo in Blogroll, internet.
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Despite the slow and steady decline in my posting rate -which you should read as a sign of my increased commitment in other activities more than anything else- I am happy with the overall results of this blog in 2008. Hit counts show a constant upward trend, which is probably more a global effect than anything else, but there are other indicators that show an increased attention of visitors to this site.

One is the number of people googling my name to come here -about 30 each day. It may look like a small number, but it signals the presence of a pool of visitors that do not usually read blogs, and do not even bother to bookmark sites, yet they come specifically to my site to read what I write.

Then, we should consider the incoming links. Technorati claims there are about 850 pointing at this site, and I wonder how meaningful that estimate is; the ranking of this blog for technorati.org is in the 40,000th-50,000th range, which is a satisfactory result for a blog discussing experimental high-energy physics, in my opinion.

Probably most meaningful to me are the signals of appreciation and consideration that come from outside. Despite my lowly status of unknown contract-researcher in HEP, through the blog I have become known to journalists, editors, conference organizers. I have been interviewed repeatedly by Nature, Physics World, Science, the NYT, the russian edition of Newsweek, New Scientist… -and we haven’t discovered the Higgs boson yet! I have been invited to radio programs, conferences, workshops. I have been offered membership of the editorial board of scientific publications. I have been asked to review grant proposals of foreign institutions. My picture has appeared in magazines. I am traveling to London fully paid next July, for a conference in Journalism!

All the above is surprising, but not overly so. It is just another facet of the power of the internet. Things start here now -this is the most concrete demonstration that the nature of the web is less and less virtual. Things start here nowadays.

Anyway, back to the subject of this post: Since January 2006, this blog has received a total of 818,000 hits, and more than half of those are from 2008 alone. Despite the launch of LHC in September, the busiest month here has been November, with over 60,000 hits.

The most-visited posts see my “Who am I” page leading with 10,436 views, followed by “CDF publishes multi-muons!” with 10,162. Good third place is the famous post “Lisa Randall: Black Holes Out of Reach of LHC” with 9554 views.

As for incoming traffic, I have to thank Peter Woit who is leading by far that ranking. In 2008 he sent here 18,714 viewers. After a few blog aggregators, the second site sending traffic here is the surprisingly good resonaances at 2111 hits, followed closely by the top cruiser cosmic variance at 2051.

Finally, to whom am I sending my readers ? I am not known for my generosity with links -I am much too lazy to link other sites, plus the shortage of time has caused a strong decrease in the time I spend reading other bloggers. In 2008 I have sent 1273 readers to Peter Woit, 1001 readers to Lubos Motl (who should thank me, since he only sent here 743 ;-), plus a few hundreds to other sites.

In summary, this blog is alive and kicking, and will stay so until we have understood everything that there is to know about elementary particles… Find a comfy seat, it’s going to take some time. What remains to be said is that I am grateful to all of you who come here to read what I write: without your interest I would have stopped doing this a long time ago. My best wishes for a scientifically profitful 2009!

18 months after the Higgs affair… October 28, 2008

Posted by dorigo in Blogroll, internet, news, personal, physics, science.
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In the previous post I mentioned a piece I wrote for Il Sole – 24 Ore, an italian daily newspaper which is less read than Repubblica and Il Corriere della Sera, but is more accurate in political and financiary analysis, and has a good reputation overall (despite being owned by Confindustria).

I wrote that piece shortly after the publication on New Scientist – soon followed by the Economist – of imprecise accounts of the issue with the small (2-sigma) excess of tau-lepton pairs  unearthed by CDF in a search for supersymmetric Higgs bosons. That story is old and I do not wish to tell it again (unless you really ask). However, I can disclose today, 18 months after the fact, a few details which I had kept for myself back then, besides the one I already disclosed in the former post (that is, that I was the author of the piece).

I was contacted by journalists from Il Sole-24 Ore for a comment on the issue, and I was kind enough to explain the matter, after asking the journalists to avoid mentioning my name in their pieces. One reporter asked me to check the physics of the article she was writing, and upon giving a glance at her terrible draft, I decided I would accept their original offer of writing a piece myself, at the condition that my name would not appear. In fact, some colleagues in CDF were not happy with the blogging John Conway and I had done about the issue, and we were identified as the source of the trouble with the New Scientist and Economist papers. I did apologize with them, despite not feeling guilty of any misdemeanor. However, I wanted to have the newspaper write correct physics, but they were evidently unable to do it by themselves. So, for the sake of correct science popularization, I yielded and wrote a piece. The editor at Il Sole, Armando Massarenti, proposed the pseudonym for me – I did not cook that up myself. I must say I was pleased with it. Democrito has first and last letter equal to my last name, and is considered the inventor of the concept of atomism. Atom comes from him: a-temno, “which cannot be cut”.

The result is translated for you here. The original piece, in italian, can be accessed in pdf format by clicking on the icon above.

World Conference of Science Journalists 2009 October 28, 2008

Posted by dorigo in news, science, travel.
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The sixth World Conference of Science Journalists 2009 will be held at Central Hall, Westminster, in London from June 30th to July 3rd, 2009. According to the banner in the conference site, the conference

“will bring established and aspiring reporters, writers and science communicators from around the world to debate, network, develop their professional skills and report on the latest advances science and technology.”

I am quite pleased to have been invited, since the event will be the first of the kind I allow myself to follow. I will be one of the three opening speakers of Session V, which will then be followed by an open discussion. It will focus on the LHC as a case study for science reporting, and how this may change in a world where there are increasingly more otulets for information and commentary. I think the chair of my session will be Matin Durani, editor of Physics World. A list of confirmed speakers is here (darn it, where’s my name?)

This should be an interesting event for me also because lately I have been fiddling with the idea of plunging in the publishing world myself. So far, if you exclude the about 350 scientific publications which bear my name (often concealed inside a long list), I only published:

  • a few dozens photographs (some made the cover) in the italian magazine “Scacco!”, a chess publication which had maybe a few thousand copies sold monthly, now terminated. This was 1987.
  • Also in 1987, an interview with Grandmaster Ulf Andersson. Again, in “Scacco!”.
  • I interviewed Viswanathan Anand, then just become Junior World Champion, in 1988. Not published though… But here is an account.
  • Last year (on March 18, 2007) I published, under the pseudonym “democrito“, a 5-column piece titled “In cerca della particella Dio” (oh well, I did not choose the title!) for Il Sole-24 Ore, a daily newspaper in Italy.
  • I must be forgetting something! Ah, lousy memory…

Anyway, I will most definitely like to travel to London. London is always pleasant, despite the horrible weather – I have been there twice last year, not even once in 2008. I think I will bring my family with me this time.

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