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Blessed, but not public December 22, 2006

Posted by dorigo in news, personal, physics, politics, science.

Sad, but true. CDF just completed another loop into its own bureaucracy, by deciding that the W boson mass result, although carefully reviewed, scrutinized, unblinded, preblessed, and blessed by the collaboration, is not public yet.

The “rationale” is that the result will be made formally public at the Wine and Cheese seminar of January 5th. So, two weeks from now.

Therefore, I had to make private all my posts on the W mass, and will only make them public again on the said date.

Today I was waiting for a formal complaint from members of CDF about my having posted the W mass result here, in order to jump at the throat of the unwitty soul. But I guess this is not happening, because everybody has a sense of ridicule, even my colleagues in CDF.

Since this is my blog, I feel entitled to express my personal irritation and complete dissatisfaction -as a scientist and as a member of the collaboration- at such a baroque procedure, which is meaningless and pompous.

The result is good, do not hide it! Two more weeks ? That is nonsense to me. I would love it if a re-analysis of Aleph data, published on January 4th with a revised error bar from 51 to 47 MeV, stole the right of CDF to claim theirs is the “best single measurement” of the W mass for even a single day! Aleph guys, can you help ?

By the way, the idiocy of the whole thing is clear if I mention one additional fact: the result, although still technically private, has been included by our spokespersons in a end-of-year report to the D0E. So it is private, but it is public. Oh well.



1. Tony Smith - December 22, 2006

Tommaso said “… CDF … bureaucracy … decid[ed]… that the W boson mass result, although carefully reviewed, scrutinized, unblinded, preblessed, and blessed by the collaboration, is not public yet. The “rationale” is that the result will be made formally public at the Wine and Cheese seminar of January 5th. So, two weeks from now.
Therefore, I had to make private all my posts on the W mass …”.

How were you told to pull your posts off the web ?

Since they had already told you that “unblinding” was not “public”, and requested you should wait until “blessed”, which seems to imply that “blessed” = “public”,
and you complied with that request,
it seems that something must have happened very recently to upset the bureaucrats.
Was it some comment that you or a commenter made on your very recent blog entries ?

The fact that they asked you to remove your blog entries and comments makes me think that might have been the case, but I don’t see anything there horrible enough to delay the announcement for 2 weeks.

It seems to me that removal of stuff from your blog site is mostly pointless, since many people (not to mention google and its cache) might have copies of your posts on their own computers all over the world.

A 2 week delay seems just as pointless, unless they plan to make some change in the value and/or its stated accuracy over the next 2 weeks.

The only other thing that makes sense is that the CDF bureaucracy is dominated by control freaks, totally intolerant of any expression of independent thought even if the thought is the same thought (W mass) that they themselves hold.
In that case they seem to me to be in dire need of psychiatric help.

Tony Smith

PS – Your party must have been great fun with great food. Thanks for sharing it on your blog.

2. dorigo - December 23, 2006

Hi Tony,

no, nobody dared to ask me to remove those posts. I did it myself without any prodding. I had sent a message to one of the authors asking for a public link to a web site with the analysis details, to be able to place it in my blog. When one blesses an analysis in CDF, one usually provides a public link too.
The author replied by saying he could not do that because the result, although blessed, was not public yet. This led to some investigations on my part, and I took the pages off.

Anyway. I agree – not only the number is out, and some 500 people have read about it here. If you go to the mixed states blog, the citation of my original post with the number is still there, and the number is in the clip 🙂

Still, I am a member of CDF and I will comply to its rules, for good or bad. I will not abstain from criticizing them, of course.


3. D - December 23, 2006

So…it would probably be ok for you to include a link to this DOE report right? Or, to be radical, even quote from it? 🙂

4. Chris Hays - December 23, 2006

As one of the ‘beauraucrats’ being berated on this page, I
feel some compulsion to provide the other side — the human
side — of the story.

The W mass measurement is the result of nearly 6 years of
work by just a few dedicated people. Careers are made with
such a difficult and arduous measurement, and we have some responsibility as a Collaboration to let the authors be the first
to present such a result.

The timing of the result is unfortunate: no presentation could
be scheduled until after the holidays. However, a two-week
delay seems acceptable, given the years of effort expended in
producing this result.

We are not control freaks — we are not attempting to remove all
mention of the result from all web sites and presentations. We
have simply asked members of the Collaboration not to disseminate
the result until the authors make their presentation and the laboratory
makes a corresponding public announcement. This is a professional
courtesy requested of our Collaboration’s members — not some edict
brought down from beauraucrats from on high.

We realize there is significant public interest in this measurement —
we hope the public and other members of the Collaboration will
support the people who did the hard work to make this result happen.
I find the comments on this page bordering on vengeful and completely unsupportive.

Chris Hays

5. dorigo - December 23, 2006

Chris, thank you for speaking up here. I do appreciate to hear your point of you publically – it is something not everybody would dare to do (and in fact you did it and your colleagues did not, although they all visited this site).

Since I have both professional esteem of you as a physicist ,and sympathy for you personally (when are we going to have a rubber of Bridge, by the way ?), I will answer you with just as much frankness as you used here. Of course, that is what I used while writing the original post.

When you say ” is the result of nearly 6 years of
work by just a few dedicated people. Careers are made with
such a difficult and arduous measurement” above, you are speaking the complete truth but you lack perspective.
You must be very well aware that the typical PhD thesis in CDF takes more or less the same amount of time – or at least, that a few theses took even longer than that. The same can be said of a few other analyses which did not have the luck of being central to CDF’s high-Pt Physics program. Their hard work did not get that much credit as a W mass measurement, but it was in no way less hard or less useful to the collaboration – I can think of a few analyses that everybody is using today, and which did not get any favour treatment.

Andrew Gordon, who did basically alone the Run I W->en measurement in Run I, and took more or less the same amount of time to bless it (there was a controversy back then on the use of the E/p method which took years to resolve) as the present analysis, did not have anything to say against a regular blessing, with winter conferences to follow. I remember it because I – who had not worked in the analysis specifically – went to present the measurement in Moriond 2000 in his place.

So when you say “we have the responsibility to let the authors be the first to present the measurement”, what are you referring to ? Nobody and nothing can steal the authors of their patronymy of the measurement, if the number is made public before somebody displays a slide on One West. This is being childish – knowing that if the number is public, 20% of normal attendence to the seminar is lost. Don’t tell me that careers are burned because of that, you well know this is just a matter of personal ego, no career will be affected by the number being publicized on one more site or diffused before a wine and cheese talk.

I could add some other examples of people who took ten years to graduate on important, hard pieces of ppbar physics. You well know that despite the fact that some analyses have more resonance than others, any measurement is very hard in our experiment, although most are done with less accuracy than yours because of peer pressure toward doing it “the best way we can”. Whoever takes on this measurement well knows beforehand that he is paying a service to the whole collaboration, and he or she should feel honored of this responsibility.

Bending the rules because your measurement is special – that seems preposterous to me. Be careful, our rules are very strict, and our experiment is the longest-lived endeavour in Physics, we have been together for 25 years now. Making rules even stricted for the benefit of a few is not good.

Of course, asking a courtesy is something else. And indeed, as I told you in a private e-mail, I rushed to remove all W-mass content from my recent posts here a minute after I got the information, because of the high respect and recognition I feel to the people who worked so hard to produce a measurement I can boast about myself, being in the same collaboration.

To conclude, is CDF a “control freaks” experiment or not ? I disaqree with you. I think CDF indeed is a good example of such. I think some of your colleagues would, if they had the power, remove all information from the web. But this is exactly my point: it is a very bad attitude to do Science this way. I sympathize with your personal case, but we have to be careful with our exceptions.


6. Alexander W. Janssen - December 23, 2006

Oh dear. “Wine and Cheese seminar”. I bet it’s just a reason to get funds for this party^H^H^H^H^Hseminar 🙂

Wine and cheese and W. Hmmm…

Merry Christmas!

7. dorigo - December 23, 2006


it would be ok but unfair, and besides, I would not know where to get it…


8. dorigo - December 23, 2006

Alex, W&C seminars are the institutional occasion where new important results are discussed. Technically there is no fund-raising involved, although of course public relations are an issue.

Merry xmas to you too

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