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Interviewed for Nature (the magazine…) September 10, 2008

Posted by dorigo in internet, news, personal, physics, science.
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Yesterday I had lunch at the Meyrinoise (courtesy Nature) with Geoff Brumfiel, a reporter from Nature (the magazine, not the bitch) who came to CERN to witness the big media event of today. We talked about several things, but in the end what was left to discuss for the podcast we recorded was the least interesting thing of all -the fact that we are not going to disappear in a black hole after LHC will eventually start colliding beams operation (which, for the absent-minded among you, hasn’t happened yet -only a beam at a time has been circulated in the machine so far).

In any case, you can hear some more interesting interviews along with mine at the Nature site, specifically here.

UPDATE: fixed the link to the main page of Nature news. There, you find my pic (not a good one actually) linking to the interviews.

UPDATE: Hmm, if Nature (the magazine AND a little bit of a bitch today) keeps changing the address of pages I link, I am going to download the darn site here and stop worrying. Anyway, here is the updated link to the LHC special.


1. gattostanco - September 10, 2008

ot: “Nature site” link is now a ring Doh! page🙂

2. dorigo - September 10, 2008

Thank you Gatto, fixed.

3. Fred - September 10, 2008

I believe you have a future as a politician with a conservative answer like that. lol
Not so much a bad picture. You look the most serious of the four.

4. chimpanzee - September 10, 2008

A note on Journalism, their motives.

“Facts tell, STORIES SELL”
— marketing 101, Auto Racing (or selling pots & pans)

Journalists are there to find STORIES. Stories sent back to the editor are screened/filtered, in the end to SELL COPY (which translates to advertising $$’s). So, it’s not surprising “the least interesting” (in terms of Science, i.e. “telling facts”) story got printed..even in Nature magazine!! Sensationalism, shock value, etc sells copy unfortunately, that is the reality that scientists have been cursed with. That’s why Blogging (a form of “citizen journalism”) is such a revolution, because now Scientists now can do their OWN journalism. I still don’t get why many scientists pander/grovel to journalists, they can form their own blogging network & “get their Science message across”. I was observing with great disappointment, as Bee & Peter Woit were both in “submission” to “New Scientist” (print mag in UK): doing interviews & then expressing publicly on their blog, their disappointment in how they fouled up the Science (typical).

Heck, you can do all this yourself. With broadband, & revolution in downloadable video (Youtube, Blip.tv, Kyte.tv, et al) you can do your own interviews (with a cellphone video camera, no less!) or with your colleagues, upload via cellphone networks (email attachment), & it gets up to a Blip.tv (or Kyte.tv). Blip.tv has a really COOL cross-posting feature, which lets you AUTOMATICALLY cross-post to a Blogger blog (or WordPress blog). That’s right..Tommaso can shoot a short-form video (1 min in length) from CMS control room, & post it on Quantum Diaries via Blip.tv. I mean, pictures & videos is worth a thousand words, why on earth is Cosmicvariance doing “LIVE text blogging”?? I mean, come on people!! The Technology is here, so use it! (especially coming from HEP community, which itself provided the initiative for inter-agency communication that created HTTP..via Tim Berners-Lee).

I actually called S. Carroll on the phone a couple yrs ago to encourage him to do video-blogging..rebuffed. Last year, only L. Motl showed initiative in finding the Blip.tv Flash code (embedded video player) from my Strings ’07 iPod transcoded videos (from Strings ’07), & use it on his TRF blog. P. Woit/NEW declined to use embedded videos (although he put in a link), Bee has been resistant to any forms of video-blogging (looks like shyness is the reason), as has Kea (a “jewel in the test tube” in NZ, waiting to be discovered). So, anyway I will submit a NSF Education proposal (or DoE/Dept of Energy) to get funded for an organized effort to get HEP “video blogged” (with syndication over iTunes video-podcast). Now, there’s funding to hire people (web designers, video bloggers, physicists like Tommaso, etc) to get it done. I just answered my own question, as to why nothing has happened, there’s no plan w/funding:

“A GOOD PLAN, will beat a Good Idea, anyday..10 to 1”
— sage from Offroad Racing

My Jumplive.com multimedia Technology Initiative has a nice little “Proof of Concept” that will help get proposals funded. Funding agencies want to see something concrete (e.g., goto iTunes Store & do a search on “theoretical physics” & the SUSY 06 & Strings 07 video-podcasts will come up), so I’m almost there. Plus, effective use of Graphics will help (inherent in multimedia solutions). I met some Disney Researchers at SIGGRAPH 2008, while investigating opportunities for Kea’s vision of a Category Theory Inst, & lo & behold a woman (really cool) told me about Disney’s collaboration with Brian Green/Columbia for multimedia-based Public Outreach. They had sent a couple of their Disney staff to the recent WSF/World Science Festival (founded by Brian) in May ’08. DIsney announced some Research initiative @SIGGRAPH, 2 new R&D institutes at CMU & Switzerland. Like Microsoft Research Labs, they understand the value of medium/long range R&D, & are looking to tap into the Intellectual Property of some global centers. This could be a good fit with Kea’s vision of a Category Theory Inst in NZ (that woman from Disney complimented Australia/NZ as a center of creativity, when I mentioned Kea’s vision).

There was an ex-physicist (now dept head of CS @Indiana Univ), who did the graphics for Brian Green’s NOVA 3-part episode “The Elegant Universe” (L. Motl was in touch with the guy, for permissioned use of some graphics of Kaluza-Klein demo).

The above is an example of how Physics is beginning to use the Latest/Greatest in Computer Graphics/Multimedia technology. This is an extremely lucrative field (biggest SIG/Special Interest Group in ACM/Assn for Computing Machinery), which draws upon special-effects industry of TV/FIlm & Computer Gaming (exceeds Film Industry!!). Quantum Diaries needs an upgrade to some of this multimedia technology (to upseat its rival Cosmicvariance), via me (I’ve been banned from CV & Asymptotia, so I guess I’m in good company), so I’ll just add that to my NSF (or DoE) proposal. E.g., weekly iTunes video-podcast featuring Tommaso Dorigo, a key experimental physicist at Fermilab & CERN/LHC. What happened to Melissa Franklin/Harvard?..she was pretty active in Public Outreach, she seems to have retired. Lisa Randall/Harvard has been on the warpath the last 2 yrs, lots of print/TV/public appearances.

I’m in the midst of Conceptual Development, followed by proposal writing (due in Sept/Oct time frame). Any feedback by brilliant physicists (albeit a little technology challenged), looking to be savior to their field (not a bad way to boost your career, & have nice entry on your resume), is welcomed.

5. dorigo - September 10, 2008

Believe me, Geoff basically pulled out a mike out of nowhere unexpectedly, at the end of our meeting. I was sort of taken aback, and my broken English shows that. Also, the picture is pretty “live” too – I did not even have time to organize a smile.

Of course, Geoff is excused – I actually appreciate his way of doing journalism (especially the free lunch😉


6. changcho - September 10, 2008

Hi Tommaso: heard your interview, and thank you very much for all the inside info regarding this fascinating, humongous (not a very scientific word, is it?) experiment! Keep up your great bloggin’!

7. dorigo - September 10, 2008

Hi Bob,

wow, you have some good ideas there. Pardon, good plans.

I think it is true – scientists can be good reporters of their own scientific advancements, and the blogs around are there to prove it. However, the moment they start to do things seriously, they invariably fall out of the scientist category and into the reporter one. In truth, most of the reporters for Nature, Science, Physics Today, you name them – they are all former scientists. It is true, we occasionally get the uninformed writer who smears things he’s overheard and messes things up. But I do not see such a huge problem there.

The problem may lie with the big newspapers. They are very hard to beat, so we fall back in the “out of science, into news” effect if we want to challenge such huge forces.

Anyway, I agree – podcasts, videos, etc. are a good complement to a blog. However, it is just so much work… It takes me half an hour to write a good piece about a new scientific result. It would take me an afternoon to do a decent 2-minute video on the same topic. Sure, having the right tools helps, but I (and others) am already overbooking my schedule when I blog. I really cannot invest more time into it!

Nonetheless, let me know what you come up with! I am still interested to help if possible.


8. dorigo - September 10, 2008

Hello Changcho,

well, interview… Ok. Thanks anyways😉
Actually Geoff reported some more of our conversation in another piece he wrote for the Nature site. Up to you to find it…


9. chimpanzee - September 10, 2008


The video I am referring to are _short-form_ videos, not well planned documentary videos you are referring to. The whole video-blogging revolution is a “work in progress”, everyone is “feeling their way through the new Solution Model”. Short-form videos are now an accepted part of this revolution, & certainly a simple “here I am at the CMS control room” is sufficient. It gives a near-LIVE (I call it timely videos) snapshot of what’s going on at CERN/LHC, & satisfies the hungry world-wide visitors. It would give your name & face, brand name recognition (“everyone’s a star”, as per the Madonna song). You already are doing this via text-blog, I defer to last year’s QD unintentional famous blog response by an anonymous insider (Fermilab result, Re: Higgs?). It got picked up by MSM (Mainstream Media), & your QD blog got famous. Just imagine, if you added video to QD, suddenly it’s your face (& personality, which is open architecture..Bee/Kea are fans of yours) that’s propped up to millions all over the world. Heck, you might garner a legion of female fans (to your delight, since you are an admirer of female form). The latter is now in the crucial territory of “Entertainment”, as part of the A+B model:

A) Information
physics, information, Science, “Facts tell”

B) Entertainment
personality, “Stories sell”

Brian Green/Columbia is leading the way in B), especially with his NOVA 3-part series “The Elegant Universe” (heavy use of multimedia to present an abstraction of high-level learning curve of String Theory, to public). Here’s an ex-physicist who made a career change to Scientific Visualization:

Andrew Hanson/Indiana Univ

His animations were used in “The Elegant Universe”, & Lumo asked him about permissioned use (Kaluza-Klein visualization). I met Andrew at the recent SIGGRAPH 2008 conference, where he was talking about multi-dimenisonal representations of space-time (Computer Graphics is familiar x/y/z space + time), for Graphics research.

[ his background is Physics (MIT PhD), who has crossed over to Computer Graphics. This is an extremely lucrative field (compared to Theoretical Physics, which is poor..even Lisa Randall said this publicly), lots of money..I’m trying to turn on Kea to this field, she could easily get a gig as a mathematics consultant for PIXAR, Lucasfilm Disney Research, etc..to train their mathematically-challenged engineers about math rigor. No more waitressing for her! Disney just launched initiatives last month @ SIGGRAPH 2008, 2 new R&D Inst: CMU & Switzerland. Kea’s vision of Category Theory Inst would dovetail nicely into Disney’s initiative: remote centers for R&D, tapping into geographically localized Intellectual Property. That 1 woman @Disney (bright, has Design & Engineering background) is interested in Kea, & commented on the rich creative talent in Australia/NZ. BTW, Raman Sundrum (of Randall-Sundrum fame) was trained in Australian Univ, he told me so at SUSY ’06. Here’s a near-LIVE interview with him, I have another interview done on HD (high definition) video that needs to be uploaded to Blip.tv (to be part of the SUSY ’06 iTunes video-podcast). ]

I could easily see you join Brian Green as part of the new wave of physicists connecting to the public. Recall that NASCAR (geographically niche-sport of stock car racing in SouthEast USA) made their breakthrough, by luring the female/kid demographic. Driver personalities are key, all these fans (“fanatics”) are crazy about their favorite driver..it’s no longer a Sport, but a real-life Reality TV soap-opera. Suddenly, a pre-dominantly white-male demographic was turned into a family demographic, that’s MASS-MARKET which drew non-endemic (non automotive) sponsors like Home Depot, Sprint, et al (every conceivable company selling product in USA). The SAME THING could happen to the niche-market of HEP. Your strength is your “open architecture” attitude, personality, comprehensive package (piano, chess, lovely family). Already, you have picked up local fans like Kea, Bee, & others. Just imagine the legions of fans you might pickup if your brand-name (via video) were splayed over. Look at Lang Lang (classical pianist, but a really interesting character..has NINE publicists working on his brand name propagation). He played at recent 2008 Olympics opening ceremony. He stated:

“I play the Piano like a MULTIMEDIA WEBSITE”

So, that’s what should be done with HEP. Brian Green is leading the charge, & you should follow. Man, if Lang Lang can hit the “bigtime” (corporate sponsors like BMW, Rolex, sports shoe), so can physicists!! I mean Classical Music & Science are related, no? (nerd universe). Imagine, Tommaso sporting corporate sponsors like BMW (your new car), Rolex (your new watch), sports shoe (your new footwear),..& god knows what else. A yacht parked outside Monaco, maybe? Kea has the same potential, her comprehensive package includes: opera singing, outdoorsmanship (alpine skiing, mountaineering, tramping), engineering, mathematical physics (intellectual powerhouse). I’ve been suggesting to her, videos & photos (she doesn’t even own a camera!?) on her blog, with no luck. Bee, the same way. Apparently, we have a couple of brainy female mathematical physicists who have turned “Spock” (my world is that of Logic, any emotion or wanton promotion/marketing is ILLOGICAL). Amazing.

All they have to do, is turn to their “cross over” sisters in Classical Music..Violin & Piano. They are part of this younger hip generation (embracing Technology, like Youtube video & iTunes podcasting, to deliver their Content & Public Outreach):

Lara St. John
Rachel Barton Pine
[ spends a lot of time doing Public Outreach. She is a rock&roll fan, btw ]
Hilary Hahn
[ she is getting famous, just saw a documentary on her on the Ovation Channel ]
Valentina Lisitsa
[ her original career aspiration was Chess! She would be a nice guest contributor to your QD blog. She has teamed up with Hilary Hahn, btw ]

Here is a good German documentary video (which summarizes the above):

Documentary on Hilary Hahn, Vanessa Mae

“Insofar it might be naive to think it’s enough to be a good musician.
The person who declines the marketing is having more trouble, for example the German Julia Fischer. By authorities on classical music she was praised from a young age already, but she remained unknown by the rest of the world. Until this year, when she became Germany’s youngest professor, at the age of 23 at the Frankfurter Musikhochschule.

[ this is what is happening to Bee & Kea, young/attractive “math brains” who lack marketing. They are the “secret weapons” that HEP is looking for. Lisa Randall is giving a go at public exposure, lots of TV/radio/public appearances the last 2 yrs. She has some form of agent, to handle all this. I have an agent (Getty Images) to handle the marketing of my photography ]

The industry is very occurred with helping people climb up. You may play the violin very pretty and be the best violinist in the world but if nobody knows you, you don’t exist.

They bring talent and the base for a succesful career. The record company takes care of the image. The young American Hilary Hahn has got a very decent image. [ Deutsche Grammophone is her record label, she’s made it ] She is introduced as everbody’s down-to-earth friend with her very personal website with on-line diary and drawings by her fans from all over the world.

[ this is what you, Kea, Bee bring to the table..your “wholesome” down-to-earth personna & image. Up to now, the Public thinks of scientist as this dry Einstein: boring white male who spends too much time behind a book. (I have an article that summarizes this, I will post it on my blog soon). A major issue in Public _misconception_ of Science & Scientists (Perception doesn’t mathc Reality). This is the CENTRAL ISSUE as to why HEP is losing public funding, a major fallacy in PR/Marketing. They are using the “Facts tell” argument (funding particle accelerators will yield results in 70 odd years, “Curiosity Research”), whereas the SHOULD be doing the “Stories sell” argument (interesting, nice people..male & female, who are no different than anyone else, but who are gifted intellectually to probe the Secrets of the Universe). I will interject that Joanne Hewett/SLAC has this same feature of “wholesomeness”, you can detect it even in her text-blogging at CV. Her writing is very natural (ala Hilary Hahn), & is has loads of general appeal.

Strategy for HEP Public Outreach: Sex sells!

My ex grad-school officemate Martin Eberhard co-founded Tesla Motors (after selling his previous company Rocketbook for 180 million to Rupert Murdoch), which featured the Tesla Roadster (100K all electric sports car). The latter was designed as “vehicle” (no pun intended) for a PR/Marketing campaign, to change Public Perception of EV/electric vehicles. (most people think they are boxy/ugly). He has accomplished that (he is receiving a UIUC alumni award this month), it woke General Motors (& other heavyweights like Toyota & Honda). There is an interesting cross-over strategy to HEP, based on the simple statement “energy transfer” (the answer to the famous Feynman anecdote about a fallacy in elementary text on Physics “what makes a car go? Energy!” No, it’s ENERGY TRANSFER). So, as per Joanne Hewett/SLAC (active in HEP public outreach), who pointed out “if you [ HEP ] don’t have a product, you are considered USELESS” Well, the Tesla Roadster is HEP’s “product”! I heard the DoE/Dept of Energy has some kind of subsidy program designed for Tesla Motors (80 million?), because of the heightened interest in supporting Alternative Energy entrepeneurs (because of the wacked out hype about Global Warming..which is a farce, see Lumo’s blog). Say, pair up some young/attractive female HEP researchers (L. Randall, Kea, Bee, J. Hewett, etc) with a Roadster, & you have a killer foundation for getting HEP into the mainstream Public Perception. It’s based on the “the appeal [ female physicists or Tesla Roadster ], is their UNIQUENESS”. Or, a handsome young male like T. Dorigo (or controversial young male like L. Motl!, who dabbles in Youtube entertainment videos like his Tom & Jerry rendition). They would say “SEXY!!”, & like the HST (pretty pictures), fall in love with it. Like the impending demise of HST (a public outcry against decommissioning the HST), any funding cuts for HEP (particle accelerators, etc) would be met with public outcry. “We want research on Energy, so we can develop EV for the masses. I want a Tesla Roadster!”. Timing is perfect, given the outrageous gas prices in US.

A Caltech astronomer H. Zirin told me this about Washington & funding: “They want something SEXY!! [ Space Shuttle, ISS, & other BS nonsense, rather than real science like ground based Adaptive Optics astronomy ] It would be a simple matter to write a proposal to DoE to get some funding to execute the above. I have already sent feelers out to J. Hewett, Kea, Bee (about to send to L. Randall & M. Franklin). So, the sex appeal approach of the above strategy would WORK..no doubt about it. ]

As long as it’s not in contradiction with the art or with the person, I think it’s allright. They to stand out already and distinguish themselves. With the time, they probably need heavier weapons to achieve that.

Youngsters are also more interested in classical music then they used to. Today, starviolinists are supported by a striking marketing. For example Janine Jansen, a rising star from the Netherlands. She looks very natural at the rehearsal, but outstanding on her website. Let’s have a look: (…) This way of presenting is controversial.

[ there is a firestorm of criticism from the PURISTS, who object to the SLIGHTEST form of deviation from the classical tradition. Anne Sophie-Mutter (talented, but also attractive German violinist), Vanessa Mae (crossover violinist, a pop approach to violin), Maksim (classical pianist, cross over to pop appeal). All of them have been targets of some random spotty, but pretty heavy duty insults. This is not unlike the situation in HEP, where “new alternative model” theories are under attack by the old-school dogmatists. Insults flying, huge cat fight, people getting banned from blogs (incl me), etc. ]

The above can be summarize by the following:

“This is Old therefore it is Good. This is NEW, therefore it is BETTER”
— the conflict of paradigm shift

I guarantee you, that Progress is measured by “change”. I got some good advice in grad school 25 odd yrs ago, & I’ll pass it along:

“if you want to work on something [ research area ], try something new. The established areas are mature, well-understood”

This holds true for Alternative Models in HEP (LQG, et al), as well as Alternative Models to promote HEP (using the latest/greatest in Technology, ie. video-blogging & iTunes video-podcasting). Obviously, pushing the limits in video Content/Distribution model will yield a healthy RoI/Return on Investment for those daring physicists who want to give it a go. Somehow, I see Tommaso breaking into this area (which hopefully will stimulate Kea & Bee to do the same). Me? I’m the “catalyst”, who is the “straw that stirs the drink” (Reggie Jackson/NY Yankees quote)

I got a nice email from Betsy Devince (F. Wilczek’s wife) last Dec, where she clearly “got it”

“Web video is a very exciting area these days.”

Her background is Engineering (masters degree from Princeton), & she is friends with Dave Winer (RSS creator, the software technology behind Blog distribution: RSS feeds).

She is an avid text/photo blogger, who is documenting Frank’s worldwide travels & Nobel celebrity.

10. Guess Who - September 11, 2008

Chimpanzee, producing video is much more time consuming than producing text. Even a simple presentation delivered sitting in front of webcam probably takes more time to prepare than it would take to post the equivalent text. Not to mention retakes.

And the value added? Looks. Surveying the pysics blog landscape, it’s pretty obvious what would happen: everybody would be watching Kea, and I would finally have to learn about category theory. Either that, or come out of anonymity to webcast my own irresistible good looks. Talk about rocks and hard places.😉

Animations are the only alternative value added that I can think of. You can do amazing stuff with a computer these days, but the time it takes is on a whole different scale than what’s required to write a text. So I just don’t see video as a particularly good match to the immediacy and informatlity of text blogs.

Unless you happen to be really goodlooking, have some natural acting talent, and preferably English as your first language.

11. dorigo - September 12, 2008

“Unless you happen to be really good-looking, have some natural acting talent, and preferably English as your first language” -> that’s my portrait 100%! LOL!

I think the most troublesome of the three issues, however, is the second. Plus a fourth: I can blog in writing and keep my job, but if I start videotaping things around myself, I am out of it soon…

Nevertheless I am interested in Bob’s ideas, and in fact we’ve started a discussion on them.


12. Per - September 19, 2008

Why do you use offensive language when addressing Nature?

Best, P

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