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I am a Bright! January 2, 2009

Posted by dorigo in Blogroll, internet, personal, religion.
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Just joined the Brights’ net! You might want to check the website, I bet a large fraction of visitors here are Brights without knowing it…

Here is what it means to be a Bright:

  • A bright is a person who has a naturalistic worldview
  • A bright’s worldview is free of supernatural and mystical elements
  • The ethics and actions of a bright are based on a naturalistic worldview

And kudos to David Orban who pointed at the site in his blog.

Scientific wishes for 2009 December 31, 2008

Posted by dorigo in astronomy, Blogroll, cosmology, personal, physics, science.
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I wish 2009 will bring an answer to a few important questions:

  • Can LHC run ?
  • Can LHC run at 14 TeV ?
  • Will I get tenure ?
  • Are multi-muons a background ?
  • Are the Pamela/ATIC signals a prologue of a new scientific revolution ?
  • Will England allow a NZ scientist to work on Category Theory on its soil ?
  • Is the Standard Model still alive and kicking in the face of several recent attempts at its demise ?

I believe the answer to all the above questions is yes. However, I am by no means sure all of them will be answered next year.

Selected holiday links December 27, 2008

Posted by dorigo in astronomy, Blogroll, chess, cosmology, internet, italian blogs, news, physics, politics, science.
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Being too lazy to generate content while relaxing after a day on the ski slopes in Padola, I am offering you a few selected links that are worth a visit. Not all about physics, and not all recent -that’s what you get from a very erratic web surfer.

  • Tim KrabbĂ©, the dutch novelist and chessplayer, has a very interesting piece on the very peculiar chess problem stipulation called the worst possible move. It now appears that, while the game of chess is virtually unexhaustible -at least for us humans-, we now have an answer to what is the worst possible move you can make in a chess game. Or, at least, we get very close to the best of the worst, with Sampsa Lahtonen’s 1.Qxc4+, a move by white that forces black to administer mate in one, when all the other 52 possible moves by white would have mated black.
  • David Orban, my futurologist friend, spoke at the italian parliament on December 12th on internet and new technologies and their use. He offers a report (which includes two video clips), but it is currently only in the italian version of his blog. You can easily translate the text using the web’s http://translate.google.com powerful tools, while for the video… hehm. Maybe in the web 3.0.
  • Michael Schmitt, a professor at Northwestern University and a colleague in CMS and CDF, is back in blogging mood, hopefully to stay. He has started back with momentum with a few very interesting posts, the last of which is about Dark Matter as a Quantum Liquid. Welcome back Michael!
  • The always excellent Resonaances has yet another post on the Pamela/Atic anomalies out, and this one can’t be missed any more than could the previous ones. Highly recommended.

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!

Davide for President! December 18, 2008

Posted by dorigo in Blogroll, italian blogs, news, personal, politics.
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I know, most of my readers come here for the physics, and most of them are not interested in italian politics. Why, I myself am rather disgusted by it -mostly because of the laws that our government is passing, which are coherently going in the direction of creating a classist society.

But politics is not bad by itself. Rather, it is a noble occupation, which unfortunately often corrupts itself, becoming malpractice. But I do believe that there are good and bad politicians: not all are corrupt, not all are there to do their private interests.

Next spring italians will be called to renew the local administration in many cities and provinces. And I salute with enthusiasm the candidacy of Davide Zoggia (see picture, right) for President of the Province of Venice. Davide is a friend, but he most of all is one of those rare politicians who are moved solely by the will to improve our society for the benefit of all. He has led the Province of Venice excellently in the last four years, obtaining the respect of his enemies and managing well the difficult reality of Venice and its hinterland.

So, this blog supports Davide Zoggia. Please visit his blog if you want to know more about him and his projects.

What has been going on around December 14, 2008

Posted by dorigo in Blogroll, internet.
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I occasionally realize that this blog is a dead end of web surfers, not so much for its content -who cares about content these days- but for the lack of meaningful links. Apart from the blogroll column on the right, in fact, I am very, very lazy with html tags, and my posts have no “further reading” links at the bottom as those of some tidier bloggers.

So let me make an attempt at doing my share of sewing for the internet today. Here are a few blogs that have recently discussed things worth reading.

A couple of media bites for italians and russians November 18, 2008

Posted by dorigo in Blogroll, internet, italian blogs, language, news, personal, physics, science.
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Just for the record, allow me to point out here a couple of media bites on the anomalous muon signal published by CDF. They would be easy to miss otherwise, unless you speak russian or italian; in the latter case, even if you do.

The first is an article just appeared online and in print on the russian edition of Newsweek. It profusely quotes me as well as Peter Woit, and it focusses on the aftermath of the CDF publication rather than on the analysis itself. I obtained a rather fallacious italian translation with google, but you may try your luck with your own mother tongue.

The second is a radio interview I will be giving this Saturday (Nov. 22) on Radio CittĂ  Fujiko (at 10.30-11.30AM italian time, on the FM at 103.1MHz), in a science popularization program called “Caccia al Fotone” (photon hunt). I do not know the details of what we will discuss, although I know it will loosely center on the tentative new physics signal unearthed by the CDF collaboration a fortnight ago. If you are interested, you can SMS your questions to the radio at 333-1809494, or via email at cacciafotone@radiocittafujiko.it . The program has its own blog too.

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.

If you like wine… August 24, 2008

Posted by dorigo in Blogroll, food, internet, personal.
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A longtime friend of mine, who now lives in Brussels, has recently opened a blog about wine. Since he works for CEE, he certainly has time to spend and money to invest in enological explorations. And if I know him he is serious about it, so you might find his reports worth a look. For instance check this gathering of enthusiasts trying to determine the best among ten different brands of Brunello di Montalcino.

On a second thought, I wonder if the child who is just arriving will make Francesco’s blog output sparser. I will keep an eye on his posting rate and on the quality of his pieces, before I create a permanent entry in my blogroll…

Good stuff around August 15, 2008

Posted by dorigo in Blogroll, computers, cosmology, games, humor, internet, news, physics, science.
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Here are a few links that you might be interested to follow. They lead to posts in blogs I read and you should too:

  • Louise has news of the appearance of a new puzzling “ghost” green galaxy.
  • Marco explains the disappearing of a ghost propagator instead.
  • Jester unexplains the unhiggs in an undeniably understandable, yet unserious way.
  • Alex challenges you to pilot a submarine -and to find a windows bug while you’re at it.
  • Bee explains the equivalence principle and why general relativity is sexy.
  • Roberto offers some astounding pictures of the most astounding thing ever built.