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The Higgs rumor spreads again June 5, 2007

Posted by dorigo in Blogroll, internet, italian blogs, news, personal, physics, politics, science.
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The recent  rumor about a possible MSSM Higgs signal, which made its way on electronic media starting from  a comment on this blog after having been passed mouth to ear for a while among HEP experimentalists, has now spread wide through blogs (for instance in Not Even Wrong , in the Arcadian Functor, in Charm & c. ( twice), in Asymptotia , in the Quantum Pontiff, in Bad Astronomy, and apologies to those I missed), online journals ( Slate, the Center for Science Writings), and the like. 

The tentative signal allegedly seen by the D-zero experiment at the Tevatron might be significant  – some unverified sources talk about 4- to 5-sigma deviations. But it might just as well (or certainly, if you ask yours truly) be a fluctuation, a incorrect modeling of multiple heavy flavor production backgrounds, or a combination of both effects.

We have already seen the very same propagation mechanism at work a few months ago, after blog posts commenting another tentative MSSM Higgs signal seen this time by CDF (on a different final state) made ripples in the web. Therefore, we are in the pleasant position of having a good shot at predicting the future, creating for ourselves the possibility to sit back and observe the predictable unpredictability of the propagation of information in this inordinate beginning of the twentyfirst century.

Let us learn from the past. It took about five weeks before the New Scientist published the story of the possible observation of Higgs decays to tau-lepton pairs and the alleged ensuing rumors that the particle could be seen – if it existed – in other datasets. From then on, things snowballed with a piece on the Economist and quite a few articles on daily and weekly newspapers of regional interest.

On that occasion, however, there was a rock-hard core of news to base the story on (or, as journalists would see it, to build the story around): the tau-lepton pair signal was public, had been presented at a international conference, and the CDF collaboration was standing behind it as a single man. In the present case, instead, the ripples in the blogosphere have started from nothing more than a rumor: we lack, in this case, of a real notitia criminis.

Will journalists manage to build the story around nothing this time ? I think so, because the topic is red-hot. LHC versus Tevatron, Europe vs the US, a multi-billion-dollar investment at risk of being left without anything else to discover. And more: the diffusion of scientific information in the 21st century, the loyalty of members of giant collaborations and the impossibility to keep things secret, the sociological implications when even larger collaborations at CERN will start publishing. Plus, of course, the physics issue: is the Standard Model alive ? Will Supersymmetry be found ? What does Witten say ? (The latter, admittedly, is more like something string theory novices would ask themselves than a meaningful question from a science writer.)

I have no idea how long it may take D-zero to produce a preliminary result from their multi-b analysis. I believe it will be ready for summer conferences, which means a time-scale of about six more weeks. Will science magazines be willing to wait ? Hmmm. I bet there already are a few investigations ongoing (but I swear I personally have not been contacted by the press yet). So my prediction is that this story is going to appear on printed paper at least somewhere , just in time to match the public release of D-zero findings – mid-July most probably. 

Eventually, though, this will bubble out as everything else. This prediction is much easier to make: I am convinced that the signal is an artifact even without having seen it, by just studying the previous paper by D-zero – but I admittedly base my idea on the belief that supersymmetry is a nice, bold, incorrect theory.

There remains to discuss whether all these rumors are good, bad, or irrelevant for the progress of science and the well-being of high-energy physics. My opinion ? Getting mediatic attention is good for science. And while it is true that crying wolf too many times gets the general public bored, funding agencies, however, know better. Hell, the committees are formed by smart people, not ordinary Joes who cannot distinguish an official result from their own fart, if you pardon my French. So I am not in the least moved by the anxiety of those stiff-necks that are ready to point their fingers at rumor-spreading as if it was the reason for their failure to get grants, rather than their ineptitude. Particle physics will out-live just as well their irrelevant contribution as the wild rumors they blame.

The catholic church covering pedophiles May 16, 2007

Posted by dorigo in internet, italian blogs, news, politics.
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Via zerocold I got to see a 2006 video made by BBC on the plague of pedophile priests and the way the catholic church has a policy to systematically cover up the crimes, relocating the offenders and imposing secrecy on the victims of abuse.

A confidential directive distributed to all bishops throughout the world in 1962, called “Crimen solicitationis” imposes the strictest oath of secrecy to avoid instant excommunication. The concern of the church has always been to hush things up, with absolutely no concern for the victims, nor any attempt at avoiding the same crimes to continue occurring.

The video shows the tragic reality of an endemic situation of child abuse in dioceses around the world. It lasts about 35 minutes, and everybody is well advised to give it a look. You can see it at mezzomondo.

A dubious offer April 30, 2007

Posted by dorigo in internet, italian blogs, personal, politics.
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As I had a chance to mention in a post, a few weeks ago I received an offer from a major italian newspaper , to write a blog for them.

The newspaper, Il Sole-24 Ore , had contacted me earlier in March to inquire about the “New Scientist/Economist affair” – the appearance on those magazines of imprecise information on the possible Higgs boson signal seen by CDF, something of which John Conway over at Cosmic Variance and myself here had been blamed as partly responsible (we were not, although I did apologize later to my colleagues in CDF, since some had felt betrayed by our blogging activities). At the time, I had had the pleasure of talking with serious journalists from Il Sole, which had then used in a correct way the information I had provided. A relatively error-free account of the matter had appeared in the Thursday cultural insert of the newspaper, and I had had a good impression of their professionalism.

The offer I received shortly thereafter from the same publisher consisted in becoming a blogger in the context of a new project that was to start in May on the web site “NOVA”, together with as many as 100 other “innovauthors”, as they called us – more or less known personalities of the cultural scene in Italy. Among the 100 there were going to be illustrious scientists like Margherita Hack , well-known writers such as Daniele del Giudice, successful filmmakers as Gabriele Salvatores , exhilarating cartoonists like Stefano Disegni , and other figures like Lapo Elkann, to which I would prefer not to attach any adjectives here (he is quite wealthy and I would be quite sued). All in all, a pretty weird group of people, but my admiration for Hack in particular had kept my interest going at the start.

The idea was that we would have a blog within their web site, where we could write anything we liked, provided we kept it original, innovative, and interesting. No problem with that. However, our pages would run advertisements of which we had no control – a fact that really bothered me for the daily potential of making me mad (I could in fact imagine quite a few ads that would make me sick – and I would be working to sell the product regardless).

A second problem I soon envisioned, as the picture became less sketchy, was the fact that we would have no control on the visual appearance of our pages. And we would not be provided with any form of statistics of visitors, incoming links, nothing. The latter thing is quite unacceptable, as any mature blogger would agree: understanding what is read and what is not, from whom, and what gets linked, is of vital importance for a serious blogging activity.

And then I received by e-mail the contract they offered. I was really surprised: I would be paid 0.10 euro per every monthly visitor (meaning 10 cents for a visitor who came once a month just as much as 10 cents for a visitor who came 100 times during the same month), but I would have no means of controlling the incoming traffic!

Now, while the hypothetical remuneration did not look too bad – a high-traffic site might easily provide its bloggers with several thousand monthly visitors, without any special effort on their part – the conditions of the contract looked ridiculous: by being prevented from verifying the traffic, the blogger would be left in the dark on whether the publisher was paying or not the right amount. A contract, I reasoned, had to be something which made any money exchange transparent to both parties. I felt I was asked to sign something that only protected my publisher.

Other conditions in the contract also upset me. I was conceding to my publisher the copyright of whatever I wrote; I was assuming total liability both towards my publisher and towards third parties, and I was also going to be liable for what commenters wrote on my posts; I was not to write anything that could damage the image of Sole-24 Ore, either. And so on. Basically, I was going to be on a leash, for a dubious income, and I was selling the rights of what I would write.

Despite this setback, I really wanted to accept the offer. I was curious to see what would happen, and I had a large amount of material to write about: I reasoned that, worse coming to worst, just translating the most interesting posts I had written in English during the last two years would have kept me going for a few months, so the extra workload did not look too threatening (something to take in account because, of course, I was not going to stop writing my private blog here anyhow).

I decided to negotiate better conditions. In particular, I wanted to be guaranteed I would have a means of controlling the traffic to my site.

(To be continued…)

Mixed nuts April 26, 2007

Posted by dorigo in Blogroll, humor, internet, italian blogs, news, science.
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A few disturbing links follow.

  • Jeff reports of someone who does not believe in Einstein’s equation E=mc^2, claiming it was never proven, and that Einstein’s work was used to confuse matters and allow the US to gain a lead in the construction of the bomb. My goodness, maybe we should carry a gun for personal defence after all, with all these deranged individuals around….
  •   Angry Physics discusses the equation string theory = bush lover.  With disturbing sidelines on the use of fetuses and the study of Calabi-Yao manifolds.
  • Dave Bacon finds out he is obsessed by nihilism.
  • Alex Janssen decides the right use of the windows over his computer screens is to host vases of chili.
  • Lubos Motl discusses the Jovian atmosphere, asking the rethorical question:  “Should the predicted number of exo-women of color in this environment influence the selection of the right compactification before we actually count them?”  

Berlusconi’s harem April 19, 2007

Posted by dorigo in italian blogs, news.
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Faithful to the common wisdom that even eagles can sometimes walk with chicken, I will for once allow myself some second-hand, low-level gossip. The subject is our beloved ex-premier Silvio Berlusconi, who -at the mature age of 71 years- appears to be still sexually attracted to young members of the opposite sex.

Berlusconi’s marriage was discussed in bars and hair salons even more than usual a few months ago, when his younger wife Veronica Lario, usually a very reserved person, bought a whole page of a major daily newspaper to write an open letter to her husband, who had been reported by the media of expressing quite openly his appreciation to a young and pretty actress in public, going as far as showing regret for being unable to propose to her. Despite the unusual medium, Veronica’s letter was the utterly normal cry of solitude of a wife left alone by a too busy and unattentive husband, and Berlusconi answered publicly, for once outdoing the soap-operas his TV networks in audience and in drama, with a letter which had according to analysts been closely reviewed by his lawyers.

Now, far from the TV screen since his defeat in last years’ elections, Berlusconi has given little chance of gossip for a while. However, the latest news on his private activities come from the weekly magazine “Oggi”, who published pictures of Berlusconi in one of his villas in Sardinia, encircled by young girls with which he appears to entertain himself, holding their hands while walking in the park, keeping them on his lap, and the like. Nothing really bad or obscene, of course, but one gets the feeling that the guy is on to something.

Who am I to blame him, or cast the first stone… I well understand that a physically fit 71-years old man may feel the need of these sorts of activities. But I am led to believe his marriage is short-lived, and with it, his political career.

Guest post: Amedeo Balbi, “Dark Energy for Beginners” April 2, 2007

Posted by dorigo in astronomy, Blogroll, internet, italian blogs, physics, science.
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Amedeo Balbi is a researcher at the Physics Department of the University of Rome “Tor Vergata” and an associate of INFN. His research interests are in theoretical cosmology, particularly the cosmic microwave background (CMB) radiation and dark energy. In the past he worked in the MAXIMA collaboration , one of the first experiments to observe the high-resolution pattern of the CMB and to measure the geometry of the universe. Currently, he is involved in ESA’s Planck satellite. He just published “La musica del Big Bang”, a popular-science book (in Italian) on cosmology and the CMB. His blog (in Italian) is Keplero.

So let’s hear it from him…

The facts

In the past decade, cosmologists have observed many distant type Ia
supernovae (SN): these are exploding dying stars of a particular
kind, which have a strong correlation between their intrinsic
luminosity and their light curve (this is, essentially, the time it
takes for the peak luminosity reached during the explosion to
decrease of a certain amount): this means that we can accurately know
the real luminosity of a type Ia SN. Then, measuring their apparent
luminosity, we can infer their distance, just as we can estimate the
distance of a 100 W light bulb by measuring its flux. Technically,
what is measured with type Ia SN is a quantity called luminosity
, which is related to another observable quantity, the
redshift of the supernovae (known lines in the spectra of any distant
source in the universe appear systematically shifted to larger
wavelengths – redder light in the visible spectrum – because of the
expansion of the universe). The relation between the luminosity
distance and redshift depends on the cosmological model, and here we
get to the main point: it was first found in 1998 and always
confirmed by subsequent observations that distance vs redshift
relation of the supernovae can only fit the theoretical curve if
one assumes that the universe is accelerating its expansion
So, to sum up: 1) type Ia supernovae are “standard candles”, i.e.
objects whose real luminosity can be measured, so we can infer their
distance and plot it as a function of redshift; 2) their apparent
luminosity is always dimmer than expected (i.e. they are more distant
then expected) in a way that suggests that the universe is expanding
at an increasing rate.
Can the dimming of type Ia SN be explained by other physical models?
In principle, yes: for example it might be that some dust is causing
the light to scatter and dim across the line of sight. However, these
alternative explanations are very contrived (they require ad-hoc
hypothesis: for example, dust that continuously replenish itself in
order to compensate for the expansion of the universe) so that they
don’t look very plausible. The simplest explanation right now is that
the expansion rate is increasing.

The hypothesis

What can be the cause of the accelerated expansion? Whatever the
explanation, it must be some really strange thing, since any ordinary
cosmological model predicts that the universe should slow down its
expansion as time goes by. The cumulative gravitational pull of all
the matter in the universe should act as a restraint to the
expansion, rather than as a boost! So, it appears that some repulsive
gravitational phenomenon has to be introduced in the cosmological
model to explain the acceleration. The simplest approach is to
resurrect an old idea by none other than Albert Einstein. In 1917, he
introduced a new term in his general relativity field equations. At
the time he did not know that the universe was in fact expanding, so
the new “repulsive” term, called cosmological constant, was
needed to keep the universe static, preventing it from collapsing.
But if the universe is expanding, as we now know it is, the
effect of introducing a cosmological constant is to accelerate the
expansion. But what is the cosmological constant, really? Basically,
there are two possible interpretations. One is to consider it as a
new constant of nature which modifies the spacetime metric: think of
it as an intrinsic feature of spacetime which does not depend on how
much matter (or energy) exists in the universe. This is close to the
way Einstein himself pictured it. The other interpretation is to
think of the cosmological constant as the energy density of the
vacuum (or of spacetime itself, when you get rid of all matter and
energy). This is the modern interpretation, since it is related to
the concept of zero-point energy of quantum field theory:
roughly speaking, when you sum the contribution of the ground state
energy of all quantum fields, in general you expect a non-null
result. This is usually not observable since we only measure energy
differences in the laboratory, so any contribution from the zero-
point energy is just a common offset, so to speak. However, as we
said, the vacuum energy density is relevant in cosmology, since it
accelerates the expansion of the universe.

The problem

So, it would seem everything is fine: we observe an acceleration in
the expansion of the universe, and we can easily explain it as due to
a non-null cosmological constant. Unfortunately, things are more
complicated than that. The problem is that any estimate of vacuum
energy from quantum field theory is grossly wrong: from 60 to 120
orders of magnitude (yes: 10 to the 60th or to the 120th!) larger
than the values estimated from the cosmic observations. No one knows
what goes wrong here. Are we missing something fundamental in quantum
field theory? Is there a mechanism which cancels the contribution
from the ground states and makes the vacuum energy almost zero? If
that is the case, then why there is only a partial cancellation, just
enough to make the universe accelerate in a recent epoch? (The moment
when the acceleration starts depends on the value of the cosmological
constant: the observed value implies that the universe started
accelerating just a few billion years ago. For a slightly larger
value, the acceleration would have started earlier, disrupting the
formation of any structure in the universe, including our own
galaxy!) Why the supposed cancellation does not make the cosmological
constant exactly zero? This is what physicists call a fine-tuning
problem: the parameter of a model must lie within a very narrow
range, without any reasonable a priori explanation. The small value
of the vacuum energy might be one of the most profound problems for
modern physics.


Can we get rid of the cosmological constant? (After all, Einstein
called it its “biggest blunder” and for about eighty years no one
really thought that its value should be different from zero.)
Unfortunately, it doesn’t seem so. It’s not just that the universe
accelerates. For example, we know that the universe has a flat
geometry, a fact that was discovered for the first time in 2000 by
the BOOMERANG and MAXIMA experiments, measuring the anisotropy of the
cosmic microwave background. This finding has been confirmed to
exquisite accuracy by the WMAP satellite in 2003. The fact that the
universe is flat means that its overall density has to be very close
to a certain critical value (since Einstein’s general relativity
relates the matter or energy content of the universe to its
geometry). But there simply isn’t enough matter in the universe (even
assuming the existence of unknown dark matter) to make it flat. The
vacuum energy can then provide just enough energy density to reach
the needed critical value. Another reason why cosmologists blessed
the resurrection of the cosmological constant is that it helps
solving a problem with the age of the universe. If the cosmological
constant is zero, then the cosmological model gives a universe which
is slightly younger than the oldest stars we observe in it!
So, there are many different, independent and converging evidences
which force the cosmological constant to be non-zero. But because of
the conceptual problems related to that, theorists are trying to come
up with alternative ideas to fit the cosmological observations. There
are so many that I cannot summarize all of them here, but basically
they can be classified into two kinds: either the theory of gravity
on very large scales has to be modified, or there must be in the
universe some unknown component very similar to a cosmological
constant. The latter alternative includes a large class of models,
falling in the broad category of “dark energy”: a component which has
no (or only a very weak) physical interaction (except gravity) with
anything else and is spread almost uniformly in the universe, so that
does not create any observable “lump”. Most of cosmological research
these days focuses on trying to get an idea of what is the real
nature of dark energy. Currently, however, there is no observation
which clearly indicates that we should abandon the “standard”
cosmological constant in favour of some more sophisticated model. As
the data will get better, in the near future, we would probably be
able to understand more clearly what is going on. However, it may
well be that the progress will come from the theoretical side:
perhaps the cosmological constant problem will be solved when we will
reach a better understanding of the unification of fundamental

Offering my neck to a leash ? March 21, 2007

Posted by dorigo in Blogroll, humor, internet, italian blogs, language, personal, politics, science.
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Today I received a very alluring proposal, and I am pondering about it.

Should I be one of 100 “innovator” bloggers (among which are successful writers, artists, and men of culture) that will contribute to a new prospective portal from one of the leading newspapers in Italy ?

Alluring it is. Because I will be offered a contract, I will be free to blog about whatever I “promise” my readers to discuss from the outset, and I will be unmoderated, uncensored, and as free as I am here. Plus, I will probably get a five-fold increase in readers (my estimate).

Oh, and thrown in to boot is a share of the portal’s profits in advertisements revenues. I am told one might make a living out of that (I seriously doubt it).


However, I am concerned by two or three things:

  1. I will be framed in a prearranged supplied interface which prevents me from checking daily the traffic, what is being read, and what is ignored by my audience.
  2. I will have no control of the advertisements my blog’s activity will passively support.
  3. I already have a job, and when I sign a contract of collaboration with a newspaper I may be breaking some rules.
  4. Will I have the time to do it at the level I would want to do it if I had a larger audience than the one the present blog grants me ?

Ok, point 1 is silly. I will get a monthly report, and that should suffice. It is true that detailed traffic reports such as the one provided for free by wordpress are of great value to understand what is considered interesting by one’s audience, but maybe one can live without it… I did so during the year at quantum diaries (they left us totally in the dark!).

Point 3 is irrelevant, I actually am quite sure I would be legally allowed to do whatever I want in my spare time.

Point 4 is plain stupid – I have been doing this for more than two years already, and my research did not particularly suffer from it (maybe my family did, but things are just fine).

Point 3 really bugs me though. I can imagine all sorts of advertising banners which would drive me insane, on a daily basis… I can’t even bring myself to making a list here.

Mumble, mumble, mumble…

So I am brought to ask myself: why do I blog ? Can I be sincere with myself for once ?

  • I blog because I love to write.
  • I love to share my thoughts.
  • I enjoy other people’s attention.
  • I love to make online acquaintances.

Ok, that maybe was too crude. Let me qualify the statements above.

  • I love to write about science, because I think by doing it I complete my assignment as a scientist, by trying to fill the gap and get people interested about fundamental questions.
  • I love to share my thoughts since I think it can be useful: to teach something, or if by doing that I get to learn something in return.
  • I enjoy the attention of people who are intellectually stimulating to me, and I love to argue with people who utterly disagree, if we keep the thing at a civil level – and by owning a blog, one decides the level one is comfortable with.
  • Some of the people I got to meet with my blogging are among the smartest sons-of-a-bitch I know.

… Plus, at times I am just a show-off.

Ok, I came clean. Now, would the above be possible, or enhanced, by running a blog in a newspaper’s domain ?

I think so. But the advertising thing still bothers me… I guess it depends on how fat is my share of the revenues.

…Oh, no! Too sincere again!

Beliefs and proofs in particle physics March 21, 2007

Posted by dorigo in italian blogs, personal, physics, science.
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Today Jeff posted a reply to a long thread originated by  my post on the new Tevatron average of the top quark mass , and I think he makes a few interesting points, which can be appreciated without reading all the thread. 

It all started with my comment “whether or not we are able to detect a particle with our technology does not affect its existence.”… Jeff replied that “A modern scientific theory has an obligation to furnish observables. We are obliged to detect the particle, at least produce a very tight set of quantitative observations that point to it. Otherwise an outsider would say “these physicists are no better than those that believe in supernatural ectoplasms”.”

And then he left an analysis of the issue:

Tommaso. Avoid bad philosophy and bad relations with outsiders. Bad philosophy can and IS used as an excuse by hostile outsiders to argue the emptiness and hence uselessness of the scientific enterprise.

Regards evidence and existence [of the Higgs boson – TD] you guys can do better than that! Maybe most of you are too young and haven’t read enough history or have forgot it. How about the neutrino! Far more paradigmatic than the recent top quark. From the mid 30s to mid 50s, the neutrino seemed to elude direct detection, BUT it was leaving finger prints everywhere! The neutrino was an essential ingredient to allow physicist to make sense of weak interactions. It allowed them to be quantitative and scientifically creative: data could be accounted for and new ideas and experiments could be conceived to mount further evidence that the theory was on the right track. Ultimately these further experiments pointed to further subtle and deeper problems.

Consilience: a network of loose evidence collectively furnishes a tight argument. Single experiments are not water tight proofs for any theory; it is the network of experiments and accounted phenomena that make modern science. It is “detection of existence” in the broad sense of the word. Most physicists were convinced of the existence of the neutrino before the “direct” Reines and Cowan 1956 experiment. The top quark was a replay. After the discovery of the bottom quark the evidence for the top mounted in a anticlimatic crescendo. Is the Higgs story another example? A replay of a story alread told. Do you really think it is?

I have left HEP for some years now so I am not updated (was I ever? No, just cog in a big machine.). I personally believe that physicist formulate effective theories – the Fermi point theory of weak interactions with neutrinos was the first modern example. I mentioned above consilience. Let me add that quantitative and profound qualitative changes may occur: a theory evolves to become signicantly more solid and profound when new unexpected phenomena become available as when energy thresholds are crossed. Higher energies required the Fermi effective theory be transformed to incorporate the heavy W and Z bosons and the theoretical and experimental work eventually led to the Standard Model.

In the past 100 years energy thresholds have uncovered surprises: existence of nucleus, of nucleons and nuclear structure, of nucleon substructure (partons and quarks), heavy intermediate bosons, jets, gluons, etc… To my knowledge NONE of these were predicted in any water tight way and when they were observed there was a great hustle of theory building and killing. I do find it remarkable that a consistent Standard Model emerged. It truely is a magnificent showpiece of how modern science works and it should be taught to outsiders emphasizing the hard work, the wrong turns, the great insights, the good and the bad philosophy, hoping to learn from mistakes, the predictables (hard work) and the unpredictables (the unexpected discoveries), but absolutely leaving out the the “gee-whiz”. That can sound like hocus-pocus to hostile outsiders.

From this point of view the real risk of accelerator physics is that the energy thresholds for uncovering new and welcomed unexpected phenomena are out of reach. But that is not to argue that the LHC should not have been built. There is no gain without pain. There is no thrill with a risk. There is the possibility that the Higgs might not make a show. Now that would be a discovery!!! Astrophysics and ultimately cosmology are probably the best realms for finding unaccountable and new phenomena.

I can only say I agree with most of what he said, and that I have always thought that the absence of the Higgs would indeed be a great discovery.

Set Mastrogiacomo free March 9, 2007

Posted by dorigo in Blogroll, internet, italian blogs, news, politics.
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Misspelled! February 6, 2007

Posted by dorigo in Blogroll, humor, internet, italian blogs, news, personal, physics, science, Uncategorized.
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My recent rant  about growing old is still hot in the press, and here I am, posting another rant. Maybe I am indeed growing old and bitter.

The fact is, everybody loves to be quoted. In the blogosphere, sure, but even more so if it is in a respected, widely known magazine on scientific divulgation . That is, unless they get your name wrong!

It is TOMMASO! T-o-m-m-a-s-o! There. Not that hard, huh ? Why is it that most English-speaking johns end up writing it down and even speaking it up as Tomasso ?

The fact that Tomasso sounds like Tom-ass-**** only adds insult to injury, of course.

However, if the NS journalist who interviewed me on the phone the other week should happen to read this: please don’t feel bad or apologize… You are only the last of a long list. I have sort of metabolized it, until I saw it written on tens of thousands of printed pages.

Oh well. I guess I will get it over with. That is, until they’ll start misquoting me. For that I retain a reserve of indignation.

PS: thanks to my friend David for bringing it up to my attention, and even  writing about it.