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Greek Blog November 1, 2010

Posted by dorigo in Blogroll, internet, language, news, personal, physics, science.
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I had forgotten to link it from here, but the internet always provides a chance for redemption. So here I go. A couple of months ago I have opened another wordpress blog, where I write on particle physics – in Greek. This is a rather extravagant choice, and I think I need to spend a few words explaining it.

First of all, there is my love of the language, which I have been studying for two years. It is a difficult language to master, due to the interplay of several factors: the different alphabet, the enormous wealth of words, and the rather quick evolution of rules and uses. Maybe because of these challenges, I have found it quite entertaining to get on top of it.

The second reason for writing in Greek is, in fact, that I have yet a lot to learn, and I think that writing about science is a very good exercise, allowing me to find a solution to the translation problems I may encounter if I discuss about my job – physics – in that language.

The third reason is that I think there is no offer whatsoever in the web for a blog about particle physics in Greek (if you know any, let me know). So I might just try to fill that hole myself.

In short, the new blog is an experiment. I do not know, nor can predict, how long it will last; for now, if you know modern Greek please stop by. Below is a list of my recent efforts:

Greek lessons online February 22, 2009

Posted by dorigo in internet, language, travel.
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Just a short entry today, to mention that I found an excellent resource on the web to learn modern greek. The site is completely free, and it makes available to users a full set of audio lessons, complete with study material. The lessons are easy to follow -I listened to four of them this afternoon already.

The site is http://www.kypros.org/LearnGreek/ . Have a look…They deserve some advertisement. You need to register but everything is free of charge.

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 Città 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.

And I thought I had been harsh… April 21, 2008

Posted by dorigo in cosmology, language, news, physics, science.
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Due and happy thanks to a friend for pointing me to the following sentence, appeared minutes ago at the Cosmic Variance site in a guest post by Juan Collar:

“Thanks DAMA, for cheapening the level of our discourse to truly imbecilic levels. (Sean, if you edit this I will scratch the paint off your car. I may not write blogs, but I do read them: I know how to hurt you).”

No, I think Sean will not edit it – by now it is on record. In any case, I have two comments. The first is that I am happy that a comment I recently made in this blog about the presentation of the new DAMA result sounds polite and positive if compared with the above. The second is that I think we should all back off and realize that no matter whether an experiment will one day win the Nobel prize or be proven laughably wrong, every scientist who works in our field deserves our respect until proven an imbecile. Doing otherwise harms the whole field, and ourselves.

Oh, and – I still thank Sean for linking to my own commentary of the DAMA-LIBRA signal.

The Corfu 2005 proceedings online April 10, 2008

Posted by dorigo in astronomy, books, games, humor, internet, language, mathematics, music, news, personal, physics, politics, science, travel, Uncategorized.
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Just a note to post here the permanent link to the proceedings of a conference I attended in Corfu (Greece) three years ago. This is a long (32 pages) report on “High-P_T Physics: from the Tevatron to the LHC“, now published in the Journal of Physics: Conference Series [Tommaso Dorigo 2006 J. Phys.: Conf. Ser. 53 163-194]. I think I did post a draft of the paper on this blog a couple of years ago, but then I forgot to post the final version as well.

The paper is a bit dated in some parts, where the most recent (back then) results from the Tevatron are discussed; however, some parts -especially a discussion of the usefulness of Tevatron data for LHC physics- are still readable IMHO. Also worth noting is the fact that the acknowledgments section mentions the late Riqie Arneberg, a friend who passed away last fall, who had accepted the offer I had made to all readers of this blog to proofread the manuscript, and contributed in several places to the clarity of the text.

The publisher has now made available online all its 100 open access volumes through the JPCS home page. Of course I salute this contribution to the free diffusion of science with enthusiasm.

Dumb google, insane users January 4, 2008

Posted by dorigo in internet, language, personal.
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Just a note to inform readers that I have been forced to remove a recent post from my blog. The post was about some diatriba about a picture appeared on the New York Times, with a succintly dressed lady. The difference between the current year and her birth year was below twice the square of three.

I hope you will pardon my vagueness, but I had to remove the post because of the words it contained and I do not wish to iterate the process. Nothing outrageous, everything beyond reproach. But those words triggered a huge response in terms of traffic by insane individuals in search for illegal material on the web. Google can be as dumb as its users at times, and I do not particularly welcome that kind of audience here.

Mothers cheating for sons’ grades December 11, 2007

Posted by dorigo in internet, language, personal.
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My wife teaches in a Liceo Classico – a high school where students learn latin and greek, and where the focus is on human sciences; her school is one which has a long, prestigious history – but despite of that, misdemeanor reigns. Through her tales, I sometimes get to know about common fraudolent practices and trends of teenager students in Italy.

One of the most important criteria for evaluation of a student’s knowledge in Latin and Greek is the written exam, where a short piece taken from the classics is translated into Italian. The students are not supposed to have seen the piece beforehand, but that is not a problem given the vast amount of literature from which the teacher can choose the subject of the exam. The teacher gives the text to the class at the beginning of the exam, and the students have typically two hours to complete the task.

Now, my wife reports that it is becoming common practice for some students to obtain outside help through their cell phones. Usually, before the exam starts the teacher collects all cell-phones from the students: unfortunately, many youngsters in Italy have a second cell-phone, and some use to conceal it somewhere. These rascals are thus able to paste the text to be translated into a message, send it to somebody outside the school, and wait until the text is fetched from the internet along with a perfect translation. They then copy the resulting translation received through an instant message into their translation. A high score is guaranteed. The teacher usually has no chance to discover the fraud, because students have become really skilled with typing on cell phones without looking at the keyboard.

I knew about this practice – it is not applied only in high school, but -even more annoying- in selections for new positions in public administration or other white collar jobs. But my wife tells me in some cases it is the very mothers of the students who stay home in front of a computer to do an internet search. I find the thought simply unbearable. A parent that teaches his son or daughter that the only important thing is the result – a good grade – and not the process, nor the capability to study, is sending a clear message: just be smarter than your peer and cheat if you need to. Quite in line with today’s world, in truth.

Teaching the SM in rhyme: an opening bid December 1, 2007

Posted by dorigo in Art, Blogroll, games, humor, language, personal, physics, science.
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Somebody suggested I should write particle physics lessons in rhyme, and I do love a challenge, if it stimulates my highly nonlinear mind (somebody else suggested to do a video thereafter, but I’ll pass on that one; a third somebody commented in rhyme). Well, today is a Saturday, and since I did not feel too well, I felt entitled to some pastimes… Below you can find my production: a summary of the Higgs mechanism in five lines, for starters. 

[The usual Limerick’s AABBA scheme applies, while the division in syllables is much sketchier… Syllables in English are a real nightmare, at least for non-natives. I recollect learning a long time ago from Martin Gardner’s Mathematical Games column on SciAm that the language owns a 10-letter syllable: scraunched, but later found out that there are even 11-letter ones actually: broughammed, squirrelled.]

Anyway, here’s my bid at a concise, to the point SM lesson in rhyme:

Boson masses break L-gauge invariance,
And the model just can not keep its stance.
So just pawn the four Goldstones,
Open three W-mass loans,
While a fourth, called the Higgs, keeps the balance.

Of course, you are welcome to contribute to the project by explaining your favourite piece of physics likewise, if you feel in the right vein. Just follow the AABBA quintuplet template, with (if possible) the usual rythm: da-da-dum da-da-dum da-da-dum for the 1st, 2nd, and 5th verse, and da-da-dum da-da-dum for the 3rd and 4th.

Just a limerick December 1, 2007

Posted by dorigo in Art, games, humor, internet, language, personal.
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Minutes after writing a limerick in a comment to a post on Bee’s and Stefan’s blog, I got envious. “What the hell, I have my own blog… That creation of mine, although not anything to be proud of, should live in mine, not theirs”. Yes, the misery of a blogger’s soul. Anyway, I decided to steal it from there and paste it in my own. The rationale being that if blogspot fries their data bank, I’ll still have this post backed up. And copying it also allows to fix the last verse, which was missing one syllable (added “please”). Oh well. Here it is.

If you think you’ve got something to say,
Just open your own blog today.
Your voice will be heard,
And you will get referred,
But please don’t let that bring you astray.

Not much, but considering I am not an English native and I spent finding rhymes 90% of the fifteen minutes it took me to write it, I am reasonably satisfied.

Lecture 1 November 27, 2007

Posted by dorigo in language, personal, physics, science.
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Today was the first day of my course in subnuclear physics in Padova. I had given similar lectures in the past -to PhD students, both in Padova and in Catania- but I felt more responsibility this time, partly because I was going to discuss basic concepts of particle physics to students that had not had prior exposure to them.

The lecture I gave today was about the need for gauge symmetries, the lagrangian formalism for scalar and fermion fields, the issue of endowing with mass the bosons mediating weak interactions, and the connected problems of divergences and renormalizability. It was a fairly theoretical discussion, although I tried to give as much experimental perspective as I could to the various issues treated. I tried to make it quite clear just why one needs to insist that a lagrangian function retain local gauge invariance, and on the other hand why it is mandatory to add terms that at first glance spoil the invariance. I spent some time also describing the connection between observed and only hypothesized weak processes, their divergent behavior, the need for neutral vector bosons, and the resulting predictions of the GSW theory. The next lesson will start with the Higgs mechanism.

I was a bit worried before the lecture – I usually keep a cool mind in such occasions, but admittedly my knowledge of the theoretical nuisances below the surface of the simplified treatment I offered  in the lecture is not very deep. What worried me was not the chance of incurring in a tough question I was unable to answer – I have no trouble admitting my ignorance if that is the case- so much as the risk of embarking in a discussion of details which I would have explained in a less than satisfactory, inaccurate way: the responsibility of writing garbled physics concepts on the clean slates of my students’ minds. I have to admit I did not sleep well last night: but I prefer to ascribe that to my jetlag, and to Ilaria’s contribution -she woke everybody up at 4 in the morning with symptoms of a flu.

I did well. I recorded myself, and later analyzed the recording by noticing how much time I had spent on several topics, how repetitive I had been on some issues, and how clearly I had expressed the most important concepts. Overall I am mildly satisfied with the result. One thing I noticed, though, is that I have a mannerism in my speech, which consists in interspersing a sound like “errrr…” between sentences when I am thinking at what to say. I should just silence myself during those short, 1-second intervals. I will be working at that in the next lectures… Room for improvement there.

The next lesson will be the hardest for me, since the full theoretical formalism of the Standard Model will be explained in its details, and I will take care to derive a few important consequences for vector boson and Higgs phenomenology, and the shortcomings of the theory. From then on, I will start delving with the phenomenology of Higgs production and decay at colliders, things on which it will be much easier for me to produce a decent lecture. Following that, I will discuss top quark physics and other topics in hadron collider physics at the Tevatron and the LHC. I believe my students will also be happier with the latter part of the course…