Posts Tagged ‘LHC

My 25 Mundane Neutrino Explanations

Today I had the most fun I’ve ever had on Twit­ter, thanks to the OPERA exper­i­ment work­ing out of CERN, home of the Large Hadron Col­lid­er.

The blo­gos­phere is ablaze with news that they seem to have detect­ed neu­tri­nos trav­el­ing faster than light.  If true, it would be the biggest sci­ence news of the cen­tu­ry, over­turn­ing one of the most fun­da­men­tal con­cepts in physics.  There is obvi­ous­ly much skep­ti­cism amongst sci­en­tists.  For a typ­i­cal­ly insight­ful expla­na­tion, check out Bad Astronomer Phil Plait‘s post:  Faster-than-light trav­el dis­cov­ered? Slow down, folks

The Twit­ter fun began when a dis­cus­sion between two physicist/mathematician-types, Blake Stacey (@blakestacey) and S.C. Kavas­sal­is (@sc_k) led Blake to tweet:

@sc_k May­be we need to coun­ter­bal­ance the HEP blo­go­he­dron with a Twit­ter meme? e.g., #mun­daneneu­tri­no­ex­pla­na­tions

Then he spun out a few fun­ny exam­ples of more mun­dane expla­na­tions for the unusu­al neu­tri­no mea­sure­ment:

  • #CERN physi­cists did arith­metic on old Pen­tium com­put­ers
  • #CERN physi­cists let under­grads near the exper­i­ment
  • Cal­cu­la­tions done by vis­it­ing Amer­i­cans who still don’t get the met­ric sys­tem.

…  all with the #mun­daneneu­tri­no­ex­pla­na­tions hash­tag append­ed.

I think I was the first one to fol­low his lead with:

  • For­got to car­ry the one
  • Con­fused neu­tri­no with one sent lat­er
  • Study pub­lished by Wake­field et al

Then @drskyskull and @physicsdavid and oth­ers joined in (even asto­physi­cist Neil deGrasse Tyson and the Bad Astronomer) and, before you know it, the Twit­ter­verse was alive with fun­ny expla­na­tions, some of which may be as like­ly as super­lu­mi­nal neu­tri­nos.  I end­ed up spit­ting out about 25 of them, which I present here, as they were tweet­ed, in reverse chrono­log­i­cal order (so start from the bot­tom). Enjoy!




The Scientific Mind Behind FlashForward

Our most recent video for is about the new ABC series, “Flash­For­ward.”  The show is based on the 1999 nov­el by Cana­di­an sci­ence fic­tion author Robert J. Sawyer, whom we met this sum­mer at the Launch Pad Astron­o­my Work­shop.

Read the rest of this entry » Science Comedian Interview

Some­one I met via Twit­terDelia the Artist – just inter­viewed me for  Cur­rent has a short­er, edit­ed ver­sion of the inter­view but Delia is host­ing the full inter­view on her own site.

And, oh look!  Here comes the full ver­sion now…

Where does science meet comedy?
Somewhere in Brian Malow’s universe. 

From museums to comedy clubs, Earth’s Premier Science Comedian brings the funny to the hilarious 5th installment of Science is Speaking!

Read the rest of this entry »

Science Foo Camp 2008: Chapter 2 – The Hotel

The Sci­Foo expe­ri­ence begins before the first ses­sion – even before we get to the Google­plex (Get thee to the Google­plex!).

There was the Wiki, as pre­vi­ous­ly dis­cussed, for first vir­tu­al encoun­ters.  Then Sci­Foo week­end arrived.

On Fri­day after­noon, my taller half and I checked into the Wild Palms Hotel in Sun­ny­vale.  Sad­ly, jeal­ous­ly, Tara would not be join­ing me at the uncon­fer­ence.  As I frol­icked at the vast Google empire, she’d be get­ting to know every square inch of our lit­tle hotel room.  Where­as I’d be inter­act­ing with 200 sci­en­tists and sci­ence and sci­ence fic­tion writ­ers, she’d be inter­fac­ing with a stack of sci­ence and sci­ence fic­tion books.  I’d have Neal Stephen­son; she’d have The Dia­mond Age.  I’d have Ann Druyan; she’d have Shad­ows of For­got­ten Ances­tors.

Shut­tles would begin fer­ry­ing campers to the Google­plex around 5:15pm.  Tara and I went down to the hotel lob­by a lit­tle ear­ly to join the gath­er­ing crowd.  We round­ed a cor­ner and bumped right into Esther and George Dyson, sit­ting exact­ly as cap­tured here in their nat­u­ral habi­tat by Bet­sy Devine.  They were very sweet and wished us first-timers a great expe­ri­ence.

Min­utes lat­er, Prab­hat Agar­wal intro­duced him­self.  Prab­hat is a for­mer condensed-matter physi­cist who now works for the Future and Emerg­ing Tech­nolo­gies Unit at the Euro­pean Com­mis­sion.  His job is to iden­ti­fy and sup­port new areas of information-related sci­ence, and he told us about his per­son­al inter­est in how we rec­og­nize some­thing as new.  I’m still con­vinced that we rely most­ly on the new-concept smell.

Jim Hardy has a pic from a few min­utes lat­er of Tara and me talk­ing to Bri­an Cox and his wife Gia Mili­novich.  Tara and Gia are in oppo­si­tion, and I’m near­ly total­ly eclipsed by Bri­an.  John Gilbey’s left eye makes a spe­cial uncred­it­ed appear­ance.  [Jim sends along this link to a big­ger ver­sion]

This was the first of sev­er­al con­ver­sa­tions I’d have with Bri­an and Gia.  Bri­an is a par­ti­cle physi­cist who works on the ATLAS exper­i­ment at the Large Hadron Col­lid­er at CERN in Geneva.  Gia calls her­self a sci­ence groupie and broad­cast­er.  She’s worked on some pret­ty cool stuff like the CERN pod­cast and Walk­ing with Robots and the new X-Files movie.

They are not only a cou­ple but also a cou­ple of the peo­ple I’d see the most through­out the week­end.  We end­ed up in a lot of the same ses­sions, although I was sor­ry to miss Brian’s LHC ses­sion.

We talked a bit about the LHC and laughed about the well-publicized fear that it would cre­ate micro-black holes that would destroy the Earth.  Although there is a chance that MBH’s will be cre­at­ed, it would require that the uni­verse con­tain a few extra unseen dimen­sions, an aspect that is wished for by string the­o­rists and oth­ers but still unproven (at least by us ter­rans in our local 4-dimensional space­time realm).  Also, if cre­at­ed, the black holes would be so small and like­ly dis­ap­pear so quick­ly (due to Hawk­ing Radi­a­tion) that they may be unde­tectable by the LHC’s sen­sors.  A far cry from devour­ing the plan­et.

For an excel­lent fic­tion­al treat­ment of a sim­i­lar cat­a­stro­phe on Mars, check out Lar­ry Niven’s Hugo Award-winning short sto­ry, The Hole Man.  Much fun!

A few min­utes before we start­ed board­ing the shut­tles, Steve Goldfin­ger intro­duced him­self to me and Tara.  He lives up in the Mar­in area, as I recall, and we live in SF.  Steve is co-founder of Glob­al Foot­print Net­work.  We sat togeth­er on the ride to the Google­plex, dis­cussing sus­tain­abil­i­ty (his field) and sci­ence com­e­dy (mine).

Steve also men­tioned hav­ing been impressed with some sci­ence fic­tion by Kim Stan­ley Robin­son – although we laughed when he acci­den­tal­ly called him “Kim Stan­ley Ander­sen,” which I sug­gest­ed was a mash-up with Hans Chris­tian Ander­sen.

I don’t know which Robin­son work he was talk­ing about but sus­tain­abil­i­ty was a major the­me (which it often is for Robin­son) and it was not the Mars Tril­o­gy (per­haps the Three Cal­i­for­ni­as Tril­o­gy or his most recent nov­els Forty Signs of Rain and Fifty Degrees Below).

As we arrived at Google, Steve and I exchanged busi­ness cards.  I had a great time chat­ting with him, but after we left the shut­tle, I only ever saw him in pass­ing per­haps once more.

Tara reads Niven & Pournelle's The Mote in God's Eye. On the night­stand: Asimov's The God's Them­selves, Sagan & Druyan's Shad­ows of For­got­ten Ances­tors, Farmer's To Your Scat­tered Bod­ies Go, Jill Bolte Taylor's My Stroke of Insight. Tara is a vora­cious read­er.