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!

 

#mundaneneutrinoexplanations

 

The Scientific Mind Behind FlashForward

Our most recent video for Time.com 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.

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Current.com Science Comedian Interview

Some­one I met via Twit­terDelia the Artist – just inter­viewed me for Current.com.  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!

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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.