Archive Page 2

Liveblogging CDMS Talk from My Couch

Post-Talk UPDATE:

My take: No conclusive discovery of dark matter, but we couldn’t realistically expect that anyway.  However, there are two events that, while not definitively dark matter, can’t be ruled out either.  The announcement wasn’t earth-shattering, but it was nonetheless exciting.  It was cool for me to be in on what may be the early stages of a big and important discovery, both by watching the announcement live and by being at the institution that hosts the experiment.

My semester is over, so I’m at home, sitting on my couch, watching the CDMS talk streaming live. Here’s some of my thoughts as I watch: Continue reading ‘Liveblogging CDMS Talk from My Couch’

Rumors of the Dark Side

UPDATE: Direct link to the streaming video of the announcement.  Live blogging of the event at SLAC via JoAnne at Cosmic Variance.

You may have heard the wild rumors circulating around the physics blogosphere about the CDMS (Cryogenic Dark Matter Search) experiment taking place deep underground in an abandoned mine in northern Minnesota.  The rumor (which apparently started with this post at Resonaances) took some unusual behavior by the CDMS team, combined with the rumor of an article being published in Nature, led many to speculate that they were planning to announce detection of dark matter.

It turns out that these rumors were overly dramatic — apparently there is no Nature article, and Priscilla Cushman from the University of Minnesota has downplayed the rumors, calling them “lots of smoke and not much fire.”

However, they are still making dual announcements today at 5 o’clock EST, one at SLAC and one at Fermilab, and one will be webcast here.  So they have some sort of semi-major announcement, but that doesn’t necessarily mean a claim of detection.  It could be a significant improvement on their experimental limits, or maybe detections at a level that doesn’t allow them to make any big claims.  For more thoughts on what might be announced, and what it might mean, see this post.

And now for a little speculation of my own:

Continue reading ‘Rumors of the Dark Side’

I’m Not That Kind of Nerd

The other day, while chatting with some of my fellow grad students, the conversation, so I thought, turned to football.  After a couple of my comments were met with no response, I realized that they were actually talking about the professional computer gaming league that they follow online.  Somewhat embarrassed, I turned my attention back to my pizza and waited for the topic of conversation to turn back to physics.

Later, I laughed at the irony of this situation.  You would think someone obsessed with Starcraft would be awkwardly left out of the football conversation, not the other way around.  But it was just another thing that made me realize that I’m not like these nerds.

Don’t get me wrong.  I’m a HUGE nerd.  I’m a physics graduate student, and I write a blog about it.  That’s enough for most of the population to put me stamp me with the NERD label.  And I’m fine with that.  I embrace my physics nerdiness.

But it’s the other interests that are generally assumed to go along with the math and science nerd stereotype where I fail to fit in.  I only like the most mainstream of science fiction and fantasy (Star Wars and Harry Potter).  Other than my Mario Kart skills and a brief obsession with Halo on my roommate’s XBox in college, I never really got into computer or video games.  I never read comic books.  I’m not all that interested in becoming technically adept in all the minutiae of computers.  Yet these are all the interests of your classic nerd.

(These are not just stereotypes, by the way.  I’m sure that you’ll find a statistically significant number of math/physics/computer science types like these things much more than I do.)

Continue reading ‘I’m Not That Kind of Nerd’

The Science of Who’s the Best

The Physics ArXiv Blog recently discussed a paper on the statistical problem with soccer tournaments.  In particular, the authors note the problem that there is only a 28% chance that the “best team” won the most recent World Cup.  They also point to the presence of intransitive triplets,  or rock-paper-scissors type relationships where team A beats team B beats team C, who then beats team A.  They cite these results to support their claim that single-elimination tournaments, and soccer games in general are a bad experiment to determine the best team.

I don’t know much about soccer, but as a basketball fan, I’m not surprised to hear about the existence of these intransitive triplets.  Sure, after an 82-game NBA season where every team plays each other at least twice,  you can feel pretty confident about ranking the teams on a rough hierarchy.  But three teams of roughly the same level can definitely have a rock-paper-scissors relationship because of different areas of strength.

More interesting, however is their claim about single-elimination tournaments, as it makes me think of the age-old debate that seems to come up every March: Which is better, NCAA or NBA basketball?

Continue reading ‘The Science of Who’s the Best’

Unpaid Internships and Power

Because I have always had my eye on academia, there are many things I don’t know about the business world, including the process of getting started as a young person and moving up the ranks.  However, whenever I hear aspiring business-types talk, internships perpetually come up.  Internships seem to be central to the plan of getting experience, getting noticed, and getting on track to a good job.  And the accompanying question is always asked: is the internship paid or unpaid?

Before today, this question never fazed me.  I have always been paid for my internship-like research experiences, but I was not surprised that in some fields, people paid their dues by working for free.  However, a blog entry that I read today completely changed my mind, and not in the direction that the author intended.

Continue reading ‘Unpaid Internships and Power’

Cumulative Links Dump

It’s Friday afternoon, time for you to goof off with this list of links that I’ve saved up over the past few weeks:

  • Advanced physcis labs — What we expect from them, what we should expect from them, how to change them.  My experience with advanced lab didn’t teach me all that much, and wasn’t all that rigorous.  I didn’t mind, since I had my mind made up to be a theorist anyway.  Plus, we were all required to do a senior research project, which filled in many holes, along with our fairly demanding modern physics lab.  But a more challenging advaced lab might have been like foul-tasting medicine that would make me better off today.
  • Physics Toolbox: Symmetry: The return of Morning Coffee Physics!  Explains the role of symmetry in physics.
  • Cities and Ambition — What does your city say to its ambitious people?  I’ve been trying to figure out the underlying message in Minneapolis, but haven’t quite gotten there yet.  Plus, it’s interesting to think about ranking cities by the quality of the eavesdropping that you can do.
  • Grad School and Vacations, PhD Comics — Q: So what do we get? A: Exploited, mostly.
  • Impossible Tasks, PhD Comics — I think we all go through this at some point.  Not quite as disheartening as saying it’s impossible and then having your adviser do it in five minutes, though
  • Thoughts on Grad School: Trying to employ as many of these tips as possible this semester.  Especially intriguing: #10  Take Days Off.
  • Most Depressing Ideas in Physics: The eventual heat death of the universe is harshin’ my mellow.

Going Greener With Alternative Power

It’s been a little over a year since I blogged about my carbon footprint, and detailed some of the steps that I was taking to reduce my environmental impact.  Here’s an update, along with a new step that I encourage all of you to look into: purchasing electricity from alternative energy sources.

Car-Free Existence

I grew up dependent on cars for transportation, but I’ve found the transition to not owning a car to be pretty easy.  I ride my bike when the weather cooperates, 8 miles round trip to school (EDIT: Closer to 6 miles, now that I’ve found a faster and shorter route).  Thanks to a good network of bike lanes and trails, plus (mostly) conscientious drivers, my bike commute is usually pretty nice.  I can definitely see why Minneapolis is considered the #2 bike friendly city in America.

UPDATE: If you’re hesitant to start biking places because you’re not sure you’d be able to find a route, Google Maps now has bicycling directions that are fairly good.

When it rains, and during the winter, I take the bus.  This is also very convenient, as the Twin Cities have good public transportation.  I can use Google Maps to find the best route at any given time.  Plus, it’s great that the Twin Cities have a growing number of hybrid electric buses, which furthers the cause of going green.

Continue reading ‘Going Greener With Alternative Power’