Short Items

  • The LHC is back in business, with the experiments collecting data at 4 TeV/beam, marginally higher than last year’s 3.5 TeV/beam. They are ramping up the number of bunches in each beam, already this afternoon achieving a higher initial luminosity than the best of late last year. This should be a record luminosity for a [as pointed out by a commenter, hadron] collider. One place to follow the amount of data being accumulated is this CMS page.
  • Also in Switzerland, another hard to comprehend publicly funded experiment is going on, see details here.

    The Swiss boson is a hypothetical condition which is supposed to account for why the Swiss franc has ‘mass’ when all other neighbouring currencies don’t.

    A multi billion-euro experiment, operated by BERN (but funded outright by tax payers), is currently under way on the borders of Switzerland and the Eurozone to try and stamp out the asymmetries, ideally by creating something known as the ‘anti-franc’.

    As part of the experiment, highly skilled practitioners smash billions of Swiss francs against the euro currency daily, with the explicit aim of blowing apart the franc.

    Experiments to date suggest the boson is probably hiding somewhere in the 1.20-1.22 field. Though some say there’s a chance of finding it at the 1.25 mark.

    Yet as the experiment continues, fears grow that a black hole could unwittingly be created in the current account of the nation — a singularity known as the “ever depreciating euro asset” phenomenon.

  • Jean-Pierre Serre has a web-page at the Collège de France where one can download copies of many of his recent manuscripts. There’s also a wonderful interview with him here.
  • Michio Kaku, the “co-founder of the superstring version of string theory”, gave a talk about the future recently in Yakima, Washington. Clifford Johnson reports on a recent phone conversation he had:

    Michio Kaku says that the universe is full of many things and all you have to do is ask for something and you’ll get it. How do you go about doing that?

    Well… I am not sure what he had in mind. It might be…. might be best to ask him…. But maybe what he meant is that the universe is a very big place, with lots of things going on, and maybe he meant that there are all sorts of things you could find out there because it is so big and diverse… But perhaps he did not have in mind that a particular person could go out and get any of those things… but you might want to ask him. I can’t say for sure.

    Perhaps Clifford should have clarified things for his caller by explaining that it’s only string theorists for whom “the universe is full of many things and all you have to do is ask for something and you’ll get it”.

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9 Responses to Short Items

  1. Visitor says:

    The “Swiss boson” article seems to be satirical in nature, Peter. Possibly a belated April Fools’ item.

  2. Peter Woit says:


    It’s not an April Fool’s joke, but yes, it’s a satirical comparison of what is going on with the Swiss franc and stories about the Higgs boson. I thought it interesting to see that discussion of the Higgs has gotten so much attention that financial journalists find it a worthwhile topic to use in a satire. Unless you’re pretty well informed about the Higgs, you’re not going to get the joke and find it funny. That the Financial Times thinks much of its readership will get the joke is kind of remarkable.

  3. MathPhys says:

    I usually have negative things to say about M Kaku, but I have just watched the video clip that Peter linked and I must say that he spoke very well in favor of supporting science. He gave a level-headed impression, used the right words and metaphors (no matter how oversimplified) that can make sense to the layman and, hopefully, make a difference.

  4. anonymoo says:


    Read the FT piece through to the comments and you’ll see that pulling strings behind the facade of “reality” is taken to be the prerogative of the policy wonk. The text-book is Thomas Hobbes’ and that should not surprise Ye denizens of Ecclesiastical Polity. This is Scientific Materialism as also preached by Galileo from Tertullian.

  5. Shantanu says:

    Peter, see Rabi Mohapatra’s talk at PI. e believes SO(10) has to be right.

  6. Joel Rice says:

    I have not seen anything so funny on a physics blog in … well, ever.

  7. Joy says:

    Ok, so electrons collectively interacting in condensed matter can function on a quantum level as a sort of virtual “Majorana particle” (not the public’s idea of a particle, but never mind that)
    Prediction: This 1930s concept will be said to be evidence for string theory by midweek

  8. luminosity says:

    It is curious that almost all the posts are to laugh at Kaku/string theory but nobody has anything to say about the LHC and the outstanding work at CERN. When claiming a record luminosity, be careful to restrict to hadron colliders. Or else check what the e+e- colliders achieved, for example at the B factories (including CESR). It’s so easy to laugh at or put down other people. It’s so much harder to come up with a positive contribution of one’s own.

  9. Peter Woit says:


    Thanks for the correction. You’re right, the LHC has not yet quite reached the luminosity levels achieved at the e+/e- B-factories (they are above CESR, but not PEP-II). I agree with your comment that the progress at the LHC is remarkable and this deserves to be noted and appreciated. Unfortunately, as long as things are going well, the LHC likely won’t produce dramatic news until early July. So, to keep people entertained, the continuing antics of Kaku and the string theorists are one of the few possibilities here.