Rainy Day Posting

My spring break vacation is not quite over but, after 10 days of spectacularly beautiful weather, it’s now raining hard here today and I’ve got some time indoors to write something. First some quick links to things I’ve seen in my short periods of recent internet access (leaving the BICEP2 story for after I get back Tuesday …):

  • I don’t often link to things at Tommaso Dorigo’s blog, since my advice is that you should just always follow it since it’s the best HEP experiment blog to be found. His latest has news of an impressive CMS limit on the Higgs width, something that I had never realized could be done. This should get a lot more attention than it has gotten; it’s a great example of experimental cleverness, getting at a seemingly impossible measurement in an indirect way.

    And, seriously, I’m not just saying this since Tommaso recently showed me around Venice…

  • For another, very different, blog you should be following, there’s my friend Mathbabe, who has a simultaneously amusing and disturbing take on Princeton, which addresses the question of why it produces graduates like this one.

    From what I can tell, Princeton seems to be little changed since the time I spent there more than thirty years ago, and at the time it seemed devoted to staying much like the place of thirty years before that. Something that hasn’t changed is the vanishingly small number of women, with even fewer at the IAS on the other side of the golf course (and if you want to argue about why that is, please do it somewhere else).

    One thing I did enjoy about Princeton was getting to know some of my fellow students. In other HEP news, one of them, Jon Bagger, has just been appointed director at TRIUMF.

  • The recent HEPAP meeting seems to have had some unusual activity from the DOE in response to Laurence Yaffe’s recent complaints about large cuts to theory grants. This included a presentation specifically about HEP Theory funding, but reading it I still don’t see the explanation for why, as Yaffe claimed, cuts in theory group funding seem to be much more widespread than in other areas (see page 9 of this presentation).

    The DOE/HEP presentation had a specific warning against discussion on blogs of funding problems, I’d guess specifically aimed at Yaffe:

    Intense discussion in the community around the sociological issues can easily be mistaken by decision makers as disputes over the P5 plan, so please be careful to frame discussion points properly, especially when discussing issues we face with others outside the field.
    – Blogging, posting on public websites are a de facto public conversation

    ‘Bickering scientists get nothing’

  • Scott Aaronson has a review of Max Tegmark’s Our Mathematical Universe, which argues that the main claim the book is designed to promote is empty, but everyone should read it:

    I think everyone interested in math, science, or philosophy should buy the book and read it. And I still think the MUH is basically devoid of content, as it stands.

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15 Responses to Rainy Day Posting

  1. David Appell says:

    Peter, tell us more about Venice. It is my favorite city in the entire world.

  2. wolfgang says:

    >> more about Venice

    Well, The Daily Mail just reported that “Venetians have voted overwhelmingly for their own sovereign state in a ‘referendum’ on independence from Italy”.

  3. john says:

    So should the DOE statement be taken as a threat to shut up about funding cuts or loose future funding? Not an encouragement for students to enter into the field.

  4. layman says:

    It is very ironic that you have been absent from the blogosphere during the time that

    – quantum gravity was verified experimentally (yes, classical GR cannot account for the BICEP result)

    – the scale of 10^{16} GeV was probed

    – the theory of inflation, which almost cannot be without a multiverse of a sort, was indirectly verified.

    Basically, all the things you have been saying for 10 years cannot happen, are untestable, and unfalsifiable, have happened in your absence. Congratulations!

  5. Shantanu says:

    Peter something else you missed is strominger’s colloquium at PI about black holes
    and also about string theory.
    I think somewhere he mentioned that ST cannot be falsified directly.
    Niayesh asked him about firewalls and he is not convinced by them

  6. Peter Woit says:

    David Appell,
    No way to capture Venice in a blog comment. It’s a unique and fascinating place.

    Actually I saw something like the Daily Mail story and asked Tommaso about it. I can report that a lifelong Venetian says he has no idea what that story is about.

    The DOE presentation was explicitly claiming that any public dissent about DOE allocations of HEP funds would hurt overall HEP funding levels. No explicit threat was made about what would happen to people who did this.

    Thanks for the summary of the hype about this. I’ll try and write something hype-free but it won’t be for a day or two. I’m headed soon for Milan airport, will be traveling the rest of the day.

    I’m deleting the rest of the comments re the hype. Please, enough “BICEP2 shows the multiverse rules!” “No, the multiverse sucks!” discussion, and wait for this to be on-topic soon.

  7. M says:

    Notice that the Higgs width is already indirectly measured from the Higgs production rate (dominated by gg –> H) assuming safe relations such as Gamma(h –> gg) = Gamma(gg –> h)

  8. Chris Oakley says:

    A typical “Daily Mail” story is an account of illegal immigrants or asylum seekers exploiting the system, accompanied by a suitably hysterical xenophobic commentary. They were big supporters of the National Socialist party in Germany in the 1930s although they did at least have the decency to drop them when war broke out. Taking anything they write beyond theatre and cinema listings is generally a mistake.

  9. Ru says:

    Was going to say the same thing as Chris Oakley. While many non-UK folks are only familiar with the Mail Online and it’s click-bait and braindead celebrity gossip, the print newspaper is an entirely reprehensible mix of hate, fear-mongering, and racism. Best not to give them click-throughs.

  10. anon says:

    I was a student at Princeton during the previous decade and I can attest that it has not changed.

    And I’ve been waiting anxiously for the past several days for Peter Woit’s take on Linde and BICEP2…

  11. Martibal says:

    As far as I know (i.e. as a non-Italian in Rome), the “referendum” was through the internet: people asked to answer on some website whether they would like Venice to be independent, as it was before the italian unification. This was organized, I guess, by some independent movement, and has no legal value whatsoever.

  12. anonymous says:

    Regarding the limit on the Higgs width, one should not forget that also some “dumb” theorists were involved in pointing out this possibility and showing that it is a viable at the LHC.

    I am very impressed by this new result, but one should not neglect the theory input. Fortunately this is acknowledged in the CMS paper.

  13. Tommaso says:

    Hello Peter,

    sorry to hear my influence on the weather during your vacation has expired. I guess my powers don’t extend beyond 200km away.

    Yes, the referendum is the work of a few nutcases. However, we must take all these manifestations of nuttiness seriously these days, as that funny old idea that national borders can be questioned if one has a strong enough army has not died out yet, apparently.

    To the commenter who said that the food in Venice is the worst in Italy: I agree, with some exceptions. The main point is that it is very cost-ineffective, due to Venice being more of a tourist park than a place for Italians anymore. But mind you, we are still talking about Italian standards. I’d take an average restaurant in Venice over 95% of restaurants in Germany, for instance. Sorry for picking on Germans, just an example.

    Have a safe trip back,

  14. poet says:

    really? was princeton that way? i spent time in recent years and cathy’s story doesnt sound right at all. yes, there are lots of old people from a different era, i’m sure women get condescending comments but in my experience, it is not that different from other places.

    other places have superficial diversity but i find that the condescension is worse is in such places.

  15. Bill says:

    There is a conference next week about BICEP-2 at Perimeter: http://www.perimeterinstitute.ca/conferences/implications-bicep-2

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