Various and Sundry

Yet another random collection of topics of possible interest:

  • Things have been going well at the LHC recently, and there’s a new dashboard page at which progress can be followed. For the latest from the LHC, see the talks at last week’s LHC Days in Split. The LHC machine is discussed here, with the news that restart of proton-proton collisions (after a November 1 stop for a heavy-ion run and holiday shutdown) is tentatively scheduled for February 4. Long-term plans for the machine are covered here, including projected running at 6.5 TeV/beam in 2013, 7 TeV/beam in 2014, and a possible rebuilding of the machine with new magnets that would give 16.5 TeV/beam in 2031.

    Now that the experiments have 10 inverse picobarns of data, the search for supersymmetry can begin in earnest, and various talks cover this. According to Maria Spiropulu of CMS “the time between O(10) and O(100) inverse picobarns of well-understood data will be critical for the discovery and characterization of SUSY”.

    The other hot topic is that of how well the LHC will be able to compete with the Tevatron for discovery of the Higgs. Tommaso Dorigo discusses this here and here, using LHC projections given here.

  • In news of non-scientific projects of mathematicians and physicists, Edward Frenkel has a screenplay out called The Two-body Problem. Lisa Randall has curated an exhibition in LA entitled Measure for Measure.
  • Frank Wilczek is working on a murder mystery novel to be called The Attraction of Darkness, which will mix “science, music, sex, and murder.” There was a recent Bloggingheads conversation with him here. His response when asked about his take on string theory: “It needs work.”
  • For commentary from Charles Day, an editor as Physics Today, about why their coverage of string theory has been sparse, see here. For Clifford Johnson’s commentary on the commentary, see here.
  • Later this month the Princeton Center for Theoretical Science will have a workshop on Rare Events in Computational, Financial and Physical Sciences, co-sponsored by the hedge fund D.E. Shaw. D.E. Shaw has been a large employer of mathematicians and physicists, but recently hasn’t been doing so well, announcing the firing of about 10% of their staff.

    The new documentary about the financial crisis that just came out, Inside Job, is surprisingly good, I highly recommend it.

  • Past proceedings of the International Congress of Mathematicians are now available on-line here.
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    16 Responses to Various and Sundry

    1. Octoploid says:

      Thanks for the LHC dashboard link. This is a great
      page with all the relevant information nicely viewable.
      This makes the endless switching between the various
      OP Vistars pages largely obsolete.

    2. jal says:

      I hope everyone becomes aware of “INSIDE JOB”. You will find out that reality is worst that the film.

    3. Anonymous says:

      For commentary from Charles Day, an editor as Physics Today, about why their coverage of string theory has been sparse, see here.

      I hope editors of Science and Nature also review why their coverage of string theory is sparse. And some official clarification from the Nobel committee would be also very welcome:)

    4. Jim Clarage says:

      Thanks for alerting us to the Past proceedings of the International Congress of Mathematicians. Having these papers available from my armchair next to the fireplace is almost science-fiction. The 1893 address by Felix Klein on “The present state of Mathematics” could almost be written today. Klein points out certain problems in astronomy where “even the professional mathematician finds here much to be learned.” The problem he’s referring to involves infinite determinants (“unendlichen Determinante”) discussed in the paper by Burkhardt from that same year — also available online of course. The infinities physicists continue to toss at mathematicians e.g., Feynman diagrams and renormalization, come to mind.

    5. Benni says:

      Although it is off topic:

      Roger Penrose has published a new book. It will appear at of this month:

      It is called “cycles of time”, with the description saying:

      One of our most distinguished scientists offers a radical new theory of the origin, and ultimate end, of the Universe.

      Professor Sir Roger Penrose’s groundbreaking and bestselling The Road to Reality provided a complete guide to the laws that govern our universe. In Cycles of Time, Penrose offers a completely new perspective on the often-asked question, ‘what came before the Big Bang?’ The answer that Penrose proposes involves a curious but fully rational way of looking at the expected ultimate fate of our acclerating expanded universe, and showing that its end can in fact be reinterpreted as the ‘Big Bang’ of a new universe.

    6. Benni says:

      The book has already appeared in the uk, therefore, page has reviews:

      The good news is, that the book may contain interesting technicalities, since an reviewer writes:

      “There is some hard maths however and this has been relegated to the Appendix (30 pages). This maths is very advanced and another of Penrose’s technical books (Penrose and Rindler Volume 2) would be needed to understand it fully – so that is only for the experts. “

    7. Yatima says:

      >The good news is, that the book may contain interesting technicalities

      Hell yes. They are all in the appendix (Penrose uses the word “banished”), but keep your skills in 2-spinor formalism and operator algebra handy.

      Sadly, there is no bibliography.

      The book is about Penrose’s blueprint of an idea on how to connect the low-entropy Big Bang state to the high-entropy “end of times” state of an exponentially expanding universe. The states apparently can be made conformally equivalent assuming rest masses and charges all vanish to 0 as the universe ages.

    8. noname says:

      The LHC continues to make (very slow?) good progress and starts to fullfill its goals for 2010. Hey, make an effort and try to look cheerful when you report on that!

    9. Peter Woit says:


      You seem to have missed the lead-off sentence here:

      “Things have been going well at the LHC recently” which, if I were the sort to editorialize, I’d say was great to hear….

      They’ve reached their peak luminosity goal for the year, with a couple weeks to spare. I hope they can run for physics long enough during the remaining time to have something interesting in the data.

    10. Tommaso says:

      Hi all,

      noname is of course reading another book. The LHC is performing surprisingly well, and we experimenters on the receiving end are simply delighted. 10^32 with 240 bunches means we have a much better emittance than predicted, which is great news and is not an ephemeral plus.

      With 15/pb already in the bag and probably over 50 before the end of the year, we are with both foots into “discovery territory”, if you buy into the theorists’ hype that new physics is behind the corner. Sure, it is, but the corner is nowhere to be found.


    11. Jacek says:

      couple weeks to spare = two weeks

    12. Tommaso says:

      Ah, and… Forgot to write the real reason for my above comment – thanks for the links Peter!


    13. SteveB says:

      Thanks for the info. While the LHC dashboard looks promising it is not working well for me. The screen flashes every second and it seems to clear all but the top 20% of the image and then fills the rest in slowly so I get to see the bottom portion of the display for about 1/3 of second. Also, none of the buttons on the bottom of the dashboard work for me. I am using a fairly common OS and browser(Windows7 and IE8) and have no issues with other web sites. I have not yet checked the dashboard at home with snow leopard and Safari.

    14. noname says:

      I’m not reading a different book. I simply remembered previous posts here in which Peter was very lukewarm
      in reporting progress at the LHC (he almost seemed happy thinking the Tevatron would always be on top). It’s very difficult to read him totally excited about the LHC, which goes a long way in showing what type of physicist he is.

    15. Peter Woit says:


      There have been times this year when the LHC was significantly behind its goals and I’ve reported that. At other times, like now, when it has been reaching its goals, I’ve also reported that.

      The current situation is that if all goes well, they’ll end this year’s pp run at about 50 inverse picobarns of integrated luminosity (versus expectations early this year of 100 inverse picobarns, see

      Peak luminosities are now a bit above half the projected final value in the above document, may go higher in the next couple weeks.

      So, I think a fair summary is that things are going well, in some ways better than projections (as Tommaso mentions), in other ways not quite at projected levels. I’ll leave overhyping this situation to others.

      Like everyone interested in particle physics, I’m following with great interest the progress of the machine and of the experiments. If there’s any difference between my point of view on the LHC and that of certain other people’s, it’s just that I’m dubious about widely advertised supersymmetry or extra dimensional scenarios, and think the most likely important result to come out of the LHC will be an understanding of the origin of electroweak symmetry breaking. Looking at how difficult it appears to be to see the Higgs, this may take quite a while. If, on the other hand, a dramatic violation of the Standard Model shows up this fall in the first tens of inverse picobarns, that would be fantastic.

      As for what type of physicist I am, unlike “noname”, I put my name on everything I write so that people can judge for themselves.

    16. PhilG says:

      The LHC was never “significantly behind its goals” this year. The 100/pb was just an estimate, not a goal.

      What has actually happened is that they have adapted their plans to take advantage of better than expected beam stability at high intensity. In the original plan that Peter linked to you can see that they expected to have to go to much higher bunch numbers using 50ns separation and lower beta* of 2m to reach the 100/μb/s target. In fact they were able to do it with less bunches seprated by 150ns and beta* of 3.5m. The good news is that it is relatively easy now to decarease bunch spacing and increase beta* giving a potential luminosity increase factor of about 5 times. They might do that early next year so that if the LHC runs with good efficiency they can reach the 1/fb target more quickly.

      Of course they have had to deal with many problems along the way, but no more than they had allowed time for. There have been no major problems and not a single unplanned quench. This has been a great year for the LHC and we have every reason to expect the next to be even better.

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