The Princeton Physics department colloquium on “New Neutrino Oscillation Results from the MiniBooNE Experiment” scheduled for this Thursday has been canceled. I wonder what is going on with that. Have they not opened the box yet on their result, or did they do so and have a problem with what they found? Other talks about MiniBooNE results are still scheduled for March 14th in Manchester
and March 17th in Montreal (the abstract of this last one is ambiguous about whether there will be results “MiniBooNE’s oscillation path and what may lie beyond, will be presented”) [Ooops, that last one was 2006, thanks Marco]. The MiniBooNE colloquium has been replaced by a Nikita Nekrasov talk on “The Mathematics of String Theory”. Not sure if I’ll make a trip down to Princeton that day; Nekrasov’s talks are usually worth hearing, but I’d prefer to hear a more technical talk about his recent work, which is quite interesting.
John Baez’s latest “This Week’s Finds” is largely about the controversy over string theory and my book and Lee Smolin’s. As usual, John’s take is quite level-headed. Faced with people who claim that string theory is “the only game in town”, John advocates leaving town, striking out and looking for another place to live and work, maybe even starting a new one. Some comments about this at his blog.
On Friday at Fermilab Michael Chanowitz gave a talk on Precision Electroweak Data and the Direct Limit on the Higgs Mass. He updates previous work on these fits, including recent CDF and D0 values for the top and W masses. The new, presumably better, top quark mass values from CDF and D0 are lower than those of a couple years ago, with recent CDF results about 170 GeV. The main interest in these fits is that they give you a predicted value of the Higgs mass, although not a very accurate one. The lower top mass drives down the predicted Higgs mass, to the point where it is starting to get in trouble with the fact that LEP showed it had to be heavier than 114 GeV at 95% confidence level. The fits to all data give a most likely value for the Higgs mass of 85 GeV, with only an 18% probability of it being over 114 GeV.
Chanowitz devotes a lot of attention to the one measured value that deviates the most (3 standard deviations) from that predicted by the other data: the forward-backward asymmetry in b-quark production at the Z-pole. If you throw this out from the fit, on the grounds that it is less reliable than the other data since it doesn’t match the SM as well, your Higgs mass really goes down, to a most likely value of 48 GeV, with only a 2% chance of it being above 114 GeV. Hard to know what to make of this, evidently it’s hard to come up with a model that would explain the anomalous forward-backward asymmetry while not ruining the rest of the fit. Maybe this is a first indication that the SM is not the full story….
Update: Well, not Grisha Perelman, but today the latest mathematician blogger is David Goss. Goss is a specialist in the mathematics of function fields over finite fields, and his first post includes comments about how ideas have entered this very different field from physics, as well as remarks about the work of Bost and Connes that expresses zeta-functions in term of partition functions of statistical mechanical systems.
Update: A couple more. The talks at the recent AAAS session on A New Frontier in Particle Physics are available (
some in a weird format I’ve never seen before which works on Internet Explorer, not Mozilla [now fixed, just a powerpoint slideshow]). Also some remarks by DOE’s Raymond Orbach at the HEPAP meeting where he seems to be raising an important question: even if the ILC is built, it may not be ready until the mid-2020s or later, and the Tevatron and SLAC B-factory will be closing down relatively soon, so “I would like to re-engage HEPAP in discussion of the the future of particle physics. If the ILC were not to turn on until the middle or end of the 2020s, what are the right investment choices to ensure the vitality and continuity of the field during the next two to three decades and to maximize the potential for major discovery during that period?”
Update: Fermilab director Pier Oddone discusses the Orbach letter and the need for planning for the possibility of a long wait for the ILC in today’s Director’s Corner at Fermilab Today:
I am requesting a steering group composed of members of our laboratory and the community under the leadership of Deputy Director Kim to produce a detailed plan for positioning the field and Fermilab in the next two decades for a robust program of discovery based on accelerators. I am asking for such a plan by August 1st.