News From All Over

There are two new particle theory blogs that I’ve noticed recently: Shores of the Dirac Sea, where David Berenstein and Moshe Rozali are blogging and the Physics Anti-Crackpot Blog, by an anonymous author at CERN. I don’t know who this last blogger is, but he joins his (or her) colleague Jester at Resonaances (who is anonymous, but not hard to figure out) in skepticism about supersymmetry. Maybe things at CERN-TH are such that anonymity is a good idea if you hold such opinions….

Also at CERN, news of progress on the LHC commissioning is here. It seems that after some initial quick successes, there’s no beam at the moment as they fix various problems with the machine.

Frank Wilczek doesn’t have a blog (although his wife Betsy Devine does), but he does now have a web-site, as well as another web-site for his new book The Lightness of Being. Here’s a summary of the book, and a sample chapter, which gives you an idea what he’s trying to do with the book.

The IAS has started to put some lectures on-line, including the latest summer school on string theory and the memorial for Selberg.

The Harvard physics department now is running a video archive. It includes video of their recent Colloquia, Loeb lectures, and Sydney Coleman’s quantum field theory course.

For the latest on INSPIRE, SCOAP3, and potential changes in how the on-line physics literature works, see this interview with DESY’s Annette Holkamp (via Travis Brooks at Symmetry Breaking).

Update: There seems to have been some sort of problem in Sector 34 triggered by powering tests for operation at 5 TeV. This caused a large helium leak in the tunnel, an investigation is under way. More here.

Update: The news from the LHC is pretty bad. A failure during a powering test will require warming up the entire sector to fix the problem, then cooling it back down. This means that it will be another two months before beam commissioning efforts can start again, likely pushing physics collisions off until next spring, after the winter shutdown. There’s a press release here.

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23 Responses to News From All Over

  1. Mark R says:

    Gosh, those are some great resources, Peter. Thank you!

  2. Chris W. says:

    See this rather good popular exposition on the Higgs boson in Slate, by doctoral candidate James Owen Weatherall.

  3. Moshe says:

    Thanks for the link Peter.

  4. James Robson says:

    On a slightly different CERN topic, and given that I believe you have some responsibility for mantaining your department’s computer network, even if the LHC produces no evidence for new physics, do you think we’ll get cool new technologies in computer networking spinning off as has happened before?

  5. Peter Woit says:


    Good luck with the blog, I look forward to following it.


    My great achievement in computer networking this summer was to get the university to replace the math building’s 25 year-old wiring by something more modern. LHC-scale networking is something way beyond my expertise, but my understanding is that they are pushing the boundaries of some technologies. Unlikely to be a new development like the world-wide web, but maybe some new technology of wider use will come out of it.

  6. De Bunker says:

    My blog (anticrackpot) is not anti-SUSY. I’ll withold my private beliefs for now… I set up the SUSY Prediction Market because of Jester’s (RESONAANCES) bet (which I feel was a bad bet, not for the subject of the bet but for the terms — negligible upside and huge downside, and he’s betting against the crowd which normally has a small downside and big upside). I set the SUSY market to start at 50%, and I’m barred from trading on it since I started it. The movement downward from there is not due to me. 😉

    All you out there who think you know the answer, place your bets!

    My anonymity so far has more to do with the fact that I wanted to combat “LHC disaster” nutters, and didn’t want this to look like an “official” CERN publication. Also “anticrackpot” is rather confrontational. I think I will change the name if I keep blogging for long, besides I’m really burning out on combating nutters.

  7. Marcus says:

    Better check spelling of the name Betsy. Thanks for the links!

  8. Peter Woit says:


    Thanks, fixed.

    De Bunker,

    Sorry for misrepresenting your views. I was going by a comment of yours at Resonaances that you would bet strongly against SUSY.

    An anti-crackpot campaign I fear is an endless and thankless task., Good luck with it though, someone should be doing it. I’ve tried to just ignore the LHC/black-hole nonsense thinking that starving it of attention is the way to go, but there do need to be some people out there dealing with it. I’ll stick to complaining about creeping crackpotism in the mainstream….

    Best wishes for the blog, the more non-crackpot ones about physics the better!

  9. Aki says:

    “Unlikely to be a new development like the world-wide web, but maybe some new technology of wider use will come out of it.”

    Whether they find what they’re looking for or not, the LHC gives a boost to Linux crusaders.—powere.html

  10. All rights reversed says:

    You can try to guess who Jester is by checking his reflected image off the glass CERN main entrance in the picture he took of the one and only protester during Day Zero.

  11. De Bunker says:

    “I was going by a comment of yours at Resonaances that you would bet strongly against SUSY.”

    Shit, you found me out. The interwebs is following me! Now if only I hadn’t written all those SUSY papers…

  12. Yatima says:

    > the one and only protester during Day Zero.

    Actually “first beam day”, thus a no-black-holes-for-sure day. Good this is not the olde USA otherwise the protester would have come bearded & armed.

    The Economist has a review of Frank Wilczek’s book, basically saying that it needs some additional editorial work. Still, I gotta check it out.

  13. James Robson says:

    Well you can’t build a fancy network without decent infrasrucure – or wiring – so well done!

    Incidentaly, I had a look at previous articles on this blog, and also at the comments, but couldn’t find any mention of the fact that string theorists seem to have been let into the fold: no longer segregated, just part of the general physics links…

  14. Peter Woit says:


    I reorganized things since there seemed to no longer be such a thing as a string theory blog. Other than Lubos, few if any string theorists seem to want to write about the subject anymore. Blogs written by string theorists these days are pretty much about anything but string theory.

  15. Moshe says:

    I don’t know about others, but I am sure we will have a lot of string theory content. Since I think there is a continuum between string theory and the rest of high energy physics, having one list is probably less confusing.

  16. Coin says:

    This caused a large helium leak in the tunnel, an investigation is under way

    Hmm, isn’t this something the detector folks would have been actually hoping for a year ago? 😛

  17. Thank you for the hotlink to the sample chapter of Frank Wilczek ‘s new book The Lightness of Being. I printed it, and handed out photocopies to my 10th and 11th graders (and a few top 9th graders) to read over the weekend. Wonderful stuff!

  18. Marcus says:

    *Wonderful stuff!*
    I agree with you on that. It”s a great book.

  19. Hi Coin,

    the helium leak was in the tunnel, not in the beam pipe… At this point, with the detectors fully commissioned, this incident is a real curse. We were putting lots of hope in the small datasets we would collect this fall: even 5 inverse picobarns, even at 10 TeV, would still allow some important tunings and the determination of several important parameters. We would measure W,Z,top quark production, and do new physics searches. Enough to keep us busy during the winter!

    Maybe the LHC is indeed cursed by backward causality, the same way two folks have claimed the SSC was killed.


  20. outsider says:

    Why does CERN have this seasonal schedule? Why can’t it run year round, once it’s up and running? This “Fall run” is being portrayed as if it is a limited window of opportunity, but I don’t understand why they can’t just keep going with whatever they wanted to do later anyway.

  21. woit says:


    My understanding is that CERN is committed to not operating its accelerators during the winter months because the demand they make on the power grid is so large that power needed for heating homes and businesses would not be available.

  22. Fred says:

    Thanks for the links, and the anti-susy movement 🙂
    About the LHC crackpot someone (I don’t know who?) bought a nice domain name:

  23. Coin says:

    Dorigo, thanks for the explanation!

    By the way, a question about the LHC’s winter shutdowns to save power: Is this normal, or is this just a quirk of placing one’s accelerator in Switzerland? Does the Tevatron in Illinois do something similar, for example?

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