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back in the states

I've been away in Canada for almost 3 weeks, attending Summer School on Particle Physics, Cosmology, and Strings at the Perimeter Institute. Got back last night around midnight.

I've been trying to catch up on lj today... skimming through weeks worth of posts, and marking ones I want to come back to. I still haven't looked at anything within the past week yet (if there was anything important, let me know), and then I have to go back and look at the flagged posts from the two weeks before. But I'm getting there! I'm leaving for Burning Man 2007 in 5 days, so for the next 5 days I'm going to be scrambling to plan, buy, and pack everything for that. After which I'll get behind on lj yet again. Hopefully, packing will be quicker this year than the last two years, as I have much more of an idea of what I need to bring.

I got to see a bit of Toronto and Niagra Falls during the weekends before and after school. The school itself was pretty intense (I had trouble sitting through several long lectures per day, and then getting myself to work on homework problems each evening), but I learned a whole lot. Nima's lectures on SUSY stand out in my mind as phenomenal... inspirational, insightful, and informative all at the same time. He's a really bright physicist, and an incredible speaker (even moreso than I'd realized before). I just hope he's not being overly optimistic about the prospects of seeing SUSY at LHC. I asked him at the end what he thought the odds were, and he toned it down a bit being diplomatic. But I still get a strong sense from the way he talks that he leans towards the "surely we're gonna see it" persuasion. So far, every physicist whom I've asked to give odds on seeing SUSY at LHC has said 50% in one way or another (including myself, before I had asked anyone this question in particular). (Although Michael Dine seems a bit more pessimistic as his answer was "ask someone else, if you don't want to get depressed"). Nima sort of said 50%, as he said something like "half the time I get paranoid that we should have already seen it if it was there... and the other half I think we've just got cabin fever (having been locked in a cabin with no experimental data for too long), and really should pay no attention to this paranoia." But on the other hand, I got the feeling by the way he said it that the first "half" of the time is actually a lot less than the second "half". Overall, I find myself also leaning more towards the "we've got nothing to worry about, we'll see it" camp now. As I've thought before after listening to his talks, I hope I'm not just being swayed by his charisma instead of listening to the arguments objectively.

I was going to include pictures in this post, but livejournal's scrapbook feature has suddenly gone down and it says it won't be back up for another 30 minutes or so. So'll I'll just make that another post.

Comments

( 5 comments — Leave a comment )
cola_fan
Aug. 22nd, 2007 07:05 am (UTC)
What is a SUSY or an LHC?

Did you see one?
spoonless
Aug. 22nd, 2007 07:59 am (UTC)
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Large_Hadron_Collider
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Supersymmetry

LHC is the largest machine which has ever been built by humans. 34 countries have collaborated to build it, and the machine has a 17-mile cirumference. It's taken over 20 years to plan/build, and is scheduled to begin operation next year. The hope/expectation is that it will completely change the field of particle physics from being stagnant to again leading the way and making new cutting edge fundamental discoveries about space, time, mass, and the nature of elementary particles. This coming era is often referred to in my field as "the LHC era" which we are now entering.

LHC can also stand for Les Horribles Cernettes, a girl rock-band composed of the wives of physicists at CERN. An image of them was the first image ever on the web, shortly after planning for LHC had begun.

While nearly everyone in the field expects to see the Higgs (the only remaining particle of the Standard Model not yet observed), the most exciting thing we have a decent chance of finding with LHC is Supersymmetry (aka SUSY). A discovery of supersymmetry would be roughly on par in impressiveness with the discovery of special relativity. It would take us beyond the Standard Model and be a strong hint that string theory is correct (but not proof).
mauitian
Aug. 22nd, 2007 01:29 pm (UTC)
Mmm, margaritas... ;)

I forget, what's the deadline on our bet -- was it a year after the LHC comes online?
spoonless
Aug. 22nd, 2007 05:03 pm (UTC)
Checking back:

http://spoonless.livejournal.com/93100.html

mauitian On the bet: How about we give the LHC until Burning Man 2009?

spoonless Alright, although if it gets delayed again or they have problems, and doesn't end up opening till 2008 or so, I'll want an extra year.

At the time we made this bet, it was planning to turn on Nov 2007. Since it has in fact been delayed till 2008, I'm requesting another year (as specified in my original conditional agreement). So Burning Man 2010 if you want that margarita :)
mauitian
Aug. 22nd, 2007 05:16 pm (UTC)
Fair enough.
( 5 comments — Leave a comment )

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