Hard News by Russell Brown

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Hard News: Higgs Live!

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  • David Hood, in reply to Rich of Observationz,

    Those discoveries had imminent practical application

    Well, Maxwell unified electromagnetic theory in the 1860s. Marconi made then technology innovation broadcasting radio a generation later, in 1901. Half a generation later (1922s) the BBC began broadcasting. Marconi probably didn't foresee the application

    JJ Thomson discovered the electron in 1897, Rutherford discovered the proton and improved the explanatory model in 1918. Transitors were invented in 1947 (the way Bell labs lawyers shaped the design says a lot about the tradition of commercialization of science). Thomson probably didn't see electronics coming.

    If it is the Higgs (as seems likely at this stage) the separation of mass from spin at a fundamental level may well do dramatic things in a generation.

    Dunedin • Since May 2007 • 1445 posts Report Reply

  • Lilith __,

    Attachment

    I bought a new top yesterday. Forget the plum-pudding model of the atom, this is the sequin model. :-)

    Dunedin • Since Jul 2010 • 3891 posts Report Reply

  • merc, in reply to Sacha,

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cuneiform and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Equation
    Portable and lasting, unlike our web. /gets esoteric/ ;-)

    Since Dec 2006 • 2471 posts Report Reply

  • Tom Beard, in reply to Sacha,

    Exactly. It's true that they had more important things on their minds, but the announcement had a long buildup, and it looks like the presentation was based on a template. There should have been time to set up a clean, professional default font, and get someone to cast an eye over it to tidy up the heavy boxes and clashing colours.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 1040 posts Report Reply

  • Martin Lindberg, in reply to Tom Beard,

    I was annoyed by the Comic Sans hating at first,

    I still am.

    What about the [suit|tie|shirt|dress|shoes] they wore for the presentation?

    Stockholm • Since Jul 2009 • 802 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha, in reply to Tom Beard,

    The verbal presentations were surprisingly entertaining at times, even if most of the details were solely for specialists. Moving shots on tv of Peter Higgs in the audience too.

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 19740 posts Report Reply

  • merc, in reply to Tom Beard,

    Billions of dollars but no money for the Technical Writer, ;-) ever the same.

    Since Dec 2006 • 2471 posts Report Reply

  • James Butler, in reply to richard,

    Personally, my feeling is that any mathematical typesetting done in Microsoft looks like arse – I would have used LaTeX.

    Hopefully not with Knuth's Computer Modern, which is the Comic Sans of scientific typesetting and ruins 99% of TeX/LaTeX docs :P

    Auckland • Since Jan 2009 • 856 posts Report Reply

  • David Hood, in reply to Tom Beard,

    And talk of Comic Sans’ accessibility to dyslexic people is a red herring, since there are plenty of other options that are at least as good.

    All the studies of evaluating fonts for dyslexia I've read have suffered from rubbish sample sizes and/or poor experimental design. That said, my impression of the literature is that if you are using a program that can increase inter-letter spacing, that will make far more difference than font choice. It is just that font choice is within most peoples control.

    Dunedin • Since May 2007 • 1445 posts Report Reply

  • Graeme Edgeler,

    "A is for Atom"

    Explaining science. Very well, for the most part:

    www.youtube.com/watch?v=Gi-ItrJISQE

    Wellington, New Zealand • Since Nov 2006 • 3211 posts Report Reply

  • Ben Curran,

    It's entertaining. A lot of the physicists I read are describing it as "higgsy".

    The implication seems to be that there is a particle there. They're certain it's a higgs boson. They're just not quite sure what sort of higgs boson. Or what it looks like. Which just made me smile. More work to be done. And figuring out how stuff like all this fits together - so very worth it.

    Since May 2011 • 47 posts Report Reply

  • Ross Mason,

    Comic Sans. Now it is here I suggest lies the chasm between C. P. Snow's "Two Cultures". Any physicist worth his spin couldn't give a brass razoo what the font looks like. It is the message sunshine!

    (Generalisation statement coming up - All hold breath now)

    I HATE to say it, but I hazard a guess that it is the BAs of this world, trying to understand science, who are the ones who got their knickers in a twist over the font.

    FFS. Just be thankful it wasn't in German. 'Cos that is what every poor bastard prior to 1970(ish) had to learn to even get a BSc.

    Upper Hutt • Since Jun 2007 • 1590 posts Report Reply

  • David Hood,

    There was a fairly well known paper published back in 2010 “Fortune favors the bold( and the italic) : Effects of disfluency on educational outcomes” (though in the original title the bold is also subscripted). This paper found that, in short, hard to read fonts improve learning (because you are going to more cognitive effort. Whereas while easy to read fonts are pleasant, they are also make the contents more forgettable. To quote from the abstract

    Study 1 found that information in hard-to-read fonts was better remembered than easier to read information in a controlled laboratory setting. Study 2 extended this finding to high school classrooms. The results suggest that superficial changes to learning materials could yield significant improvements in educational outcomes.

    So in this sense, it probably did make the announcement much more memorable.

    Dunedin • Since May 2007 • 1445 posts Report Reply

  • Ross Mason, in reply to David Hood,

    Boom!!!!

    Upper Hutt • Since Jun 2007 • 1590 posts Report Reply

  • Will de Cleene,

    Don't forget the old Large Hadron Rap:

    Raumati • Since Jul 2011 • 107 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha, in reply to Ross Mason,

    I hazard a guess that it is the BAs of this world, trying to understand science, who are the ones who got their knickers in a twist over the font

    designers, I thought

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 19740 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha, in reply to David Hood,

    for some reason this is not turning into italics

    unfixed bug - needs blank space either before or after the underline chars, can't recall which

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 19740 posts Report Reply

  • richard, in reply to James Butler,

    But for experimental physics junkies, it lacks a bit of that wow factor

    But for actual experimental physicists, there is a fair bit of wow – this is not just about ticking the box marked Higgs and getting on with our lives.

    The original idea of the Higgs is something akin to a mathematical guess (made independently by three different sets of people – Higgs, Brout and Englert and Guralnik, Hagen and Kibble). And the fact it was predicted long before it was seen just makes it better.

    As it happens the Higgs could have been discovered a while ago – the Superconducting Super Collider was cancelled in the mid 90s, but was a more powerful machine than the LHC and would have been working a decade ago. Conversely, a 125 GeV Higgs is (paradoxically) harder to pick out from the “background” than the more massive version, so nature has not made it easy.

    Perhaps the best analogy is to say that is like waking up to find out that a 30 long war has suddenly come to an end. Almost any particle physics theory beyond the Standard Model itself is conditional on the mass generation mechanism, and today is very, very different from yesterday,

    Not looking for New Engla… • Since Nov 2006 • 268 posts Report Reply

  • Ross Mason, in reply to Graeme Edgeler,

    B is for bozzo.

    Upper Hutt • Since Jun 2007 • 1590 posts Report Reply

  • richard, in reply to James Butler,

    Math in standard latex font is still infinitely more readable than in Microsoft’s equation typesetter – in particle the integral signs are always bloated, and somehow off the baseline of the rest of the equation.

    Not looking for New Engla… • Since Nov 2006 • 268 posts Report Reply

  • James Butler, in reply to richard,

    But for experimental physics junkies, it lacks a bit of that wow factor

    But for actual experimental physicists, there is a fair bit of wow

    Sick - but not undeserved - burn.

    Auckland • Since Jan 2009 • 856 posts Report Reply

  • richard, in reply to Sacha,

    Moving shots on tv of Peter Higgs in the audience too.

    And the guys sitting next to him :-)

    Not looking for New Engla… • Since Nov 2006 • 268 posts Report Reply

  • richard, in reply to James Butler,

    Sick – but not undeserved – burn.

    Sorry – couldn’t resist it.

    But now we have to figure out a) if it is a “minimal” Higgs, or something more complicated, b) what dark matter is made of, we know its there in the universe is good chance it can be made at the LHC, and c) why there is more matter in the universe than anti-matter, which may or may not be settled by the LHC. So lots to do.

    As an aside, the actual discovery yesterday was of a scalar (or spinless) particle – not necessarily the Higgs per se. Scalar fields play a vital role in early universe cosmology, and there has always been some nervousness in the field because no-one has ever seen a fundamental scalar in nature. Until yesterday.

    The cosmological scalar fields (which cause something called inflation, a period of extra-rapid expansion just after the big bang, and working on the nuts and bolts of this is how I put a roof over my head, so it is subject dear to my heart) are probably not the Higgs itself, but my Facebook feed yesterday was full of happy posts from happy theoretical cosmologists knowing that there was one question they would never again be asked by the curmudgeons in the front row when they gave a seminar.

    Not looking for New Engla… • Since Nov 2006 • 268 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to Sacha,

    for some reason this is not turning into italics

    unfixed bug – needs blank space either before or after the underline chars, can’t recall which

    Not a bug -- it just needs a clear space before to distinguish the formatting from actual characters in a word or sentence. Otherwise if I wrote "f**k" everything after that would be in bold.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 22848 posts Report Reply

  • Tom Beard, in reply to Ross Mason,

    I HATE to say it, but I hazard a guess that it is the BAs of this world, trying to understand science, who are the ones who got their knickers in a twist over the font.

    Put me down as a BSc who thinks that good presentation is important. I have enough experience of both cultures to know that the medium can reinforce or undermine the message. In this case, the message is one of the most important announcements in the history of science, but the medium says "Duuuuh, science is boring, so I'm going to talk to you as if you were a two-year-old".

    It reminds me of what Edward Tufte said about the urge to decorate charts to make them less boring: "If the statistics are boring, then you’ve got the wrong numbers." There's no need to make the announcement "less austere", since the story itself, while technical, is inherently exciting.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 1040 posts Report Reply

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