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  • richardmitnick 9:44 pm on August 10, 2021 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "A collective strategy for physics in Africa", Africa is far from a monolith. The continent includes 56 sovereign states 54 of which are members of the African Union and the United Nations., By the end of 2022 the group aims to submit its final recommendations to the African Physical Society Executive Committee., For the first time African physicists and other researchers are creating a grassroots strategy for the future of physics research and education., , Symmetry Magazine   

    From Symmetry: “A collective strategy for physics in Africa” 

    Symmetry Mag

    From Symmetry

    Rachel Crowell

    For the first time African physicists and other researchers are creating a grassroots strategy for the future of physics research and education.

    Illustration by Sandbox Studio, Chicago

    Faïrouz Malek says that after she earned her doctorate in nuclear and particle physics at the University of Grenoble Alpes [Université Grenoble Alpes] (FR) in 1990, she “had only one idea: to go back home” to Algeria.

    But then, a little over a year later, a coup in her country kicked off a civil war that did not end until February 2002.

    Malek is now a senior scientist and research director at National Centre for Scientific Research [Centre national de la recherche scientifique, [CNRS] (FR). She says the war kept her away from Algeria for so long that it eventually felt too late to return. “I have my life. I have my family. I have my work,” she says.

    African researchers around the world have their own stories about the paths they have taken through academia and research. Like Malek, many of them want to ensure that the next generations of researchers find themselves with more options to stay in or return to Africa.

    For that reason and others, a large group of physicists and other researchers in Africa and the African diaspora have come together to develop a grassroots plan for the future of African physics.

    Physicists in regions such as Europe and Latin America and in countries such as the United States, Japan, India and China have conducted or are conducting similar planning processes to prepare for the future of physics research.

    “The [African Strategy for Fundamental and Applied Physics] has a vision that Africa is an ideal location for global research infrastructure,” reads the preamble of the strategy’s founding document. “This is a vision and a dream, and even if it’s not immediately realisable, it is very important for Africa as a continent to seriously consider its commitment to this option. It is equally important that the rest of the world also seriously consider this option.”

    By the end of 2022 the group aims to submit its final recommendations—endorsed by an international advisory committee—to the African Physical Society Executive Committee, African Academy of Sciences and other stakeholders.

    Speaking up

    Africa is far from a monolith. The continent includes 56 sovereign states 54 of which are members of the African Union and the United Nations. The approximately 1.3 billion residents speak as many as 2000 languages. The population of the continent is expanding more rapidly than any other region of the world.

    Africa is home to several large research facilities in physics and astronomy. To name a few, the South African Astronomical Observatory, Boyden Observatory, Hartesbeesthoek Radio Astronomy Observatory, UNISA Observatory, and the MeerKAT and Square Kilometer Array radio telescope projects are all located in South Africa. The H.E.S.S. observatory is in Namibia. Oukaïmeden Observatory is in Morocco.

    Boyden Observatory (SA), Hartesbeesthoek Radio Astronomy Observatory (SA), UNISA Observatory (SA), and the SKA MeerKAT (SA) and SARAO – SKA South Africa radio telescope (SA) projects are all located in South Africa.

    SKA SARAO Meerkat telescope , 90 km outside the small Northern Cape town of Carnarvon, SA.(SA)

    H.E.S.S. Čerenkov Telescope Array, located on the Cranz family farm, Göllschau, in Namibia, near the Gamsberg searches for cosmic rays, altitude, 1,800 m (5,900 ft).

    Physicists across Africa are involved in international particle physics research. Scientists and students from institutions in Algeria, Egypt, Ghana, Madagascar, Morocco, Mozambique, Rwanda, South Africa and Tunisia, for example, all participate in research at European physics laboratory CERN.


    European Organization for Nuclear Research [Organisation européenne pour la recherche nucléaire] [Europäische Organisation für Kernforschung](CH) [CERN]

    The African Union and African Academy of Sciences have developed top-down strategies for the continent. But until recently, physicists from throughout Africa and the diaspora have not come together to create a grassroots regional plan like this one.

    This was highlighted when Malek attended a meeting in Granada as part of the process to update the European Strategy for Particle Physics.

    Also at the meeting was Kétévi Adiklè Assamagan, an experimental particle physicist at the DOE’s Brookhaven National Laboratory (US) and a Fellow of the African Academy of Sciences. Assamagan, who was born in Gabon and raised in Togo, is also involved in the future planning process for US particle physics, called Snowmass.

    As part of the meeting, scientists contributed papers and were called to talk about the strategies for the future of physics in different regions and countries. “Because resources are scarce, it is important for the world community of particle physics and funding agencies to come together and define a concerted strategy,” Malek and Assamagan later wrote about the symposium in a letter to the African Physics Newsletter.

    The two wrote the letter because they noticed something about the international input that was being requested: “No one was invited from Africa to say ‘What is your strategy? How can we fit or how can you fit in our strategy?’” Malek says.

    Malek and Assamagan discussed the situation.

    “Particle physics draws on worldwide efforts with a small yet steadily increasing presence of developing countries from Asia, South America and Africa,” they wrote. “While we can be proud of African countries such as Morocco, Egypt and South Africa gaining footholds in international projects at the Large Hadron Collider, the cooperation between African countries and the rest of the world is not well developed… Indeed, from the institutional representations at the symposium, it was evident, yet again, that in many areas of fundamental and applied research, Africa was missing.”

    Imagining a bright future

    Malek and Assamagan joined with professors Simon Henry Connell at the University of Johannesburg (SA), Farida Fassi at MOHAMMED V UNIVERSITY IN RABAT (MA) جامعة محمد الخامس, and Shaaban Khalil at the Center for Fundamental Physics in Egypt to create a steering committee for the African Strategy for Fundamental and Applied Physics.

    In late 2020, they launched the effort with a founding document, the formation of an international advisory committee, and the formation of working groups on physics topics (such as accelerators and particle physics) and areas of engagement (such as community engagement and women in physics).

    Researchers are working to identify key ideas and resources needed to build a bright future for physics in Africa—a future where researchers have the resources they need in their home countries or other areas of the continent, if they so choose.

    Chilufya Mwewa, a Zambian-born experimental particle physicist and a research associate at Brookhaven National Laboratory who is currently conducting research at CERN, joined the process as a convener for the African Strategy’s ethics committee. The committee is charged with maintaining, updating and disseminating a code of conduct and other guidelines for the proposal’s numerous working groups.

    Mwewa says she hasn’t given much thought to the physical infrastructure she would need to be able to conduct her research in Zambia. “To be honest, because I never imagined that we would get to that point soon,” she says.

    But the planning process has given her some ideas. For one, she could find funding to participate from Zambia in research at a laboratory like CERN. Alternatively, she could set up something on a much smaller scale in Zambia.

    “If I were to do something on a smaller scale, I wouldn’t even need a big accelerator,” she says. “I would need very basic equipment just to start having something to play around with students.”

    Mohamed Chabab, a professor of physics and director of the High Energy and Astrophysics Laboratory at Cadi-Ayyad University in Morocco, joined the African Strategy as a convener of the particle physics working group. The strategy is an exciting challenge, he wrote in an email.

    “Indeed, beyond the personal satisfaction, it is also one of my responsibilities as an African physicist to contribute to such initiatives aiming for improvement of the scientific research system in Africa and the reform of higher education, which are among the essential keys to unlock the minds and boost the economic growth and sustainability.”

    Scientists in many African countries face challenges such as limited research infrastructure, scant or nonexistent sources of local funding for scientists, inadequate educational opportunities for youth, and cultural and political forces that pressure girls and women to leave school and science.

    African Strategy participants want to make sure the solutions to these problems come from African scientists. And participating in strategic discussions is an important part of that.

    “We feel that the African participation in these discourses has major benefits,” Malek and Assamagan wrote in their letter. “It would allow international partners interested in capacity development and retention in Africa to integrate inputs from Africans themselves, rather than to default to their own views of how they may want to ‘help’ Africans. In addition, the help—in whichever form it is delivered—will have more impact.”

    Looking ahead

    From now until October, scientists are invited to submit letters of intent that will be used to form white-paper study groups for the strategy. They plan to hold a community planning meeting December 12-18 during the African Conference on Fundamental and Applied Physics, which will take place at Cadi Ayyad University in Morocco.

    “The world is a global village today because of technology, and you cannot separate technology from physics,” wrote Iroka Chidinma Joy, an African Strategy group convener and chief engineer in the engineering and space systems division at the National Space Research and Development Agency in Nigeria, in an email.

    “So the ASFAP is trying to encourage Africans to remember that everything starts with physics and will end with it, and the key goal is to get everyone—policymakers, educators, researchers, communities, institutions, etc.—involved in bringing every aspect of physics together for social-economic development in Africa,” she wrote. “There’s no time that’s more perfect than now.”

    In July, African Strategy organizers held their first virtual Community Town Hall.

    This time, speakers came to present on physics strategies from Japan, China, India, Europe, the United States and Latin America—and how they might inform the development of the African Strategy.

    See the full article here .


    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

    Symmetry is a joint Fermilab/SLAC publication.

  • richardmitnick 10:31 am on June 15, 2021 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , Compact Accelerator System for Performing Astrophysical Research (CASPAR) at SURF., FNAL DUNE LBNF (US) from FNAL to SURF, LBNL LZ Dark Matter Experiment (US) Dark Matter project at SURF, , , Sanford Underground Research Facility (US), Symmetry Magazine, U Washington Lux Dark Matter 2 at SURF, U Washington MAJORANA Neutrinoless Double-beta Decay Experiment (US) at SURF   

    From Symmetry: “The other particle detector” 

    Symmetry Mag

    From Symmetry

    Ali Sundermier

    When studying mysterious subatomic particles, researchers use a different kind of particle detector to prevent run-of-the-mill dust particles from getting in the way.

    If you’ve got physics on your brain, there’s a good chance the word “particle” immediately summons the subatomic realm. Maybe it calls to mind the protons, neutrons, quarks and electrons that make up our bodies and the world around us, or super-high-energy particles like neutrinos that zoom through space at nearly the speed of light.

    But there’s a whole other class of particles. The kind that are kicked up when the wind blows, that collect on your countertops and windowsills, that visibly cloud the air when there’s nearby smoke and pollution. A major obstacle to many particle physics experiments is that these types of particles—gas, dust, soot, smoke—can cause pesky background noise and obscure experimental results. This is why many of the highly sensitive detectors used for these experiments are kept in cleanrooms.

    “A lot of times when you talk about particle detectors in high-energy and nuclear physics, it’s the kind that detects particles like neutrinos,” says Peggy Norris, Education and Outreach Deputy Director at Sanford Underground Research Facility (US), or SURF, in South Dakota, the deepest underground lab in the US.

    Homestake Mining, Lead, South Dakota, USA.

    “But instruments called particle counters, which measure the amount of dust and other particulates in the air, are crucial to maintaining the cleanliness of the air in the cleanrooms where many of these experiments are built or performed.”

    Escaping the dust

    Deep underground, where many experiments are performed at SURF, the surrounding rocks are laced with radioactive elements such as thorium and uranium, which decay and produce radon gas. These radon gas particles can stick to plastic and contaminate materials.

    “The whole reason you go a mile underground is to get away from the cosmic rays and cell phone signals,” says Mark Hanhardt, an experiment support scientist at SURF. “But something else that causes background is dust, and a large amount of dust down there contains some radioactive elements. If you can’t get rid of this dust, then what’s the point of going underground?”

    SURF employs a collection of particle counters to keep track of the levels of these and other particles (such as microscopic flakes of human skin) that might compromise experiments. Although there are a few different types of particle counters, they all pull in surrounding air and use tricks of light, such as scattering or blocking, to count and measure the size of the particles in any given space. When the counts are high enough to endanger the data they’re collecting, the researchers know to take extra cleaning precautions to bring them back down.

    Hanhardt often tests the instruments in his office to make sure they’re running correctly. On a typical day, his office—which he keeps quite tidy—has a particle count of about a million 0.5-micron-sized particles per cubic foot.

    “Step down into the Common Corridor at the Davis Campus, a part of the lab that is kept as clean as possible, and that particle count drops to only a few hundred particles per cubic foot,” Hanhardt says. “Once you enter a cleanroom, that particle count will drop below 10, rarely going above 100.”

    At first, to monitor the particle count Hanhardt and his colleagues would have to physically travel to each counter every three or four months to download its data onto a USB drive. But in July of 2017, Hanhardt worked with an undergraduate summer intern at SURF to hook the instruments up to tiny microcomputers called Raspberry Pis, which enabled them to track the particle count in real time.

    “In the past, we wouldn’t know about spikes in the particle count until after they occurred,” he says. “With the new system, we have alarms built in that alert us when the counts start going up. This makes it easier to pinpoint what’s causing the increase.”

    Counting the invisible

    In addition to tracking the cleanliness of the air, these devices also provide a learning opportunity for young students, giving them the chance to take and analyze real data.

    “Some years ago we hosted a group of seventh-grade girls at Sanford Lab,” Norris says. “I set up a particle counter in an empty room and sent them into the room one at a time so we could see how the particle count changed with each new person.”

    The exercise illustrated why scientists cover themselves head-to-toe when entering a cleanroom. Each person sheds millions of skin particles per day and may also leave behind hair, clothing fibers, cosmetics particles, microbes and dust.

    “[The students] were shocked to learn just how much invisible stuff is in the air,” Norris says. “Eventually we used the data to plot a graph of dust versus number of students.”

    Stephen Gabriel, a physics teacher at a local high school, is involved in a project investigating ventilation at the lab. His students participate by analyzing the data, and he hopes that this will get them interested in STEM fields.

    “Getting involved in real research with real data is what got me hooked on science,” Gabriel says. “But it’s hard to show students what science is really like when you’re tied into a typical high school schedule. My hope is that if I give students first-hand experience doing real research, they’ll be inspired to pursue careers in science.”

    See the full article here .


    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

    Symmetry is a joint Fermilab/SLAC publication.

  • richardmitnick 9:42 pm on May 20, 2021 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "Argonaut project launches design effort for super-cold robotics", , , , , Symmetry Magazine   

    From Symmetry: “Argonaut project launches design effort for super-cold robotics” 

    Symmetry Mag

    From Symmetry

    Brianna Barbu

    Fermilab scientists are developing one of the most cold-tolerant robots ever made so they can monitor the interiors of particle detectors.

    Illustration by Sandbox Studio, Chicago.

    The Argonauts of Greek mythology braved sharp rocks, rough seas, magic and monsters to find the fabled Golden Fleece. A new robotics project at the Department of Energy’s Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory will share that same name and spirit of adventure.

    Argonaut’s mission will be to monitor conditions within ultracold particle detectors by voyaging into a sea of liquid argon kept at minus 193 degrees Celsius—as cold as some of the moons of Saturn and Jupiter. The project, funded in March, aims to create one of the most cold-tolerant robots ever made, with potential applications not only in particle physics but also deep space exploration.

    Argon, an element commonly found in the air around us, has become a key ingredient in scientists’ quests to better understand our universe. In its liquid form, argon is used to study particles called neutrinos in several Fermilab experiments, including MicroBooNE, ICARUS, SBND, and the next-generation international Deep Underground Neutrino Experiment. Liquid argon is also used in dark matter detectors like DEAP 3600, ARDM, MiniCLEAN, and DarkSide-50.

    DarkSide-50 at Gran Sasso (IT)

    Liquid argon has many perks. It’s dense, which increases the chance that notoriously aloof neutrinos will interact. It’s inert, so electrons knocked free by a neutrino interaction can be recorded to create a 3D picture of the particle’s trajectory. It’s transparent, so researchers can also collect light to “time stamp” the interaction. It’s also relatively cheap—a huge plus, since DUNE will use 70,000 tons of the stuff.

    But liquid-argon detectors are not without their challenges. To produce quality data, the liquid argon must be kept extremely cold and extremely pure. That means the detectors must be isolated from the outside world to keep the argon from evaporating or becoming contaminated. With access restricted, diagnosing or addressing issues inside a detector can be difficult. Some liquid-argon detectors, such as the ProtoDUNE detectors at CERN, have cameras mounted inside to look for issues like bubbles or sparks.

    “Seeing stuff with our own eyes sometimes is much easier than interpreting data from a sensor,” says Jen Raaf, a Fermilab physicist who works on liquid-argon detectors for several projects including MicroBooNE, LArIAT and DUNE.

    The idea for Argonaut came when Fermilab engineer Bill Pellico wondered if it would be possible to make the interior cameras movable. A robotic camera may sound simple—but engineering it for a liquid-argon environment presents unique challenges.

    All of the electronics have to be able to operate in an extremely cold, high-voltage environment. All of the materials have to withstand the cooling from room to cryogenic temperatures without contracting too much or becoming brittle and falling apart. Any moving pieces must move smoothly without grease, which would contaminate the detector.

    “You can’t have something that goes down and breaks and falls off and shorts out something or contaminates the liquid argon, or puts noise into the system,” Pellico says.

    Pellico received funding for Argonaut through the Laboratory Directed Research and Development program, an initiative established to foster innovative scientific and engineering research at Department of Energy national laboratories. At this early stage of the project, the team—Pellico, mechanical engineers Noah Curfman and Mayling Wong-Squires, and neutrino scientist Flavio Cavanna—is focused on evaluating components and basic design aspects. The first goal is to demonstrate that it’s possible to power, move and communicate with a robot in a cryogenic environment.

    “We want to prove that we can have, at a bare minimum, a camera that can move around and pan and tilt in liquid argon, without contaminating the liquid argon or causing any bubbles, with a reliability that shows that it can last for the life of the detector,” Curfman says.

    The plan is to power Argonaut through a fiber-optic cable so as not to interfere with the detector electronics. The fist-sized robot will only get about 5-10 watts of power to move and communicate with the outside world.

    The motor that will move Argonaut along a track on the side of the detector will be situated outside of the cold environment. It will move very slowly, but that’s not a bad thing—going too fast would create unwanted disturbances in the argon.

    “As we get more advanced, we’ll start adding more degrees of freedom and more rails,” Curfman says.

    Other future upgrades to Argonaut could include a temperature probe or voltage monitor, movable mirrors and lasers for calibrating the light detectors, or even extendable arms with tools for minor electronics repair.

    Much of the technology Argonaut is advancing will be broadly applicable for other cryogenic environments—including space exploration. The project has already garnered some interest from universities and NASA engineers.

    Deep space robots “are going to go to remote locations where they have very little power, and the lifetime has to be 20-plus years just like in our detectors, and they have to operate at cryogenic temperatures,” Pellico says. The Argonaut team can build on existing robotics know-how along with Fermilab’s expertise in cryogenic systems to push the boundaries of cold robotics.

    Even the exteriors of active interstellar space probes such as Voyager 1 and 2 don’t reach temperatures as low as liquid argon—they use thermoelectric heaters to keep their thrusters and science instruments warm enough to operate.

    “There’s never been a robotic system that operated at these temperatures,” Pellico says. “NASA’s never done it; we’ve never done it; nobody’s ever done it, as far as I can tell.”

    See the full article here .


    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

    Symmetry is a joint Fermilab/SLAC publication.

  • richardmitnick 7:14 pm on May 18, 2021 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "Exhibit explores layers of SNOLAB", A part of Creighton Mine has since been developed into an underground laboratory-SNOLAB-where scientists continue to study neutrinos along with other underground science pursuits., About 1.8 million years ago a meteorite tore through part of what is now Ontario leaving a scar greater than 20 miles in diameter that bled precious metals like copper and nickel into the exposed eart, , , In 1990 scientists used the mine as a natural shield to protect SNO-an experiment studying the behavior of strange particles called neutrinos., , Recently four artists-in-residence accepted an invitation to come learn about dark matter., Symmetry Magazine, The artists traveled to SNOLAB in Sudbury Ontario Canada and to the Arthur B. McDonald Canadian Astroparticle Physics Research Institute-a seven-hour drive away in Kingston.   

    From Symmetry: “Exhibit explores layers of SNOLAB” 

    Symmetry Mag

    From Symmetry

    Stephanie Melchor

    In Drift: Art and Dark Matter, pieces by four artists-in-residence dig deep into the underground laboratory.

    Installation view from Drift: Art and Dark Matter.

    About 1.8 million years ago a meteorite tore through part of what is now Ontario leaving a scar greater than 20 miles in diameter that bled precious metals like copper and nickel into the exposed earth. In 1901, European colonists began to carve away the layers of rock, eventually digging one of the deepest mines on the planet, Creighton Mine.

    In 1990 scientists used the mine as a natural shield to protect SNO-an experiment studying the behavior of strange particles called neutrinos. In 2015, the results of the SNO experiment would earn Canadian scientist Art McDonald a portion of the Nobel Prize in Physics.

    A part of Creighton Mine has since been developed into an underground laboratory-SNOLAB-where scientists continue to study neutrinos along with other underground science pursuits. It’s also where, recently four artists-in-residence accepted an invitation to come learn about dark matter.

    The artists traveled to SNOLAB in Sudbury Ontario Canada and to the Arthur B. McDonald Canadian Astroparticle Physics Research Institute-a seven-hour drive away in Kingston. They visited the laboratory and spent time with the physicists who build experiments there. They descended through layers of rock—and dug back through layers of history—to produce an exhibit that is about more than just physics.

    Looking through layers

    In 2019 artists Anne Riley; Nadia Lichtig; Joséfa Ntjam; and Jol Thoms began the residency that would result in the exhibition: Drift: Art and Dark Matter. As they plummeted into the heart of the Creighton Mine via an industrial mining elevator, many of them had the same question: Why do we have to go so deep underground to try to interact with particles coming from space?

    It seems poetic. But the answer isn’t poetry—it’s science. The more than a mile of dense norite rock the lab is buried beneath filters out a constant shower of cosmic radiation from above.

    In a detector on the surface, that radiation would drown out rare signals from neutrinos and possibly dark matter. Particles such as these, which are loath to interact with other matter, are much more likely than their compatriots to pass through the layers of rock and earth and make it to detectors located underground.

    Physicists know that neutrinos interact with other matter. As for dark matter—it has never been detected directly, though indirect signs point to it outweighing known types of matter 5-to-1. It may be all around; we just can’t see it.

    Thoms has spent time with physicists searching for hard-to-find particles in other extreme locations, including Laboratori Nazionali del Gran Sasso under Gran Sasso mountain in Italy and the Baikal Deep Underwater Neutrino Telescope in Siberia.

    He says he enjoys these “landscape laboratories,” which he describes as “meaningful infrastructures” embedded in lakes, ice shelves, mountains and mines.

    Ntjam admits she struggled with the physics concepts that scientists introduced during the residency at SNOLAB and the McDonald Institute. “Every night I read about dark matter when I was in Canada,” she says. “I read every note I took during the day and tried to be a good student.”

    But still, she says, it took nearly the full two weeks of the residency for things to start clicking.

    One concept that finally resonated was Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle: the idea that you can calculate the velocity of a particle, or its position, but never both.

    Ntjam says this made her think about the many layers, visible and hidden, that make up a person. “A person can be in multiple categories at the same time,” she says. “But you can’t calculate all the categories at the same time.”

    Thoms spent the residency thinking about layers as well.

    For part of the exhibit, he created a video. Called n-Land: the holographic (principle), it features 3D scans of SNOLAB that have been flattened and then layered back on themselves, an artistic nod to the “many-worlds” hypothesis in quantum mechanics that posits that every possible reality simultaneously exists.

    One layer takes the viewer back to 1850, when the Robinson-Huron Treaty granted the British Crown access to land and resources, including those in the area that is now Sudbury, belonging to the people of the Anishinabek Nations. The treaty promised the Anishinaabe peoples an annual share of revenues generated as compensation, with an augmentation clause to account for economic growth over time. Twenty-one First Nations tribes are currently involved in a lawsuit against the federal and provincial governments regarding these payments, which, despite the terms of the treaty, have not increased since 1874—before Creighton Mine even opened.

    To Thoms, the history of the site matters as much to the experiment as the showers of cosmic rays. It’s not just math that makes the experiments possible, he says; “also there’s minerals and there’s treaties and there’s meteorite impacts.”

    Dealings with dust

    Lichtig says the artists were allowed to think beyond the physics thanks to the flexibility of the Drift residency. “I thought it was very open-minded and really experimental—and gave enough freedom to the artists to imagine something new.”

    Lichtig was inspired to create her piece Dust after hearing Nobel Laureate McDonald share a fact made popular by astronomer Carl Sagan—that we are all made of stardust. The idea of stardust stuck in Lichtig’s mind long after she returned to her home studio in southern France.

    She also spent time thinking about the everyday kind of dust, which, just like cosmic radiation, can interfere with the detectors underground and has to be eliminated. Scientists take several measures to keep both dirt from the mine and other particulates from making their way into the experimental areas of the laboratory. The name Drift comes from the name of the long, rocky underground tunnel that leads researchers from the dusty entrance of the mine to SNOLAB’s immaculate underground cleanroom. Lichtig says it was a memorable experience “to go through stone and to be in the middle of stone—and then suddenly to switch into this ultra-technological world where everything is completely dust-free.”

    To make Dust, Lichtig applied dust to photo-sensitive paper and then added different cleaning agents, capturing snapshots of their interactions.

    But Lichtig’s second piece in the exhibit, Untitled, was the one that most stood out to SNOLAB physicist Erica Caden. Caden participated in a pair of sessions led by Elvira Hufschmid, a doctoral fellow at Agnes Etherington Art Centre, to introduce physicists to the works in Drift.

    “To me, [Untitled] looks like a blackboard that was being erased and rewritten,” Caden says. “And that led to the thought of how science is a constantly evolving process, and how we think we know things and we’re traveling down this one road with our theories and our experiments—and then our results tell us, ‘Nope, what we got was not what we expected.’ So we have to start over.”

    Untitled, a collection of black panels with mysterious, chalky markings, does not necessarily represent the ephemeral nature of physicists’ calculations. To others, it might look like images of the night sky. Caden says she was surprised by how differently her fellow scientists interpreted the same piece of artwork. Caden says the exhibition is a good chance for SNOLAB scientists to step back and see how other people understand the work they are doing as well.

    Drift was developed by SNOLAB, the McDonald Institute, and the Agnes Etherington Art Centre at Queen’s University (CA). The exhibit will be at the Agnes until May 30, after which it will go on tour through Canada for three years. The art is also available in an interactive version of the exhibit online.

    During her time in Sudbury, Ntjam visited the planetarium at the Science North interactive science center. She remembers watching a video presentation there about how the Indigenous people in the area mapped the night sky. Indigenous constellations are different from the classical Greek ones Ntjam learned as a child.

    Like descending into the depths of the Earth to study particles from the sky, or recruiting artists to examine concepts in physics, studying a new set of constellations can help us better understand the ones we already know.

    “In fact, they’re the same stars in the sky,” Ntjam says. “We are just connecting the dots differently.”

    See the full article here .


    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

    Symmetry is a joint Fermilab/SLAC publication.

  • richardmitnick 11:21 am on May 4, 2021 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , Clifford Johnson, Outreach, , Symmetry Magazine   

    From Symmetry: “On the marvels of physics” Clifford Johnson 

    Symmetry Mag

    From Symmetry

    Brianna Barbu

    Illustration by Sandbox Studio, Chicago with Corinne Mucha.

    Theoretical physicist Clifford Johnson answers Symmetry writer Brianna Barbu’s questions about his work in science and outreach, including advising on movies like Avengers: Endgame.

    Clifford Johnson, a theoretical physicist at the University of Southern California (US), is an accomplished scientist working on ways to describe the origin and fabric of the universe.

    He is also a multitalented science communicator and one of the rare scientists that can boast his own IMDb page.

    Johnson’s efforts to engage the public with science have spanned blogging, giving public lectures, appearing on television and web shows, writing and illustrating a graphic novel, and acting as a science advisor for television shows and blockbuster films including Star Trek: Discovery and Avengers: Endgame.

    In the spirit of his 2017 popular science book The Dialogues, I hopped on a Zoom call with Johnson for a dialogue of my own. What follows is an edited version of our conversation about how and why he came to study quantum physics, why he decided to create a graphic novel about science, the ups and downs of Hollywood consulting, and why public engagement with science matters.

    S.How did you decide to study physics?

    CJ:From a very early age, I was asking questions about how the world works and trying to figure out how things worked by tinkering with old radios and things. Then at some point, I learned that there’s a career where you can make a living from that sort of curiosity—being a scientist.

    And then some family friend asked me what kind of scientist I wanted to be. I didn’t realize there were different kinds. So I found a dictionary and I went through page by page and read the definitions of “chemist,” “biologist,” all of the “-ists” and “-ologists.” And when I hit “physicist,” I thought, “this is the one,” because the entry said that physics underlies all the other sciences—which appealed to me because I wanted to keep my options open.

    You were awarded a National Science Foundation (US) CAREER Award in 1997 and received the 2005 Maxwell Medal and Prize for your early-career contributions to string theory and quantum gravity research. What drew you to theoretical physics and quantum gravity?

    CJ: I got interested in particle physics reading authors such as Paul Davies and Abraham Pais as a teenager. And then in my undergraduate studies at Imperial College, I began to learn about the issues of trying to quantize gravity, which led me to study string theory for my PhD at the University of Southampton. The universe really does seem to be fundamentally quantum mechanical. So, it’s a real problem if we don’t know quantum mechanically how to understand gravity, spacetime and where the universe comes from.

    You also do a lot of public engagement on top of your research. The American Association for Physics Teachers awarded you the 2018 Klopsteg Award for your outreach. How did you get started in science communication and outreach?

    CJ: I’ve been doing outreach in a way since I was 8 or 10 years old. I was that annoying kid who was always explaining things. In school, people would call me “the professor.” Everyone thought they were giving me a hard time, but secretly I thought it was an awesome nickname.

    Outreach, for me, is a natural part of being a scientist. Research is all about the story of how things work and where they came from. And what’s the point of knowing the story, if you can’t also get other people excited about it? If someone wants to know, I’m going to tell them. I got reasonably good at explaining things in a coherent way. Word got around, and I started presenting on radio and TV.

    Sometimes, people would get in touch from the media because of something they read on my blog. I co-founded a blog called Cosmic Variance with four other physicists in 2005, and also started a solo blog called Asymptotia in 2006. I’d write about interesting ideas and what was going on in research, as well as my other interests and day-to-day life. Blogging created communities where people would engage in conversation and we’d have great discussions, and then that would encourage us to write more.
    Why is engaging the public in science so important to you?

    It is very frustrating to me that science is often portrayed as a special thing done by a special group of people. It is a special thing, but anyone can be involved, and everyone should be involved. I often say that science should be put back into the culture where it belongs.

    Public outreach is important because a lot of people think they wouldn’t understand scientific issues, and so they leave it to a small group of people to make decisions. And that’s not democratic. We aren’t a democracy if people aren’t more familiar and comfortable with science and the people who do science.

    Your book The Dialogues is a graphic novel structured as a series of conversations about science, which you wrote and also illustrated yourself. How did that come together?

    CJ: I agonized over writing a book for the general public for a long time because I didn’t think there was any urgency to write one of the standard kinds of books that get written by people in my field. Not that there’s anything wrong with those books. But I thought that if we could break out of the narrow mold of how popular science books are supposed to be, we could reach so many more people.

    Though I was a comic book fan from a young age, I essentially snuck up on the on the graphic-novel concept backwards. The ratio between prose and illustration changed as I began to conceptualize what I really wanted to be able to do with the book. The illustration aspect began to eat the prose aspect and became a narrative in its own right. And then I realized it was going to be a graphic novel. Writers often say that you try and create the book that you want to see in the world—so I did, and I even took the time out to teach myself to draw at the level needed to do it.

    In all graphic novels, spacetime is created by the reader. When you’re looking at a series of comic panels, your mind constructs how space and time come alive on the page. So what better medium to talk about physics, the subject that is about spacetime, than graphic novels? I could take advantage of the medium to illustrate ideas, like arranging panels to swirl into the interior of a black hole and mess up the order to convey how space and time get messed up there.

    Do you plan to write another book?

    CJ: Yes. The plan is to do a new set of dialogues. Unfortunately, I’m still working on the time machine in the basement so I can manufacture more hours in the day. Sooner or later, I’ll get it to work.

    Okay, you know I had to ask this—what’s it like working with the Science and Entertainment Exchange and being a science advisor for movies and TV?

    CJ: Most of the work is not the glamorous, sitting-around-chatting-with-Spielberg kind of thing that people envision. There’s no industry standard for science consulting. The work can be anything from a writer getting in touch with me and asking if I’ll take a look at a script, or if I’ll talk with them about an idea they have. Or the directors call consultants in at the end and ask us to fix something before they start shooting, although by then it’s usually too late for a good conversation.

    If the science is going to be part of the DNA of the story, then it’s best if conversations happen early. The best stuff happens when there’s an environment where science can be an inspiration at the writing stage. For the Avengers: Endgame and Infinity War movies, one of the smart things the filmmakers did is they got in touch early on and then we brainstormed ideas. They did this with other scientists, too, gathering a lot of good material to draw from.

    How much of your advice gets used?

    CJ: Anywhere from zero to a hundred percent. I have no control over how much. When I give public talks, I talk about the trade-off between how much control you have and the size of the audience you can reach. I have complete control over the content of a public lecture to a few hundred people. I had zero control of what ended up in the final cut of Avengers, with an audience of many millions.

    In a few projects I advised on, there are even scenes where I wrote most of the words. I either went over the script and revised the science talk, or the writers left a hole for me to tell them how to say something, and then they used my suggestions verbatim. That’s not common, but it happens sometimes.

    Overall, the science is more likely to survive all the way to the screen if it’s for television, which is more of a writer’s medium. In television, the director works for the writers. In film, the writers work for the directors, who may or may not care about the science content.

    Can you give me some examples of projects where you had a significant impact?

    CJ: Season two of the show Agent Carter is a great model of how things between TV writers and science consultants are supposed to work. Entire characters and storylines on the show were invented based on things we brainstormed together in the writers’ room. A few times, I sketched an idea about what a machine might look like and they just went away and built the machine for the set!

    Another project where I was involved very early on was the first season of National Geographic’s series Genius, about the life and work of Einstein. Not only did I teach the writers a lot about relativity, but I helped pick pieces of science that they could unpack thematically for episodes and helped them write scenes so that the science could really be on show.

    Maybe most importantly, they took seriously my encouragement to show that Einstein discussed his ideas with others around him, to help break that “lone genius” mythology that often drives people away from thinking they can be scientists.

    What are the most important things for films and TV shows to get right when it comes to science?

    CJ: Some people get hung up on getting all the facts right, but I’d rather focus on things like representing the scientific process correctly, as opposed to making it seem like magic—representing the thought processes and the people doing those thought processes.

    I care about whether the scientists are portrayed like real people with narratives that help you relate to them and understand them. When I’m working with artists and media people creating images of scientists, I encourage them to make those people more real, make them more accessible, show that they’re human beings.

    You do so much! How do you balance your work, your outreach and the rest of your life?

    CJ: I think the most important skill to learn is dealing with interruption and knowing how to put something on hold and then come back to it. I’ve gotten better at doing a lot of stuff in my head in preparation for that short time I’m going to have where I will be able to sit at my desk and do my physics.

    I hope that I am helping to dispel the myth that if you’re good at outreach, it means that you’re not good—or not interested—in research at the highest level. That’s often used to discourage people from spending time on outreach and engagement, or as an excuse to dismiss people of color or women in the field. The fact that I have been very successful at research and teaching and also science outreach shows that it is possible to be a significant player in both realms.

    See the full article here .


    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

    Symmetry is a joint Fermilab/SLAC publication.

  • richardmitnick 10:53 am on April 7, 2021 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "First results from Fermilab’s Muon g-2 experiment strengthen evidence of new physics", , , , , , Symmetry Magazine   

    From Symmetry: “First results from Fermilab’s Muon g-2 experiment strengthen evidence of new physics” 

    Symmetry Mag


    FNAL Muon g-2 experiment at DOE’s Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory (US). Photo by Reidar Hahn, Fermilab.

    The long-awaited first results from the Muon g-2 experiment at the US Department of Energy’s Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory show fundamental particles called muons behaving in a way that is not predicted by scientists’ best theory, the Standard Model of particle physics. This landmark result, made with unprecedented precision, confirms a discrepancy that has been gnawing at researchers for decades.

    The strong evidence that muons deviate from the Standard Model calculation might hint at exciting new physics. Muons act as a window into the subatomic world and could be interacting with yet undiscovered particles or forces.

    “Today is an extraordinary day, long awaited not only by us but by the whole international physics community,” says Graziano Venanzoni, co-spokesperson of the Muon g-2 experiment and physicist at the Italian National Institute for Nuclear Physics. “A large amount of credit goes to our young researchers who, with their talent, ideas and enthusiasm, have allowed us to achieve this incredible result.”

    A muon is about 200 times as massive as its cousin, the electron. Muons occur naturally when cosmic rays strike Earth’s atmosphere, and particle accelerators at Fermilab can produce them in large numbers. Like electrons, muons act as if they have a tiny internal magnet. In a strong magnetic field, the direction of the muon’s magnet precesses, or wobbles, much like the axis of a spinning top or gyroscope. The strength of the internal magnet determines the rate that the muon precesses in an external magnetic field and is described by a number that physicists call the g-factor. This number can be calculated with ultra-high precision.

    As the muons circulate in the Muon g-2 magnet, they also interact with a quantum foam of subatomic particles popping in and out of existence. Interactions with these short-lived particles affect the value of the g-factor, causing the muons’ precession to speed up or slow down very slightly. The Standard Model predicts this so-called anomalous magnetic moment extremely precisely. But if the quantum foam contains additional forces or particles not accounted for by the Standard Model, that would tweak the muon g-factor further.

    “This quantity we measure reflects the interactions of the muon with everything else in the universe. But when the theorists calculate the same quantity, using all of the known forces and particles in the Standard Model, we don’t get the same answer,” says Renee Fatemi, a physicist at the University of Kentucky and the simulations manager for the Muon g-2 experiment. “This is strong evidence that the muon is sensitive to something that is not in our best theory.”

    The predecessor experiment at DOE’s Brookhaven National Laboratory, which concluded in 2001, offered hints that the muon’s behavior disagreed with the Standard Model. The new measurement from the Muon g-2 experiment at Fermilab strongly agrees with the value found at Brookhaven and diverges from theory with the most precise measurement to date.

    The accepted theoretical values for the muon are:

    g-factor: 2.00233183620(86) [uncertainty in parentheses]

    anomalous magnetic moment: 0.00116591810(43)

    The new experimental world-average results announced by the Muon g-2 collaboration today are:

    g-factor: 2.00233184122(82)

    anomalous magnetic moment: 0.00116592061(41)

    The first result of the Muon g-2 experiment at Fermilab confirms the result from the experiment performed at DOE’s Brookhaven National Laboratory(US) two decades ago. Together, the two results show strong evidence that muons diverge from the Standard Model prediction. Credit: Ryan Postel, Fermilab/Muon g-2 collaboration.

    The combined results from Fermilab and Brookhaven show a difference with theory at a significance of 4.2 sigma, a little shy of the 5 sigma (or standard deviations) that scientists require to claim a discovery but still compelling evidence of new physics. The chance that the results are a statistical fluctuation is about 1 in 40,000.

    The Fermilab experiment reuses the main component from the Brookhaven experiment, a 50-foot-diameter superconducting magnetic storage ring.

    DOE’s Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory(US) G-2 magnet from DOE’s Brookhaven National Laboratory(US) finds a new home in the FNAL Muon G-2 experiment. The move by barge and truck.

    In 2013, it was transported 3200 miles by land and sea from Long Island to the Chicago suburbs, where scientists could take advantage of Fermilab’s particle accelerator and produce the most intense beam of muons in the United States. Over the next four years, researchers assembled the experiment; tuned and calibrated an incredibly uniform magnetic field; developed new techniques, instrumentation, and simulations; and thoroughly tested the entire system.

    The Muon g-2 experiment sends a beam of muons into the storage ring, where they circulate thousands of times at nearly the speed of light. Detectors lining the ring allow scientists to determine how fast the muons are precessing.

    In its first year of operation, in 2018, the Fermilab experiment collected more data than all prior muon g-factor experiments combined. With more than 200 scientists from 35 institutions in seven countries, the Muon g-2 collaboration has now finished analyzing the motion of more than 8 billion muons from that first run.

    “After the 20 years that have passed since the Brookhaven experiment ended, it is so gratifying to finally be resolving this mystery,” says Fermilab scientist Chris Polly, who is a co-spokesperson for the current experiment and was a lead graduate student on the Brookhaven experiment.

    Data analysis on the second and third runs of the experiment is under way, the fourth run is ongoing, and a fifth run is planned. Combining the results from all five runs will give scientists an even more precise measurement of the muon’s wobble, revealing with greater certainty whether new physics is hiding within the quantum foam.

    “So far we have analyzed less than 6% of the data that the experiment will eventually collect. Although these first results are telling us that there is an intriguing difference with the Standard Model, we will learn much more in the next couple of years,” Polly says.

    “Pinning down the subtle behavior of muons is a remarkable achievement that will guide the search for physics beyond the Standard Model for years to come,” says Fermilab Deputy Director of Research Joe Lykken. “This is an exciting time for particle physics research, and Fermilab is at the forefront.”

    See the full article here .


    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

    Symmetry is a joint Fermilab/SLAC publication.

  • richardmitnick 1:15 pm on March 30, 2021 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "The mystery of the muon’s magnetism", , , , , , , , Symmetry Magazine   

    From Symmetry: “The mystery of the muon’s magnetism” 

    Symmetry Mag
    From Symmetry

    Brianna Barbu

    A super-precise experiment at DOE’s Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory(US) is carefully analyzing every detail of the muon’s magnetic moment.


    Modern physics is full of the sort of twisty, puzzle-within-a-puzzle plots you’d find in a classic detective story: Both physicists and detectives must carefully separate important clues from unrelated information. Both physicists and detectives must sometimes push beyond the obvious explanation to fully reveal what’s going on.

    And for both physicists and detectives, momentous discoveries can hinge upon Sherlock Holmes-level deductions based on evidence that is easy to overlook. Case in point: the Muon g-2 experiment currently underway at the US Department of Energy’s Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory.

    The current Muon g-2 (pronounced g minus two) experiment is actually a sequel, an experiment designed to reexamine a slight discrepancy between theory and the results from an earlier experiment at DOE’s Brookhaven National Laboratory(US), which was also called Muon g-2.

    DOE’s Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory(US) G-2 magnet from DOE’s Brookhaven National Laboratory(US) finds a new home in the FNAL Muon G-2 experiment. The move by barge and truck.

    Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory(US) Muon g-2 studio. As muons race around a ring at the , their spin axes twirl, reflecting the influence of unseen particles.

    The discrepancy could be a sign that new physics is afoot. Scientists want to know whether the measurement holds up… or if it’s nothing but a red herring.

    The Fermilab Muon g-2 collaboration has announced it will present its first result on April 7. Until then, let’s unpack the facts of the case.

    The mysterious magnetic moment

    All spinning, charged objects—including muons and their better-known particle siblings, electrons—generate their own magnetic fields. The strength of a particle’s magnetic field is referred to as its “magnetic moment” or its “g-factor.” (That’s what the “g” part of “g-2” refers to.)

    To understand the “-2” part of “g-2,” we have to travel a bit back in time.

    Spectroscopy experiments in the 1920s (before the discovery of muons in 1936) revealed that the electron has an intrinsic spin and a magnetic moment. The value of that magnetic moment, g, was found experimentally to be 2. As for why that was the value—that mystery was soon solved using the new but fast-growing field of quantum mechanics.

    In 1928, physicist Paul Dirac—building upon the work of Llewelyn Thomas and others—produced a now-famous equation that combined quantum mechanics and special relativity to accurately describe the motion and electromagnetic interactions of electrons and all other particles with the same spin quantum number. The Dirac equation, which incorporated spin as a fundamental part of the theory, predicted that g should be equal to 2, exactly what scientists had measured at the time.

    The Dirac equation in the form originally proposed by Dirac is


    But as experiments became more precise in the 1940s, new evidence came to light that reopened the case and led to surprising new insights about the quantum realm.

    Credit: Sandbox Studio, Chicago with Steve Shanabruch.

    A conspiracy of particles

    The electron, it turned out, had a little bit of extra magnetism that Dirac’s equation didn’t account for. That extra magnetism, mathematically expressed as “g-2” (or the amount that g differs from Dirac’s prediction), is known as the “anomalous magnetic moment.” For a while, scientists didn’t know what caused it.

    If this were a murder mystery, the anomalous magnetic moment would be sort of like an extra fingerprint of unknown provenance on a knife used to stab a victim—a small but suspicious detail that warrants further investigation and could unveil a whole new dimension of the story.

    Physicist Julian Schwinger explained the anomaly in 1947 by theorizing that the electron could emit and then reabsorb a “virtual photon.” The fleeting interaction would slightly boost the electron’s internal magnetism by a tenth of a percent, the amount needed to bring the predicted value into line with the experimental evidence. But the photon isn’t the only accomplice.

    Over time, researchers discovered that there was an extensive network of “virtual particles” constantly popping in and out of existence from the quantum vacuum. That’s what had been messing with the electron’s little spinning magnet.

    The anomalous magnetic moment represents the simultaneous combined influence of every possible effect of those ephemeral quantum conspirators on the electron. Some interactions are more likely to occur, or are more strongly felt than others, and they therefore make a larger contribution. But every particle and force in the Standard Model takes part.

    The theoretical models that describe these virtual interactions have been quite successful in describing the magnetism of electrons. For the electron’s g-2, theoretical calculations are now in such close agreement with the experimental value that it’s like measuring the circumference of the Earth with an accuracy smaller than the width of a single human hair.

    All of the evidence points to quantum mischief perpetrated by known particles causing any magnetic anomalies. Case closed, right?

    Not quite. It’s now time to hear the muon’s side of the story.

    Not a hair out of place—or is there?

    Early measurements of the muon’s anomalous magnetic moment at Columbia University (US) in the 1950s and at the European physics laboratory CERN [European Organization for Nuclear Research (Organisation européenne pour la recherche nucléaire)(EU)] in the 1960s and 1970s agreed well with theoretical predictions. The measurement’s uncertainty shrank from 2% in 1961 to 0.0007% in 1979. It looked as if the same conspiracy of particles that affected the electron’s g-2 were responsible for the magnetic moment of the muon as well.

    But then, in 2001, the Brookhaven Muon g-2 experiment turned up something strange. The experiment was designed to increase the precision from the CERN measurements and look at the weak interaction’s contribution to the anomaly. It succeeded in shrinking the error bars to half a part per million. But it also showed a tiny discrepancy—less than 3 parts per million—between the new measurement and the theoretical value. This time, theorists couldn’t come up with a way to recalculate their models to explain it. Nothing in the Standard Model could account for the difference.

    It was the physics mystery equivalent of a single hair found at a crime scene with DNA that didn’t seem to match anyone connected to the case. The question was—and still is—whether the presence of the hair is just a coincidence, or whether it is actually an important clue.

    Physicists are now re-examining this “hair” at Fermilab, with support from the DOE Office of Science (US), the National Science Foundation (US) and several international agencies in Italy, the UK, the EU, China, Korea and Germany.

    In the new Muon g-2 experiment, a beam of muons—their spins all pointing the same direction—are shot into a type of accelerator called a storage ring. The ring’s strong magnetic field keeps the muons on a well-defined circular path. If g were exactly 2, then the muons’ spins would follow their momentum exactly. But, because of the anomalous magnetic moment, the muons have a slight additional wobble in the rotation of their spins.

    When a muon decays into an electron and two neutrinos, the electron tends to shoot off in the direction that the muon’s spin was pointing. Detectors on the inside of the ring pick up a portion of the electrons flung by muons experiencing the wobble. Recording the numbers and energies of electrons they detect over time will tell researchers how much the muon spin has rotated.

    Using the same magnet from the Brookhaven experiment with significantly better instrumentation, plus a more intense beam of muons produced by Fermilab’s accelerator complex, researchers are collecting 21 times more data to achieve four times greater precision.

    The experiment may confirm the existence of the discrepancy; it may find no discrepancy at all, pointing to a problem with the Brookhaven result; or it may find something in between, leaving the case unsolved.

    Seeking the quantum underworld

    There’s reason to believe something is going on that the Standard Model hasn’t told us about.

    The Standard Model is a remarkably consistent explanation for pretty much everything that goes on in the subatomic world.

    Standard Model of Particle Physics from “Particle Fever” via Symmetry Magazine

    But there are still a number of unsolved mysteries in physics that it doesn’t address.

    Dark matter, for instance, makes up about 27% of the universe. And yet, scientists still have no idea what it’s made of. None of the known particles seem to fit the bill. The Standard Model also can’t explain the mass of the Higgs boson, which is surprisingly small. If the Fermilab Muon g-2 experiment determines that something beyond the Standard Model—for example an unknown particle—is measurably messing with the muon’s magnetic moment, it may point researchers in the right direction to close another one of these open files.

    A confirmed discrepancy won’t actually provide DNA-level details about what particle or force is making its presence known, but it will help narrow down the ranges of mass and interaction strength in which future experiments are most likely to find something new. Even if the discrepancy fades, the data will still be useful for deciding where to look.

    It might be that a shadowy quantum figure lurking beyond the Standard Model is too well hidden for current technology to detect. But if it’s not, physicists will leave no stone unturned and no speck of evidence un-analyzed until they crack the case.

    See the full article here .


    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

    Symmetry is a joint Fermilab/SLAC publication.

  • richardmitnick 8:54 pm on March 29, 2021 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "The data wranglers", A degree in particle physics or astrophysics can lead to a career in data science., , , Symmetry Magazine   

    From Symmetry: “The data wranglers” 

    Symmetry Mag
    From Symmetry

    Liz Kruesi

    Credit: Sandbox Studio, Chicago with Corinne Mucha.

    A degree in particle physics or astrophysics can lead to a career in data science.

    Particle physicist Abhigyan Dasgupta says there are many reasons he left academia after earning his PhD: He wanted to avoid a nomadic life spent following elusive opportunities. He wanted a good work-life balance.

    “I realized what I was enjoying about my day-to-day life was analyzing physics data,” he says. “But I realized I could do it with other kinds of data as well.”

    Physics and astronomy PhDs who stay on the academic track find themselves chasing a limited number of positions pursued by a large number of extremely talented candidates. Despite this, many graduate programs in physics and astronomy do not introduce students to careers outside of research institutions, and so it’s up to the students to figure out what to do next.

    As he neared the end of his doctoral program, Dasgupta started considering his options. He eventually came across the Insight Fellows Program, which trains academic-track scientists for careers in data science. The founder of the program, Jake Klamka, is a physicist who conducted research at both the Department of Energy’s Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory(US) and European Organization for Nuclear Research (Organisation européenne pour la recherche nucléaire)(EU) [CERN].

    Dasgupta applied, was accepted, and then started the seven-week program right after finishing his PhD in 2019.

    A plethora of skills transfer from physics to data science, Dasgupta says. Physicists know how to take enormous amounts of raw data and use it to address a question—often approaching it from multiple angles before finding the answer.

    “My job still reminds me of physics in many ways,” says Dasgupta, who now works as a data scientist for the video game company Activision Blizzard. “It’s just that instead of electrons and muons as my individual data, it’s users or revenue or something else.”

    Credit: Sandbox Studio, Chicago with Corinne Mucha.

    Finding the stories in the data

    Data scientists have many roles, but in the broadest sense, they “collect and analyze data and present the results to business subject-matter experts so they can make data-driven decisions,” says Aga Leyko.

    A particle-physicist-turned-data-scientist, Leyko works at a leading professional services company focusing on the healthcare industry. As she explains, data science is a broad career trajectory that uses skills such as data analysis, simulation and visualization. Leyko used these same skills for her PhD thesis, in measuring elementary particles’ properties using a multi-terabyte-sized set of data from particle interactions at the Large Hadron Collider at CERN.

    Data science also uses non-technical skills, such as problem-solving, she says. “What makes physicists really good data scientists is their ability to see through complex issues, their attention to details, and their focus on finding tangible solutions.”

    At a computer-gaming studio, data scientists study player behavior and how it interacts with the company’s revenue steam. At a large technology company, data scientists answer questions about sales tactics. Data science projects often require multiple phases and multiple tools, and they can take from weeks to years to complete.

    The first step in a new data science project is figuring out what the problem is—translating a business question into a data-science project. The next step is acquiring and preparing the raw data.

    The importance of this second step is not always obvious to those without a background in physics or astronomy, says Chaoyun Bao, a managing strategy consultant in data science at IBM who came to the field after a postdoctoral position in astrophysics.

    “When I was doing my PhD, I was analyzing a lot of sensor data,” which involves dealing with distractions ranging from radio noise to faulty electronics. “So I knew that real-world data is going to have a lot of noise, it’s going to [involve] a lot of digging around,” she says. “You know data is not going to be perfect, and you’re not going to make decisions based on perfect information.”

    Along the same lines, Leyko recalls of her time working in particle physics at CERN: “You would interrogate every single data point before you came to any conclusion.”

    Leyko began her PhD work in 2010, when the LHC started back up after a faulty magnet took it out of commission. Verifying that everything was functioning properly was of especially great importance. “I never assume that everything in the data is correct,” Leyko says.

    Leyko’s extra level of caution with data has been incredibly helpful to her career in healthcare consulting, she says. At one point she noticed a dataset she was working with just looked wrong, so she checked it out. A simple distribution plot confirmed her suspicions. It turned out a program had automatically changed any missing birthdates in the dataset to January 1, 1900—and as a result, the ages of clients seemed to peak at a value over 100 years old.

    Once a data scientist is confident in their data, they can transform it into meaningful information. This is where writing code, making plots, using predictive models, investigating a subset of data, and using other analytical tools learned throughout a physics education are incredibly useful. It’s also where the problem-solving comes in: Perhaps even more important than knowing how to use the tools is knowing which tool to use when.

    “You can teach someone how to run specific commands,” says Dasgupta, “but it takes longer to teach someone the intuition behind ‘I have this data, how can I get something useful out of that?’”

    And then there’s one more step beyond the analysis: “To be a good data scientist, you have to be able to communicate your results,” Bao says.

    It’s an inversion of the first step, translating a business question into a data problem; this time, the data scientists must translate their coding and analysis into interesting insights and business actions, she says.

    Dasgupta agrees that this is an essential part of the job. “It’s being able to explain and tell the story of data really well.”

    See the full article here .


    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

    Symmetry is a joint Fermilab/SLAC publication.

  • richardmitnick 12:23 pm on March 7, 2021 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "How English became the language of physics" Is it Really?, "Scientific Babel: How Science Was Done Before and After Global English" by Michael Gordin, , Around 1970 about 70% of world publication in science was written in English and about 25% was written in Russian., , , Because the American educational system becomes so prominent and later on also the British English becomes an obligatory conference language. It becomes a common denominator., , By the mid-1800s science in Europe was split fairly equally between English; French; and German., , Germany’s esteemed position in the scientific community changed dramatically with the rise of the Nazi Party before World War II., In the first half of the 20th century Germany was an important educational hub for physics., , , Symmetry Magazine, The salience and prominence of physics that emerged in the West—linked to the development of the Manhattan Project and its legacy—produced a very strong shift towards English., There was also a strong scientific community in the Soviet Union. But right after the world war the Soviet government shut down their few scientific journals published in languages other than Russian., Today more than 90% of the indexed articles in the natural sciences are published in English. That wasn’t always the case.   

    From Symmetry: “How English became the language of physics” Is it Really? 

    Symmetry Mag
    From Symmetry

    Meredith Fore

    Credit: Sandbox Studio, Chicago with Steve Shanabruch.

    Today more than 90% of the indexed articles in the natural sciences are published in English. That wasn’t always the case.

    During Michael Gordin’s childhood, his mother—who grew up speaking French and Moroccan Arabic—mostly conversed with his father in his father’s native Hebrew. But both of Gordin’s parents spoke to Gordin and his brothers in English, even though Gordin’s father was less nimble in the language.

    “It wasn’t until much later that I came to realize what a sacrifice that was for them, to not feel quite at ease when speaking to their kids,” Gordin says, “because they wanted their kids to have the opportunities that came with speaking a language” that more people spoke.

    As Gordin got older, he became more and more interested in languages: specifically, in how people choose which languages to use, and how sometimes a more widespread language is favored over a less common one for the sake of greater opportunity and access.

    Gordin is now a professor at Princeton University(US) who specializes in the history of the modern physical sciences, particularly in Russia and the Soviet Union. In 2010, he began to write a book about how, in the mid-20th century, Russian became one of the significant languages of science. But he quickly ran into a problem.

    “You can’t just write about one language; it’s an ecology, where all the languages of science are interacting,” he says. “So I decided to just devote myself entirely to exploring the issue of the friction that happens when people have to use a different language” that is not their native tongue.

    In 2015, he published Scientific Babel: How Science Was Done Before and After Global English, an account of how languages have waxed and waned in popularity among the scientific community since the Renaissance—and how English became the dominant language of science.

    Credit: Sandbox Studio, Chicago with Steve Shanabruch.

    A dead language gets a second life

    During the Renaissance, a trove of ancient scientific texts was rediscovered by Western Europeans, providing a repository of ancient knowledge. Scholars immediately translated them from ancient Greek to the written language that most educated Europeans knew: Latin, the language of the Catholic church. This led to a resurgence of written Latin, despite all its native speakers having been dead for a millennium.

    But a few hundred years later, Latin faded out of general use once more. By the mid-1800s science in Europe was split fairly equally between English; French; and German.

    “If you were a native speaker of French, English or German, you had to learn passively the other two,” Gordin says. “You had to be able to at least read articles and maybe understand someone speaking to you, but you only had to actively produce content in your own language. It was very common to have correspondence between scientists where one writes in English and the other writes in German.”

    In the first half of the 20th century Germany was an important educational hub for physics. Not only was it producing its own trailblazers—such as Werner Heisenberg, Albert Einstein and Maria Goeppert Mayer—it also attracted prominent physicists from other countries to study and work at its universities. Lise Meitner, born in Austria, Robert Oppenheimer, born in America, and Enrico Fermi, born in Italy, all spent time as researchers in German science institutes in the 1920s.

    Germany’s esteemed position in the scientific community changed dramatically with the rise of the Nazi Party before World War II. Foreign students and researchers were denied visas. Thousands of Jewish scientists, including Meitner, were forced to resign from their universities, and academics were forbidden from traveling abroad.

    Meitner, for one, stayed in Berlin, where she had built her career, as long as she could. But she was eventually forced to flee to the Netherlands. Soon afterward she settled in Sweden.

    She wrote to fellow physicist Max van Laue about the experience of finding herself, at the age of 60, suddenly dependent on the goodwill of a country whose language she had never spoken. “One never enjoys equal rights and is always internally alone,” she wrote. “One always speaks a foreign language—I don’t mean the external formulation of language, I mean mentally. One is without a homeland. I wish that you never experience this, nor even that you understand it.”

    The exile and persecution of scientists in Germany had a profound effect on individuals like Meitner—and on the field of physics, Gordin says. There was a shift away from Germany—and war-torn France as well—coupled with a shift toward the universities and national laboratories in the United States.

    “The salience and prominence of physics that emerged in the West—linked to the development of the Manhattan Project and its legacy—produced a very strong shift towards English,” he says. “And now, when scientists go on postdocs, they want to go to the US.”

    It was also a turning point for the role of the US in scientific education.

    “That is enormously influential because it’s where people go to graduate school, where they send their students to study,” Gordin says. “It’s where the conferences are heavily funded, because the Americans had more money after the war. Because the American educational system becomes so prominent and later on also the British English becomes an obligatory conference language. It becomes a common denominator.”

    How translation burst the Russian bubble

    There was also a strong scientific community in the Soviet Union. But right after the world war the Soviet government shut down their few scientific journals published in languages other than Russian.

    “So now you have one of the most powerful countries in the world publishing a ton of science but publishing it in a language most scientists don’t read,” Gordin says. “There is a strongly felt need in the ’50s and ’60s that American scientists need to know what Soviet scientists are doing. But they don’t have enough people who read Russian.”

    Concerned about Soviet military technology, the Atomic Energy Commission, the Office of Naval Research and the National Science Foundation began to fund projects translating Soviet physics journals from Russian into English.

    These projects were an important factor in English becoming overwhelmingly dominant. Non-American Western scientists didn’t need to learn Russian to read what the Soviets were doing. At no or little cost to their own governments and institutes, they could simply read the American English translations.

    Around 1970 about 70% of world publication in science was written in English and about 25% was written in Russian (all other languages combined made up about 5%). Today, more than 90% of the indexed articles in the natural sciences are published in English.

    “You want to communicate with a broader audience, but you also want to allow people to express themselves in a language they feel comfortable in,” Gordin says. “Now we don’t have that compromise; we just have one language.”

    History shows that this won’t necessarily always be the case.

    “It would take a lot of shocks,” Gordin says, “but something like a global plague”—he takes a meaningful pause—“could do something, or radical climate effects, or a massive war could disrupt the system so much that it reorients around an alternative equilibrium,” displacing English as the dominant scientific language.

    Even if things change, Gordin says, English will be the language of science for a long time.

    If all native Anglophones were to vanish tomorrow, and if you wanted to learn any science, you would need to know English, he says. “And that’s why Latin lasted so long after the Protestant Reformation: It was so important for the repository of knowledge that it had to be kept alive.”

    See the full article here .


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