Sorry about the relative lack of posting, this will be rectified soon. Here are some of the things I noticed last week.
- As you will no doubt already have heard from elsewhere, there is a press conference scheduled at CERN for the 4th of July, in which updates on the status of the searches for the Higgs boson at the ATLAS and CMS detectors will be provided. You've probably also heard the rumours that the results will feature higher statistical significance than the previous results from last December, and possibly even an official announcement of "discovery".
I believe these rumours originated from Peter Woit's blog (see here and here), and they have caused a bit of a kerfuffle in the blogosphere. Matt Strassler rather bad-temperedly complained about "non-particle-physicist bloggers" spreading rumours, and Jon Butterworth also seemed a little upset, claiming spoilers would be "bad for science". Personally, I don't see how that argument works. Sure, I understand any scientist only wants to make an official statement in a professional capacity when they're sure they've got the analysis correct. And a large collaboration has to have rules to govern behaviour of individuals, so they're well within their rights to want to avoid leaks. But I don't see how, if the leak is made, publishing a blog post clearly marked as "rumours" is bad for science. If anything, it simply ensures that more people tune in to the press conference to check whether the rumours are actually true. (I suppose this makes it slightly more likely that the servers providing live streams from CERN will fail.)
- Still on the topic of the Higgs, Matt Strassler also got rather annoyed with a New York Times article on the topic: here and followed up here. Again, it's not something that bothered me too much, but at least in this case I do recognise the feeling of seeing some arcane aspect of your field slightly misrepresented in a summary in the popular press and getting worked up about it. (If the rumours above turn out to be true then this principled objection will be even less relevant!)
- On a completely different note, here is an amusing little game that incorporates special relativity (hat tip to Shaun).
- In the UK, the Education Secretary Michael Gove apparently wants to do away with GCSE qualifications for 14-16 year-old students and go back to the old O-level exams. I don't have any sensible comments to make about the advisability or otherwise of such a plan, but I did see Peter Coles had posted a link to a GCSE Science paper from 2006. It is absolutely astonishing. Question 3 is a particular classic.
- Two weeks ago Jonathan Portes caught George Osborne implicitly admitting his economic policy had been wrong for the last two years. Last week he caught the G20 admitting they'd been wrong too.
- I recently learned about the confluence of the Rio Negro and the Solimões river (which later becomes the Amazon) in Brazil, where the waters of the two rivers, which are very different colours, flow side-by-side for nearly 6 kilometres without mixing (because they are at different temperatures, and flow at different speeds). This makes for nice dramatic photographs, and I couldn't resist including one here:
|Confluence of Rio Negro and the Solimoes.|