Who Am I? July 24, 2007Posted by gordonwatts in blog.
There may be a few new readers heading to this blog, I suspect. So, a few introductions. Feel free to leave comments or ask questions. I’ll do my best to answer them (but I don’t have Internet at home right now, so I might be a little slow!).
Looking for more info? I’m afraid there isn’t much new out there. If you want to follow the trace of posts the best way is to follow the blog articles as they are all interconnected — which is why we call blogs echo-cambers. Here are my posts:
- Stop Already (posting referenced in the article)
- Lessons Learned (or not)
- Rumor News (Wired Article)
- Combining Results (CDF and D0)
- ATLAS Experiment and blogs
It was pretty good – I thought it was balanced. It is a bit odd because all of the people mentioned or quoted — we all know each other pretty well. I’ve been out for a beer with almost all of them. Well, there is Dr. Weinberg. I have seen Dr. Weinberg eat lunch at the University of Texas Faculty club (where I did my undergraduate work). I think I once carried a paper from a string theorist at Rutgers down to him for review. But no beer with him. :-)
On a more personal note, I never use the word “Dude” in conversation. It was a little awkward reading that. But, that is blogging for you. How often does someone get the word “Dude!” into the NY Times? I think my family will have some fun with that…
I’m curious to see what effects it causes in the experiments. Considering that Dennis, the author, carefully talked with the spokes-people of both experiments I suspect there will be very little fallout from this article.
Who am I?
I’m a professor at the University of Washington in Seattle in the Physics department. I got my Ph.D. in 1995 from the University of Rochester. I then did 5 years of post-doctoral work at Brown University before finally ending up at UW. I’ve been there almost 7 years now. I have just started my first sabbatical — I’ve just moved to Marseille in the south of France. I’m working with some collaborators at a lab called CPPM (Centre de Physique des Particles de Marseille), and I’m here for one year.
I’ve worked on only four experiments in my lifetime. This is not very many! I started at AMY in Japan (so old it doesn’t seem to have an official web site!!), and then moved to CDF at Fermilab, I then walked around the Tevatron accelerator ring a short distance and went to work on D0. I’ve spent most of my professional life there, and I am now really delving into the next experiment, ATLAS at the LHC.
On a more personal note, I’m married to another physics professor at UW and have a 1 year old child (who I miss, darn it, because we are separated until mid-August when she will join me here in Marseille). Probably the best way to find out more about me is pick random posts on this blog and read them or look at my flickr picture feed.
I love particle physics because it seemed to me to be the perfect intersection of physics and computers and hardware. I’m not sure I could any one of those three full time. My job as an experimentalists lets me, on one hand, explore the secrets of the universe, talk intelligently about dark matter, and on the other hand argue some obscure point about parallel computing, and perhaps also fiddle at the boundary between hardware and software (micro controllers and the like). That was why I got into this field. I’ve since discovered other things — the students and others I work with, for example. I even like teaching (seriously — people seem to think most professors at large research universities don’t like teaching — I’m sorry they had bad experiences; but it isn’t the norm among my friends).
Where do I start? I have no idea. We are trying to unlock the secrets of how things work at the smallest scales (quarks and gluons) and then use that to try to understand how things works at the largest scales (the universe). We have had this beautiful model of now nature works since the late 1960’s/early 1970’s. We call it the Standard Model (yeah, I know, pretty boring). It is almost complete in the sense that we’ve seen every single particle but one that it predicts: the Higgs. The Higgs discovery will be a big deal when we finally find it (if we find it at all – but more in a second). I would not be surprised if its discovery made the front page of the New York Times. Depending on what else is going on, it may even be above the fold. ;-) Finding the Higgs is definitely winning the lottery, but not the jackpot. See, we know the Standard Model is broken — it doesn’t work at higher scales. The problem is all the measurements we’ve made have been at a lower scale that the Standard Model works too well! So we know that nature doesn’t have an infinity in it — so the Standard Model is broken — but we don’t know how to fix it yet. And there are a lot of proposals out there. Figuring out how nature solved this mathematical problem we have with our Standard Model is the big Jackpot.
The beauty of the Standard Model is that it describes all interactions of matter. In particular, it is fairly easy to use its rules to understand how the universe first evolved. And here is the key: if you can predict that, you should be able to predict a universe that looks a lot like the one we are in now. Only we can’t. Some key ingredients are missing — dark matter and dark energy. “dark” because we have no clue. :-)
The LHC was built exactly to answer some of these questions. Ironically, the LHC was started before we realized the dark matter/dark energy problem existed. It would be a neat twist of fate if a machine not designed to solve the dark matter problem ended up solving it. But our luck is not that good.
All of us, in this field, are products of the people around us as well as ourselves. I say this especially in reference to the rumor: if you piss off your colleagues then they will not work with you in the future. Collaboration is the life blood of particle physics in a way that it isn’t in many other science disciplines. The lone scientist slaving away at his table in the basement for years and then winning the Nobel prize? Nope, it won’t happen here!
Here are a few links to explore further. They are of varying quality as I just picked them out this morning and have not had a chance to carefully review them. Let me know what you think!
- Inquiring Minds – Fermilab outreach and particle physics tutorial
- Particle Physics – Wikipedia, A bit of history and perspective.
- Teaching Resources – from CERN
What is this blog?
I started blogging as part of an outreach program called Quantum Diaries (check them out, there are some much better bloggers than I). The constant fear is not enough people are going into science (women in particular). So, how to make it more accessible? Someone in the PR department at Fermilab came up with the idea of a group of us writing blogs for the 100’s anniversary of Einstein’s most productive year. And I found I liked it.
So what does this blog have? It has less science than most science blogs. There are some excellent science blogs out there (my favorite) — defiantly read them. If you want to find more, just follow one link or anther and you’ll find us all linking to each other. I am very impressed with how they are kept up — it takes me hours to write posts of that quality and depth (this one is over an hour in the making). This blog is much more informal. If there is something bothering me, or some trip I’ve taken, etc., I’ll post about it here.
You can click on some of the blogs I’ve listed in my blog roll if you want. You’ll quickly find they link to higher quality blogs than I do. My problem: I only read blogs sporadically. Never feel like I have enough time…
Thanks for stopping by!