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Now it’s official: Italian Government Funds the Super-B December 23, 2010

Posted by apetrov in Particle Physics, Physics, Science.

So it is official. According to Roberto Petronzio (INFN President), “The Ministry for Education, University and Research [of Italy] has decided to select the SuperB project conducted by the Italian National Institute of Nuclear Physics (INFN) as one of its “flagship projects” in Italy over the next few years and has delivered an initial funding for 2010 as a part of a multiannual funding program” (see here from interaction.org site).

This was first announced by Marcelo Giorgi (Super-B spokesperson) on December 18 at the closing of the XV SuperB General Meeting in Caltech (“SuperB has been approved and funded by the Italian government. Approval has been announced in a closed session of the CERN council. We should expect press releases with announcements from INFN and the Italian minister of science and education within the next few days,” see here). The announcement was a bit unexpected — many of my colleagues even believed that the project would never be funded, especially in such difficult times. But it happened!

This is s very good news for flavor physics. The Super-B experiment is a high-intensity B-factory, which is designed to look for glimpses of New Physics in rare decays of B- and D-mesons (for professional description of the physics case, see here; for Conceptual design Report (CDR) see here). It is a descendant of the SLAC B-factory experiment BaBar — almost literally, as parts of the accelerator and BaBar detector will be disassembled at SLAC and delivered to Italy and reassembled there. This is done as part of the US strategy of moving scientific expertise in high energy physics from the US to Europe and Asia (which started with plowing most other high energy physics programs in favor of the linear collider program that was never funded in full… actually, it is not even mentioned that often nowdays — partially because of the excitement over LHC) along with scientific leadership in that area :-).

So these are the exciting times for the SuperB collaboration! One important thing is that the site for the experiment is not yet chosen. Currently the possibilities include a green site at Tor Vergata or exciting site of the Frascati Lab of INFN near Rome. So hey have their work cut out for them.

Super-B would be the competing experiment for Belle-II, another high-intensity B-physics experiment located at KEK in Japan.


Update on our faculty search in particle theory December 10, 2010

Posted by apetrov in Particle Physics, Physics, Science.
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The deadline for applications for an Assistant Professorship in theoretical particle physics at WSU is December 15, five days from today. So far we received 44 applications.

Is that a lot? Well, it depends. According to some of my friends at SLAC, they receive upwards of 400 applications for their postdoctoral positions. I regularly receive about 50-60 applications for postdoctoral position — when I have one. While the numbers are not important (as long as the applicants are great — and they are!), we were planning for about 100 applications for our faculty position. Of course, WSU is not Harvard or Stanford. Also, Detroit is not Boston or Palo Alto. And, the future assistant professor would have to work more to get recognized in the field — the name of the institution will not be of much help. But this position will give that person a chance to define the program. And this person will not be alone. There is Sean Gavin (nuclear theorist), there would be another nuclear theorist next year (we also have a search for an Assistant Professor in theoretical nuclear physics) — and then, according to the Strategic Plan adopted by our Department, a theoretical cosmologist will be hired in a couple of years.All of that makes our position quite attractive.

So, what’s going to happen next? The Search Committee will meet shortly after December 15 to take initial look at the application pool. We will select a “long short lost” of 20 applicants and ask them to submit their application materials to the University’s job management system (a new requirement). Then we’ll select top five from the list of that twenty and invite them for interviews on campus.

This is an interesting year for physics at WSU. There are four (4!!!) searches going on in the physics department — particle theory, nuclear theory, nuclear experiment (heavy ion collisions — WSU has one of the largest groups in relativistic heavy ions in the US), and observational astronomy. Hopefully, we will get good people. I’ll keep you updated.

Update: we have 61 applications in our pool as of Dec 15 that we started to look at. The first serious meeting of the search committee will be in the first week of the new year.

Senior faculty: should one stay or should one go… August 18, 2010

Posted by apetrov in Near Physics, Particle Physics, Physics, Science.

This post is motivated by the fact that one of our senior faculty (a Full Professor) would be leaving this Fall to take another senior faculty job at another University. So, the questions that I want to ramble about are (1) why would one want to leave? and  (2) if one does decide to leave, how easy is it to get another tenured job?

1. Well, the question numbero uno has a simple answer: there is something at the  current place the person does not like. Examples could include academic environment (University is not prestigious enough, colleagues that are perceived to be unfriendly, perceived quality of  students, etc.), physical environment (tired to live in a city/country, etc.), salary (in most cases, too low), or spouse’s employment. I think most of the reasons can be reduced to those four. Or a linear combination of those four. And th0se reasons could be quite opposite: one wants to be in a big group, while another moves to organize a group — which in many cases would be smaller…

2. The second question also has a simple answer: it is not easy, unless you are a Nobel Prize winner (or Edward Witten). Or simply very good. And that’s where the question becomes hard: what does it mean to be “very good”??? To be successful at writing influential papers? securing grants (and/or having those NSF/DOE CAREER awards)? having a lot of awards? teaching and graduating good students? being on TV all the time? playing hockey?

This is a good question — and quite a relevant one, since (as part of a major theory expansion) we’ll be hiring a particle theory assistant professor this year  and it would be nice to hire someone who is “very good.” Although, admittedly, assistant professors are often judged “on potential,” and if the potential is not realized, a young assistant professor would not become an associate professor… This is one of the reasons while the Departments often prefer to hire nontenured Assistant Professors over tenured Associate and Full ones. That and the salary.

So, one of the possible criteria for a senior faculty that I would like to propose is a publication record — number of publications and citations to them (or/and an h-index for an applicant) compared to the same of the current members of a given research group that is doing the hire. In particular, if the h-index of a candidate is higher than that of the current members of the group, the person is good. Admittedly, it would not work for a junior faculty (well, if it does, the hiring group should get that person right away), but might be ok for a senior hire. Second criteria could be the record of securing external grants — the reality of life at most of research Universities is that the person should fund his/her own research… Moreover, while for an assistant professor getting the first grant is hard, it also serves as an opportunity to see what your peers in the field think about your research. So it is not all about the money — or the amount of it for that matter. A good record of graduating PhDs and having leadership positions (for an experimentalists in big collaborations) should round up the list. Did I miss anything?

Is there a recipe/a set of criteria? Probably not. But it would be interesting to know…

Congratulations, Dr. Andriy Badin! August 2, 2010

Posted by apetrov in Near Physics, Particle Physics, Physics, Science.

Today my second graduate student at WSU, Andriy Badin, defended his Ph.D. thesis. Congratulations Dr. Badin! Good luck to you in your new life as a postdoc at Duke University!

ICHEP-2010 vs hints of New Physics July 21, 2010

Posted by apetrov in Particle Physics, Physics, Science.
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Once of the major meetings in particle physics, the International Conference on High Energy Physics (ICHEP 2010) gets underway today in Paris. This is a conference that happens every two years and usually brings together hundreds of physicists from all over the world. Usually this is the place where large and small collaborations present their recent findings and most exciting results. Although first LHC results will be  presented there, LHC still does not have enough statistics to do the analysis that it was built to do. And this is why Tevatron and other machines try to beat it to the (possible) discovery of whatever might happen beyond the embattled Standard Model.

So far, there are several hints of something new. As with hints reported previously,  most of them will disappear with more experimental statistics – or with improved analyses. But who knows… maybe some of them will stay. It would be interesting to see if some of those hints are dispelled at this year’s ICHEP.

What are those hints, you’d ask? Well, here are some of them, in no particular order,

1. D0 semileptonic CP-asymmetry (aka “the toe of God” as New York Times has reported). An interesting, although somewhat strange result from D0 collaboration at Fermilab spurred a small waterfall of papers trying to explain it (here is the combination of older CDF and newer D0 results). If it happens to be true, we indeed would see a manifestation of New Physics in Bs oscillations. A cute thing about the above-mentioned article in New York Times is that they interviewed theorists who do not work on CP-violation in heavy quark physics…

2. MINOS mass differences measured for for neutrinos and antineutrinos (CPT-violation, anyone?). The neutrino mass differences and antineutrino mass differences measured by MINOS collaboration, showed quite a difference (see blue and red contours on this picture). Now, of course, contours overlap — and, statistically speaking, there is probability that those mixing parameters are the same. But it is a nice hint for something interesting. Now, I must say that the fact that neutrinos oscillate (and have mass) IS the biggest (and proven) hint for physics beyond the Standard Model.

3. CDF’s unexpectedly large forward-backward asymmetry in top-quark pair production. This is an interesting problem — while in QCD one expects top quark production angle to be symmetric with respect to beam direction at the lowest order, one can get a small, forward backward asymmetry (the quantity that compares the number of top quarks moving for or against a given direction) at next-to-leading order. This asymmetry is predicted to be of the order of 5%, while CDF sees something of the order of 19% with very good error bars. To make the  situation more interesting, top quark production cross section is consistent with theory. Axigluon, anyone? Maybe not…

4. Abundant Dark Matter search “anomalies”, in particular, the seasonal variation of a signal measured by DAMA collaboration. Some “older news” also include CDMS “two-event” result, PAMELA positron flux excess, etc…

Anyone’s taking bets?

P.S. I refuse to include Higgs discovery rumors in the list of possible hints, especially since they are reported by BBC and CNN (and properly dispelled by CDF and D0)!

OPERA sees appearance of tau neutrino… June 1, 2010

Posted by apetrov in Particle Physics, Physics, Science.
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…but for some reason I cannot see the appearance of a preprint showing heir results… Contrary to the recent D0 claim of New Physics in Bs mixing, I can find plenty of press releases (say, here, here and even here), but no formal paper! There is a cool video that is available from CERN that makes the discussion of this experiment here quite pointless, so if you’d like to learn about that and the revival (ok, last twitches) of the old good emulsion technology, please take some time and view it! At least while I’m searching for a preprint…

Florence, Florence… March 26, 2010

Posted by apetrov in Near Physics, Particle Physics, Physics, Science.
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I’m finishing up my 2.5-week stay in Florence at the Galileo Galilei Institute of  Theoretical Physics

"Quintessense picture"

Italians prefer quintessence models...

(or just GGI). Florence is a nice place to visit, so many people find it hard to not to go into the city to see Uffizi Gallery (if you can get in), Duomo — or sit in your office and calculate. Of course, famous Tuscan cuisine does not help. I managed to spent the weekends taking in the cultural heritage of the city and weekdays – taking in the latest in flavor physics.

I’ll blog more about physics and culture of Florence once I get back to Michigan over the weekend. But for now, let me point you to the final conference of this extended workshop that just ended: http://ggi-www.fi.infn.it//index.php?p=schedule.inc&idev=63


It is back! November 21, 2009

Posted by apetrov in Near Physics, Particle Physics, Physics, Science.
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After a year of repairs LHC has circulated the beam once again. The first collisions are to follow soon – about a week from now.

It happened. We are eagerly awaiting the answer of the Higgs From the Future :-).

Collider music November 10, 2009

Posted by apetrov in Funny, Near Physics, Particle Physics.
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The Internet is “like a box of chocolates — you never know what you’re gonna get.” Apparently, colliders inspire songwriters of different styles: from educational rap to 60-style love songs… Enjoy…

Ginzburg November 9, 2009

Posted by apetrov in Near Physics, Particle Physics, Physics, Science.
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One of the most famous Russian physicists, 2003 Nobel Prize winner Vitaly L. Ginzburg died yesterday in Moscow. He was 94. He received his Nobel Prize “for pioneering contributions to the theory of superconductors and superfluids” (e.g. Landau-Ginzburg theory is taught in any statistical mechanics class). He was a truly universal physicist — with over 400 works in physics, radio-physics and astrophysics. He will be greatly missed.