I am a second year PhD student working within the ATLAS Collaboration, which is one of the multi-purpose detectors installed at the Large Hadron Collider in CERN. I am currently based out at CERN on a long term attachment away from my home institution. This tumblr is a platform from which I can try to educate and inform others interested in particle physics and wonderful science, as well as provide some insight into the workings of a PhD. Click here to see the kinds of things I like. You can find my personal blog here.
Click on this, play with the checkboxes and scroll around the page, you will not regret it.
Hubble stared at a tiny patch of sky for twenty-three days straight to produce this beautiful image of thousands of galaxies, some of which are 13.2 billion years old. This is the “deepest” image of the sky to date, known as the Hubble eXtreme Deep Field.
Dr Stephen Wilkins (Uni of Sussex, UK) has merged all the images taken of XDF with different telescopes, and has catalogued the luminosities (a measure of brightness), redshift (a measure of distance, the higher the number the further away the galaxy is) and spectral energy distributions (energy signatures across all colours of light) for each galaxy.
An opportunity here to look into the depths of the Universe with Hubble and see a deep field image in multiple wavelengths. The cataloguing and ease of use is very impressive.
This beautiful animation (seriously give it a few seconds to load!), effectively showing the world at work, actually comes from some 420,000 computers which were hacked by an anonymous researcher. The hacking was low-level and relatively friendly - the computer was pinged from time to time to check its connectivity and it did not interfere with the main programs being run (and even a message was left when it was done explaining what had happened and a contact email).
There is further information available on this post on Motherboard, and whilst no-one will condone hacking activities, one can still marvel at the data flow which can be visualised.
Another nice interactive website, but instead of looking at the scale of objects and the Universe from a spatial perspective, it looks at the amount of time that has stretched before us, and the relative proportions of different eras of development of the Universe and life.
The Science Museum will host an immersive exhibition bringing to life the science which goes into the Large Hadron Collider, at CERN, and they physics which is being studied with the vast quantities of proton-proton collision data collected by the various experiments.
It looks set to be an impressive exhibition, running for six months, from November 2013. Tickets are available online now and futher information can also be found through the link!
WolframAlpha have been running an app where users can generate a report on their Facebook account and also anonymously provide data to some central servers. This data has recently been analysed and some interesting results have been produced. I’ve only just come across this, but I will be signing up asap as this kind of social science/ data analysis can be very interesting and enlightening.
The first graph above shows (quite stereotypical) comparisons between males and females and the frequency with which they post about certain topics. However, there are a number of other interesting plots which have been produced. For instance, people with lots of friends tend to be friends with people who also have lots of friends. It might sound trivial, but its an interesting result.
Its interesting to see that that within different ages, there are clear peaks around your own age to show you have a lot of friends your age. Even more interesting is the width of these peak though for people between the age of 20 and 30. People in this age bracket (myself included) came through an age of slow dialup internet during our childhood, using many social networking sites and were maturing when Facebook was becoming THE social network. I think because of this, the peak around their own age is in stark contrast to much younger people (who have had Facebook since learning how to use a computer) and to older people, who have acquired more friends and family over time.
I would reccommend checking out the article, linked at the bottom, as well as signing up for some anonomous data collection, because after all, there are so many apps now on Facebook which try to get your information such as to profile you (in some cases trying to do so without your permission) that its interesting to see where you might fit within the boundaries of social typing.
I like Carl Zimmer’s response to the recent internet-uproar about government-funded “duck penis” research.
This kind of criticism is common — it’s very easy to exclaim “how could knowledge of duck penises possibly be useful?!?” but not as easy to understand the criticized research and think carefully about the reasons why we support basic science in general. (And the fact that it’s about a subject many people find comical certainly helps.)
I just want to address the question of why we fund basic research in the first place.
Scientists use the word “basic” to distinguish scientific research that’s not directed at some specific practical problem. Developing a vaccine for the latest strain of the flu is applied research. Learning how the body generates antibodies to flu viruses is basic research. Basic research can lead to applications, but we don’t know in advance what particular studies will or won’t do so. That’s because we have much left to understand about how the world works.
He goes on to explain why duck penises may be important, and may uncover clues on human evolution and human reproductive issues. Importantly, as it goes with most basic science, no one had any idea about these connections until someone looked, and looking takes money. And, oh yeah, this isn’t new news. The National Science Foundation (NSF) has been funding the research in question for over 6 years, and Zimmer reported on it in 2007.
What people don’t realize is that, although most science isn’t about penises, many research subjects are similarly difficult to connect directly to their positive impacts on society. But that’s true of much research that has later proven invaluable. That’s why, when scientists hear that the NSF is supporting research on duck penises, it doesn’t sound shocking. It sounds reasonable.
If you want to eliminate research on duck penises, than you must also eliminate similar (although less giggle-inducing) basic science, and you’d end up with very little research left. But we know that science, in general, improves our society. The most-cited example in particle physics is the birth of the World Wide Web, which came about as a result of the computing needs at CERN, but of course could not have been predicted as a result.
For those of you who enjoy particle physics, but find some of the mathematical formalism difficult to remember, physicists at CERN have introduced a new theory of particle physics, with an emphasis on ease of learning - Welcome to the Substandard Model of Particle Physics!