The 2017 Nobel Prize in Physics

ligoThe Nobel Prize committee planned the announcement of the 2017 prize in Physics for Tuesday, October 3, at 11:45am CET (4:45am US Central time). I got up early this morning to connect to the live stream and listen to the announcement. The Nobel Committee announced that this year’s prize goes to Rainer Weiss (one half), Barry Barish and Kip Thorne (splitting the other half) for decisive contributions to the LIGO Detector and the observation of gravitational waves [1].

In this short post, I reflect on the discovery of gravitational waves by direct observation, a measurement over a century in the making.

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A view of Orion

Venus rises over the mountains east of the SMU campus in Taos, NM. It is nearly sunrise.

This weekend is drawing to a close. I write this not from Dallas, where Jodi and I finally returned home 2 weeks ago after a brief (and originally unplanned) vacation in Wisconsin, but from the SMU campus in Taos, NM. It is Sunday morning. The past week – the first week of classes for this fall term – was long and painful, brightened by the students I get to work with this fall in class and on research and dimmed by the usual complexities of life in an academic department. I won’t get into the dimming. I’ll focus on the bright spots of the week.

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Summer Journal: Part 2

My notes on machine learning concepts from my whiteboard at the Weizmann Institute, “dressed up” to look like blueprints.

The first half of the summer was packed with a bunch of stuff, including a busy travel schedule followed by the death of a beloved pet. The second half of the summer has been a little bit more sane, involving more focused travel followed by a break in work-related travel for some recovery before the fall semester begins. In pictures and words, below, are some scenes from the second half of the summer.

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The Higgs’ Most Favoritist Thing is Beautiful

The ATLAS detector captures a proton-proton collision that is a promising candidate for the production of a W boson and a Higgs boson, where the Higgs boson decays to heavy conical sprays of particles (bottom-quark-initiated jets) and the W boson decays to its “golden” final state with a muon and a muon neutrino.

Today at the European Physical Society’s annual meeting, the ATLAS Experiment unveiled a number of new results based on the extensive data collected in 2015 and 2016 at a center-of-mass collision energy that is equivalent to balling together the energy of 13,000 proton masses. Among those results was one near and dear to my heart: the first evidence from the ATLAS Experiment of the Higgs decaying to its most favoritest decay mode, a pair of bottom quarks, also originally known as “beauty quarks.” But why did it take 7 years from the start of data collection to first see this decay, if the Higgs likes it so much? And why am I excited about it? Let’s find out!

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