Greetings from Moscow!

I arrived in Moscow yesterday with a bunch of other BaBarians on a Delta flight out of JFK airport. We were tired, starting to feel jet-lagged, and eager to get to our hotel. To make a long story short (I’ll post more details from my ICHEP journal later), the taxi ride was cheap and uneventful, the hotel is a pit, the commute to the conference is about an hour, no matter how you look at it, and the conference has so far been excellent.

Today, we heard from a number of people conerning dark matter and dark energy (DAMA/LIBRA still has nothing to report), cosmology and colliders (string theory landscape models are falsifiable, perhaps bringing them into the realm of actual science), and BaBar and BELLE are neck-in-neck in the race for the observation of flavor mixing in the neutral D-meson system (never before observed, with BaBar having a tantalizing hint and Belle seeing nothing).

OK, back to the conference!

The Four Seasons

It’s the last day before I leave for Russia. In addition, we’re well into the summer heat, getting to temperatures up to 104 degrees. Even our normally cool house has been a sweatbox, and the frequent power outages make running the AC a dicey proposition. We spent much of today running a few last errands, doing some birthday shopping for Jodi, and getting out of the house.

We drove down to Mountain View, to pick up a paper journal so I can keep a record of my trip to Russia. While walking down Castro St., away from the public parking garage, we observed people coming out of shops and looking up into the air behind us. Since there was a street festival, we didn’t think much of it. But when it persisted, we turned around and saw a huge plume of black smoke rising from the block behind us. We started back along the sidewalk, as a chef from a restaurant up the walk ran past yelling “Where is the fire department!? My friend works in a restaurant up there!”

We got back far enough that we could see the fire: a Thai restaurant on the corner of the block where we’d parked the car was engulfed in flame, its outdoor eating patio all ablaze. Fire trucks were pulling up, police we driving people back from the smoke, and so we found ourselves worried about the people in the restaurant, standing in the hot sun.

We eventually got our car and headed home. But on the way home, we were diverted once more in Los Altos because of police and fire trucks! And then, after stopping for dinner, we almost got diverted again in Redwood City as an ambulance and fire truck pulled up to a private residence.

It’s not summer, it’s fire season.

And therefore, a witch (Part II)

Symbols are important to nations, and often horribly abused in politics. Senator Sam Brownback of Kansas, from the state that avoided teaching science by redefining it, gave a tedious presentation during the recent stem cell debates. In it, he made the following analogy: bald eagles come from eggs, and it is illegal to destroy a bald eagle egg, so since humans come from eggs shouldn’t it make sense to make destroying a human egg illegal? The symbol of the American Bald Eagle, representing the beauty and power of the U.S., was dragged through the mud to make a political point.

What was that point? Well, I guess Sam Brownback wants to make the destruction of eggs illegal. If you destroy the egg, you cannot have the eagle. If eagle eggs are special, and human eggs are special, where does this line of reasoning stop? The danger with porous analogies such as this one (since eagles come from eggs, and it’s illegal to destroy such an egg, human eggs should be illegal to destroy) is that it suggests all kinds of other arguments. For instance, from this I assume that Senator Sam Brownback is a fierce opponent of poultry farming and products. Every time the man eats breakfast, he’d be robbing a chicken of its brood. I guess this is an opportunity for him to close that “pesky poultry research facility at KSU”:http://www.asi.k-state.edu/DesktopDefault.aspx?tabid=1036, thus further descending Kansas into the scientific dark ages. Or, maybe, Sam Brownback should get to work on making illegal “Kansas’ poultry industry”:http://www.leewardpro.com/customplates/licenseplates/kansas-poultry-association.html.

Actually, Senator, it is illegal to destroy bald eagle eggs because the bald eagle is “an endangered species”:http://www.usflag.org/baldeagle.html,


“In 1940, noting that the national bird was “threatened with extinction,” Congress passed the Bald Eagle Protection Act which made it illegal to kill, harass, possess (without a permit), or sell bald eagles. In 1967, bald eagles were officially declared an endangered species (under a law that preceded the Endangered Species Act of 1973) in all areas of the United States south of the 40th parallel. Federal and state government agencies, along with private organizations, successfully sought to alert the public about the bald eagle’s plight and to protect its habitat from further destruction.”

It’s not illegal because the U.S. Congress acted to protect the eagle embryo based on a myopic definition of life, but rather because humans had driven them to extinction and we had to save them from ourselves.

The President also used a symbol: he surrounded himself with children born from frozen embryos in fertility clinics. He tried to make the following point: these children wouldn’t be here if stem cell research had existed 5-6 years ago and used human embryos as a source of stem cells. Like Brownback, the President seems to have missed the point and in doing so made a very porous analogy. These children were not produced from *discarded embryos*, which is what the Senate bill authorized for stem cell research. These children were produced by embryos that were still viable and thus could be implanted. These children were not even the product of the embryos that *failed* to implant in the host womb (many embryos die in the womb during the difficult implantation process). Should mothers who kill 5 embryos before one implants be held on murder charges? How can you have children from discarded embryos? Where do these terrible analogies, these awful hollow symbols, end?

I fear that should the definition of science invented last year by the Kansas State Board of Ed continue, or even take hold in other states, the future of intellectual politics is beheld in the faces of Brownback and Bush.


(For part I, see “entry 185”:185)

Jodi at theILC workshop

The “International Linear Collider”:http://www.linearcollider.org is the priority machine for the high-energy physics community after the Large Hadron Collider begins operations in just over a year. This week, the University of British Columbia in Vancouver hosts a huge ILC workshop, a forum for discussing technical, research, and educational issues surrounding the machine.

The ILC will be about 30 km long, site yet to be chosen. No single nation can support it – only a tightly knit international collaboration, like BaBar, ATLAS, or CMS can come together, earn the support of their home nations, and bring their minds and resources to bear in building it. If built, it would be the successor to the “cadillac” of electron-positron colliders, LEP, and a flagship of frontier science in the world. The LHC will break open the terascale like the hammer of Vulcan, revealing (we hope!) a whole new world of physical principles which manifest at low energy as classical mechanics, quantum mechanics, and relativity. It is the ILC that will assemble the pieces inside the Terascale into a coherent picture of nature, complementing the LHC and non-accelerator studies of neutrinos, dark matter, and dark energy.

But first we have to build it, and that means earning the support of our nations. Jodi is at the workshop, representing non-accelerator physics leading the search for the nature of dark matter. She’ll “report on the status of direct detection methods of searching for dark matter”:http://physics.cooleysekula.net, which makes up 80% of the mass of this universe. She took some notes today during Joe Lykken’s presentation on why we should build the ILC. I reprint them here out of interest:


Why build the ILC -- J. LYKKEN

* Tera-Scale
o Higgs
o SUSY
o extra dimensions
o new force
* Dark Matter
o No single approach - need direct/indirect and colliders to maximize knowledge.
o ILC & LHC can produce and study
* Unification
o force unification
o unification with neutrinos, leptogenesis
* Tough Questions
o What if there is no higs
o what if there is SUSY but it is heavy
measure heavy sleptons
o what if higgs but no susy
little higgs with T parity -- still see effects because it mixes with top
o what if all new physics is at 10 TeV
ILC has sensitivity to effects 10 TeV and above