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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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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The Case of the Street that Wasn’t: The Week in Review (April 9-16, 2017)


A view of the London Eye and Westminster from the Waterloo Bridge. Taken on Easter Sunday, 2017.

This last week has been eventful! It began with an early morning return to Dallas from Connecticut, fighting the beginning of an annoying cold. After a couple of days at home, I was on a plane again, this time to London to spend 13 days working with colleagues at Queen Mary University London (QMUL) on software development for the ATLAS H->bb analysis. Easter weekend is a 4-day affair in Europe, so after a couple of days of jet lag and a bad cold I had a little welcome down time… which turned into serious down time when I lost my voice. I closed the week with a nice stroll around London on a Sherlock Holmes-themed Easter Sunday. Now, rested, I am looking forward to the next week of work and engagement in London.

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