A new physics, or a statistical error: Round-up of news from Fermilab

Last week, JArmstrong posted to the Submitterator about the big news out of Fermilab last week. Shorter version: An analysis of 10,000 proton-antiproton collisions made in the lab’s Tevatron particle accelerator turned up an anomaly that may, or may not, end up representing a very important discovery. Adding to the excitement, the Tevatron is scheduled to be shut down later this year—partly because the Large Hadron Collider is now up and running, and partly because the Tevatron program is out of money.

The response to this news has varied, with some people jumping feet-first into speculation about whether Fermilab has spotted a completely new force of nature and others expressing what might charitably be called a high level of skepticism. On Twitter, science journalist Charles Seife summed up the arched-eyebrow perspective: “My theory: #Fermilab ‘discovery’ is a ‘budgeton’: a particle that always appears — at 3 sigma levels — just before a machine gets shut down.”

The response to this news has varied, with some people jumping feet-first into speculation about whether Fermilab has spotted a completely new force of nature and others expressing what might charitably be called a high level of skepticism. On Twitter, science journalist Charles Seife summed up the arched-eyebrow perspective: “My theory: #Fermilab ‘discovery’ is a ‘budgeton’: a particle that always appears — at 3 sigma levels — just before a machine gets shut down.”

The response to this news has varied, with some people jumping feet-first into speculation about whether Fermilab has spotted a completely new force of nature and others expressing what might charitably be called a high level of skepticism. On Twitter, science journalist Charles Seife summed up the arched-eyebrow perspective: “My theory: #Fermilab ‘discovery’ is a ‘budgeton’: a particle that always appears — at 3 sigma levels — just before a machine gets shut down.”

The response to this news has varied, with some people jumping feet-first into speculation about whether Fermilab has spotted a completely new force of nature and others expressing what might charitably be called a high level of skepticism. On Twitter, science journalist Charles Seife summed up the arched-eyebrow perspective: “My theory: #Fermilab ‘discovery’ is a ‘budgeton’: a particle that always appears — at 3 sigma levels — just before a machine gets shut down.”

So what’s it all mean? Here’s what I’ve gleaned from reading several different accounts of the story:
• The anomaly is reported as being at “3 sigma levels”, which is a way of describing the likelihood that it represents an important finding, compared to the likelihood that it’s actually just showing an error in the data. This is a fairly high level of certainty, but that doesn’t mean the finding is certain. In fact, findings at 3 sigma levels turn out to be nothing often enough that many physicists and physics bloggers are urging the public to not get too excited about this one. Even the people who made the discovery are a little surprised that it’s getting this much attention.
• If something really has been found, it’s not the Higgs Boson.
• It’s going to be weeks before you hear anything more definitive. Other teams will have to run their own analysis of the Fermilab data, and see if the same anomaly turns up. Meanwhile, data from other particle accelerators will be studied to see if the anomaly shows up there, as well. Until there’s confirmation that the anomaly shows up everywhere, there’s not much more news to report.
• Nobody seems to be seriously speculating that a new discovery could save the Tevatron. Even if this anomaly turns out to be something that changes our understanding of particle physics, it’s being discussed as a swan song, not something that could reinvigorate the program.

Continue reading “A new physics, or a statistical error: Round-up of news from Fermilab”

235 Star Trek characters in pixel form, all on one poster

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John Martz says:

Trexels is a limited edition print from John Martz and Koyama Press featuring 235 of your favourite Star Trek characters (give or take a few Tribbles) in pixelated form. The print, an edition of 300, will debut at the MoCCA Festival in New York City, April 9th and 10th, 2011 (I’ll only have 25 of them with me). Following the festival, the majority of the prints will be available for sale here on my site (with a few copies reserved for TCAF and SDCC).

More info here. (via BB Submitterator, thanks Hamster King)

Indonesia: Citibank debt collectors arrested in death of client over credit card

In the Jakarta Post today, news that a Citibank employee and two debt collectors hired by the international financial institution are charged with murdering a customer in Indonesia. The man was the head of a local political party. He reportedly complained to the Citibank representatives about his credit card bill, which showed a higher balance than he expected (from about $7,825 to $11,500). By various reports, he came to negotiate the debt and was taken to a private room where he was questioned by the three suspects, then beaten to death.

Snip:

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Unable to handle the complaint, a Citibank employee and two debt-collectors, none of whom were named by police, took Irzen Octa to the fifth floor of the building where they killed him. “We found traces of blood on the curtains and walls,” Budi said, adding that Irzen’s body was found early Tuesday on the fifth floor.

An autopsy performed on Irzen showed he suffered damage to his brain. The three Citibank employees were named suspects in the murder case and could be charged with the Criminal Code on battery, which carries a maximum jail sentence of five-and-a-half years. Police said they would also question Citibank officials.

Citibank official Ditta Amahorseya declined to comment on the ongoing police investigation when approached by The Jakarta Post, but maintained that Citibank had and obeyed a strict code of ethics in regards to debt collection.

“All agencies’ employees representing us are obliged to obey [the code], including the obligation to deal with clients without using threats,” she said in an email sent to the Post. This is the second recent criminal case involving Citibank employees.

Citibank debt collectors allegedly kill client(Jakarta Post, via BB Submitterator thanks orangny)

Though today is April 1, this is apparently no joke. Here’s another related AP item, via Forbes. It seems violent debt collectors are quite a problem in the country.

Stingray X-ray

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This is an x-ray of a newly discovered species of stingray, native to the Amazon. You can’t tell from this shot of its innards, but the Heliotrygon gomesi actually resembles a “pancake with a nose”—big, round, flat, and beige. Read more about this creature at Our Amazing Planet.

Image: Ken Jones

Submitterated by Ajourneyroundmyskull

Symphony of Science ode to the brain

Symphony of Science, the people behind that awesome Carl Sagan “Glorious Dawn” autotune song have a new video, based around neuroscience. There’s plenty of Sagan—who I still think sounds weirdly like Kermit the Frog when filtered through autotune—and it’s also got a great, spacey chorus featuring Jill Bolte Taylor, the neuroanatomist who described her own stroke for TEDtalks a few years ago.

Video link

Submitterated by spiderking

“Meat glue” sounds kind of awesome

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I know this story on Planet Green—all about the edible “meat glue” that holds together everything from imitation crab sticks and chicken nuggets to modernist chef cuisine—is supposed to make me freak out and only want to eat organic, whole foods from the farmer’s market.

Trouble is: I kind of think meat glue sounds pretty cool. I like the fact that we’ve found new ways to use scraps and parts of meat that aren’t sell-able on their own. That alone is nothing new. Humans have been doing that for centuries (See: sausage, soup stock). Transglutaminase—meat glue’s real name—is just a newer tool. And it doesn’t even sound particularly scary or gross. At least, not to this honest-with-herself omnivore.

Technically called thrombian, or transglutaminase (TG), it is an enzyme that food processors use to hold different kinds of meat together. TG is an enzyme that catalyzes covalent bonds between free amine groups in a protein, like lysine, and gamma-caroxminid groups, like glutamine. These bonds are pretty durable and resist degradation once the food has been formed.

Thrombian is made from pig or cow blood, though you’ll see it on labels, if at all, as “composite meat product.”

It’s a naturally occurring enzyme, derived from animal blood. When you put it that way, it’s easy to understand why the EU—which tends to be more stringent on rules about food additives than the United States—voted nearly unanimously in favor of allowing transglutaminase to be used in products sold in EU countries.

Personally, I’m with wrecksdart, who Submitterated this, in wondering where I can get transglutaminase, and what ridiculous foods I can make at home with it. Animal-shaped meatloaf pops, here I come.

To do (for free) in NYC today: massive red and white quilt show, may induce “Amish heart attack”

Boing Boing reader cinemajay says,

My wife and I just returned from NYC where we saw “Infinite Variety,” an exhibition of 650 red and white quilts. As the husband of a quilter I’m used to going to craft-related events, but this was absolutely breathtaking in scope and presentation. It was nothing short of magical, and I say that with the seriousness of an Amish heart attack. So if you’re in NYC today, (the last day of the exhibit) do yourself a favor and check it out–oh, the event is also totally and completely free.

More about the exhibit in the Financial Times. “Infinite Variety: Three Centuries of Red and White Quilts” takes place at Armory on Park. Image: untitled work from the collection of Joanna S. Rose, photo by Gavin Ashworth.

Physicists explore abandoned American supercollider

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In the early 1990s, the United States was set to build a particle accelerator even larger and more awesome than the Large Hadron Collider in Europe. Naturally, Texas was chosen as the location for such a super-sized project. The first structures had been built, and digging had begun on the tunnels that would house the accelerator itself, when, in 1993, the funding situation got awkward. Forced to choose between building the International Space Station or building the biggest, baddest particle accelerator in the world, America picked the ISS.

How big was this particle accelerator? Big enough that the cancellation of the project apparently sent the southern part of Dallas/Fort Worth into a mini-recession.

Since 1993, the facility has sat abandoned. The buildings were emptied of most of the expensive equipment. The access shafts that led to the tunnels were filled in. This month, during the American Physical Society meeting in Dallas, several young physicists snuck away to explore what’s left of the Superconducting Super Collider. At the Physics Central blog you can see lots of great photos from their adventure, as well as “before” shots of what the facility looked like before the funding vanished. Cool stuff!

Submitterated by Eric Z Goodnight

Gown made from Golden Books


Designer Ryan Novelline has created a smashing gown out of Golden Books — he’s documented the process, which looks like great fun: “The skirt is comprised entirely of the illustrations from the books sewn together with metallic gold thread, and the bodice is made from the books’ foil spines. Both the bodice and skirt have tape backing for reinforcement.”

Storybook gown constructed entirely out of children’s Golden Books. (Thanks, Marilyn, via Submitterator!)

Scientist sports jerseys inspired by a Boing Boing comment thread


Syphax sez, “A while back, I mentioned my idea to put scientists’ names on the back of sports jerseys (see the comments for this Boing Boing post). I was sitting on the idea until one of my sons asked for a Galileo shirt for his birthday! So, I printed some up for him and his brothers. I would have liked to use a more authentic jersey, but went with a basic T-shirt (in Azzurri blue) for starters. Does anyone else want one of these? For which scientist/inventor?”

Science Jerseys (Thanks, Syphax, via Submitterator!)