Author Archive

Higgs Boson Discovery? NOT. Yet….But your search is over.

CMS data showing mass range excluded and possible for the Higgs boson, December 2011

CMS data showing detail of lower mass range excluded and possible for the Higgs boson, December 2011

Here it is, the latest interpretation of the largest dataset from the CMS that was officially released this morning.

After weeks of leaks, rumors and speculation it has been officially announced that the Higgs boson has been further cornered into a very narrow sliver of mass around 125GeV by independent results from both the CMS and ATLAS detectors. This is consistent with the Standard Model and previous postulates made before the acquisition of humanity’s most powerful particle accelerator.

Is this the first evidence of the Higgs boson? It could well be, perhaps. But it is still not yet a discovery.

Why?

What do these mean?

What do they show?

And how did thousands of scientists get to this point in the search for the Higgs boson?

In this UCSD-TV video exclusive,  UC San Diego Physics Professor Vivek Sharma, director of Higgs research for the CMS detector, explains the massive efforts to discover the Higgs Boson using the LHC at CERN.

Since the search began in March 2010, I have been fortunate (very fortunate) to be able to conduct an unprecedented series of exclusive interviews with Vivek Sharma; UC San Diego Professor of Physics and director of Higgs research for the CMS, or Compact Muon Solenoid detector.He is also one of two people responsible for combining all results from both the CMS and ATLAS detectors – both involving teams of University of California physicists.

In excerpts from some of these interviews Professor Sharma, ok, Vivek, shares his insights from his unique perspective as one of the key figures at the very heart of this gargantuan effort. He provides a detailed, comprehensive but clear and accessible layman’s guide to how this massive team of researchers conducted the science and produced these results, what they look for, what they see, how they (may have) cornered the Higgs, and why they do what they do.

You will be able to understand what this shows, and why it is no longer evidence for the Higgs boson

Golden channel ZZ event

Not the Higgs. Why?

And you will be able to understand why this could be evidence for the Higgs boson.

Evidence of the Higgs boson?

You will also understand what the seemingly all-too-complex “Brazilian Flag” (above, apologies to Brazil) states so eloquently about hundreds of trillions of proton-proton collision events, putting them all in terms of the chances that what we are seeing might finally be evidence of the “God Particle”.

But more importantly, you will get a sense of why Vivek, and collectively, we, sift through this chatter and noise to find the signal of the Higgs boson, a signal that speaks to something that has always been, and will always remain, at the core of each of us.

A Mission Like No Other

If you’ve perused this blog in the past, you know that UC San Diego is home to an unparalleled cadre of structural engineers and test facilities.

They have tested, and are testing, everything from huge bridge columns and blast resistant structures, to wind turbines and even railroad track – yes, railroad track. A hundred and some-odd car freight train derailing due to track failure is not an inexpensive problem, so engineers are looking at track failure modes….Anyway, I digress.

UC San Diego engineers are about to take things up a notch. Actually, if you ask me, quite a few notches – and UCSD-TV will be there all the way.

It’s a mission like no other; a mission to help ensure the safety of a critical element in California’s emergency services infrastructure – hospitals.

Damage to Holy Cross Medical Center due to the Northridge Earthquake. This hospital was initially evacuated due to non-structural damage.

Our UC San Diego engineers are taking their testing exploits to new extremes with this one. While many past tests have looked at purely structural issues in terms of seismic performance, failure modes or load bearing behavior, this test is designed to look at the non-structural performance of a building.

But this is not just any building or any test – it will be the first test ever conducted that will subject a full-scale, completely finished acute care facility to extreme seismic forces.

This five-story structure will have everything found in a typical acute care facility: a surgical suite, an intensive care unit, a working elevator, heating and air conditioners including the ductwork, suspended ceilings, light fixtures, a backup generator, and all the computing and utilities services, piping and conduits found in a working hospital.

You can follow construction progress here.

Why? Well, we Californians know earthquakes, and have always led the way in reducing risks from earthquakes. One of those things we did was enact requirements for hospitals to be able to continue operations during and after a major seismic event. This test will help us find the ways to do that.

Now don’t get concerned about hospitals falling down in a quake – in California hospitals are structurally some of the toughest buildings around. It’s the stuff inside a hospital that takes a beating – all those special features found only in a hospital that get damaged so a hospital becomes just another building to evacuate – just what you don’t want to do when a hospital is needed in a quake event.

Working with the California Seismic Safety Commission UCSD-TV is producing “A Mission Like No Other” so you can understand why Californians are seeking to reduce non-structural damage to hospitals and how we are going to do it.

Oh, and then there is fire. Did I mention the part about fire testing the structure?
We’ll have to pick that up in another blog post.

“A Mission Like No Other” will air on UCSD-TV this December. Until then, check out our archive of engineering programs and stay tuned to this blog for photos, behind the scenes information and more.

New series from CARTA

Last December CARTA, the UC San Diego / Salk Center for Advanced Research and Training in Anthropogeny, brought together experts to discuss The Evolution of Human Altruism, that uniquely human (or is it?) trait that would compel one, as Donald Pfaff of Rockefeller University related, to throw himself in front of a speeding train to save the life of another human being that he has never met – or with whom he doesn’t even share the same racial phenotype….while leaving his own offspring behind…

Why? Do lions do that? Do chimps? How do we even define altruism? How do we study it? Does it define us, and our humanity?

In the same inimitable manner as all CARTA symposia, the eminent experts from all fields help us grapple with this enduring, very human, mystery.

CARTA’s Evolution of Human Altruism series premieres April 13 at 9pm on UCSD-TV and continues each subsequent Wednesday through April.

FREE MONEY!

Ha! Made you look!

As Google reworks its search algorithm, I thought I’d try to snare the unsuspecting…I thought about using “sex” and “nude,” but thought better of the unsuspecting trawlers that those searches might snare…..

So, now you’re here.You won’t get free money, but you’ll get something better…go to these links and you will learn something that could change your life, or even improve the lives of many of your fellow citizens who, whether they know it or not, have been positively impacted by the work being done within the University of California. Now more than ever, we need this reminder.

First check out these videos from Harvard Law Professor Lawrence Lessig. I recommend that you watch them all….but start with this one – Republic Lost. Professor Lessig makes some fascinating arguments, but when he needed all of that valuable information on high fructose corn syrup, he turned to Dr. Robert Lustig, a UCSF scientist who studies the roots of metabolic syndrome and, in this popular talk “Sugar: The Bitter Truth,” describes in incontrovertible chemical detail how HFCS destroys human health.

Dr.Lustig didn’t make it up…he just elucidated the facts. What we do with them is another thing. Like the facts you’ll find at Keep California’s Promise, about the cost to restore this state’s near-decimated public education system.

Yeah, if you do the math, it’s just a dime a day…think you can handle it? But then again, if we let the UC decay, we won’t have to deal with understanding problems like how to grapple with a preventable disease epidemic that currently costs this nation over 170 billion dollars A YEAR…besides that little problem of destroying the health of the next generation.

It isn’t only the brilliant medical researchers at UCSF that are engaged in this battle – coming in April Steve Kay, Dean of UC San Diego’s number one ranked biological sciences program in the nation, will share how his lab’s research to understand our own biological clocks can help fight diabetes.

And then there is this other little problem we face– enter the UC…..UC Davis to be exact. Peruse these recent research findings on renewable energy from the Institute of Transportation Studies to see the facts for yourself.

Or watch this UCSD video on “Powering the Planet” to get the facts that might very well scare you, as they did me.

But then again, they’re just the facts. And they’re free. Courtesy of the University of California….

Darwin was a Creationist…and new perspective on the California Redemption Value

At the CARTA Symposium on Early Hominids, held October 1, 2010 at UC San Diego, UC Berkeley’s Tim White, better known for directing the team that brought Ardipithecus Ramidus, or “Ardi” to light, commented on Charles Darwin:

“175 years ago, Charles Darwin visited the Galapagos. He arrived at the Galapagos as a creationist, and he left the Galapagos as a creationist.”

Darwin, of course, was a keen observer. And he not only left the Galapagos as a creationist, he also left with many observations of the natural world–observations he used to help develop his idea of evolution by natural selection. His ideas were based on the physical evidence the natural world presented him. And you’ll get the same opportunity with these new talks from this fascinating CARTA symposium.

OK, you won’t get a trip to the Galapagos, but you will get a journey through time from all over Africa in a dazzling array of evidence presented directly to you by the individuals who are digging, unearthing and bringing to light — in shards, bits of teeth, phalanges, crania and climatic records — the evidence, the record, the hard proof of the very, very early history of Hominids – our Clade, our Family.

It is one of, if not the most, complete and compelling collections of evidence on this subject I have ever seen presented to the public and, as Tim exhorts at the beginning of the symposium, “there has never been a symposium like this, and it is exceedingly unlikely that there will ever be another one.”

Don’t miss the series. Really, don’t. It starts airing every Wednesday night in February, beginning February 2 with Tim White’s fascinating and compelling overview of the search for evidence of our earliest ancestors, and Andrew Hill’s vivid picture of what our earliest ancestors’ world looked like, and how it influenced their evolution.

On another note, a dime a day, just one thin dime….actually, less than one thin dime….two CRV redemptions…”What?” You say?

You may be aware of the dire future facing the University of California and public education as a whole. To gain a little perspective, here are some amazing facts and research about the financial future of public education or, more accurately, what it could be, and how little it would really take. Do the math, it’s all there, more than you need, really…and well, the math doesn’t lie.