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Comment: Re:Question: (Score 5, Informative) 144

by jmtpi (#39832317) Attached to: New Particle Discovered At CERN

You're asking a couple distinct, and reasonable, questions. About "blind testing" -- I don't know the details for this particular result, but particle physicists put quite a bit of effort into making sure that they aren't fooling themselves. One of the best ways of doing it is so-called "blind analysis". The idea there is to define your entire data analysis strategy based solely on simulated data. There are pretty good simulations available of both the expected backgrounds, and of the process you are trying to actually find (the signal). So you define all of the methods you are going to use using these simulations before you look at the data. This ensures that you don't bias yourself into "finding something" in the data that isn't really there. (I don't know if a strict blinding procedure was used for this analysis, but likely something similar was done.)

The formal peer review system will come into effect now that the result is submitted to a journal. The paper will be distributed to some anonymous referees who will try to judge the merits of the physics and decide whether it merits publication. But I should note that the peer review process in modern particle physics actually starts long before the result is made public. Although there are only 3 or 4 main analysts, the paper is signed by the entire 3000 person CMS Collaboration (of which I am a member). So we have a very stringent internal review process to ensure that the result is sound before we release it with 3000 names taking responsibility. That doesn't mean that particle physics collaborations never make mistakes, but it does mean that results are scrutinized by a number of more or less unbiased eyes before they are made public.

Comment: Re:It's not a sample. (Score 1) 457

by jmtpi (#38598580) Attached to: Mathematics Says Romney and Santorum Tied In Iowa

I agree with the AC that it is wrong to call it a "statistical" effect. I don't think it has well defined statistical properties. The margin of error on a poll is a well-defined quantity based on the sample size of a poll. Here they're trying to quantify poorly-understood effects like how often people make dumb mistakes (write unclearly, misplace a stack of ballots, etc). This is more akin to a systematic uncertainty than a statistical one.

Comment: Re:Now I know I'm among friends here on slashdot (Score 1) 840

by jmtpi (#36615422) Attached to: With regards to beer, I prefer it to be:

Glad someone had the same thought I had. I actually drank both recently while in the US (I live in Europe). Sam Adams isn't a beer that you're going to claim is the best beer ever, but it is quite respectable, IMHO. I drank the High Life because there was a bunch extra after a wedding and I was curious as to just how bad it was. It tastes like a maybe ok pils that somebody cut half and half with water. Not good at all.

Comment: Sideshow is over (Score 1) 385

by jmtpi (#35766956) Attached to: No U.S. Government Shutdown This Week

Now let the real fight, over the 2012 budget, start.

The problem with all of these proposals is that nobody can get over ideology enough to actually hammer out how to solve fiscal problems. This fight got stuck on a piddling amount of money for Planned Parenthood. There was also a bunch of wrangling about the EPA.

I expect more of the same when it comes to arguing about the Ryan plan. He's started things in the wrong direction already, by wanting to cut taxes on the rich and turn Medicare into a block grant program. And all of the really ugly details ala Planned Parenthood and the EPA aren't even in his proposal. He just says that discretionary spending is going to be cut, but doesn't say how. So there will be more fights like we just saw.


+ - Radiation therapy mistakes cost lives-> 1

Submitted by jmtpi
jmtpi (17834) writes "The NYTimes has an investigative report about how powerful medical linear accelerators have contributed to at least two deaths in the New York area. Although the mistakes were largely due to human error, buggy software also played a role. Has anything improved since the Therac debacle of the 1980s? Or have things gotten worse?"
Link to Original Source

Comment: Re:What's with the shared prizes? (Score 1) 67

by jmtpi (#25287755) Attached to: Particle Physicists Share the Physics Nobel

The bundling together of unrelated discoveries is weird, and I feel like it diminishes the impact of the prizes a bit in the public eye. (Instead of explaining one seminal discovery to the public, you have to explain two, and make it clear that they are not even related.) If anything, Nambu should have received his own prize, and then KM could have shared one with Cabibbo. But there are only a finite number of years, and particle physics only gets a prize at all every few years, so it is hard to reward all of the deserving subjects (if not people) without this type of bundling.


A Detailed Profile of the Hadron Super Collider 191

Posted by Zonk
from the big-science dept.
davco9200 writes "The New York Times has up a lengthy profile of the Large Hadron Collider. The article covers the basics (size = 17 miles, cost = 8 billion, energy consumption = 14 trillon electron volts) and history but also provides interesting interviews of the scientists who work with the facility every day. The piece also goes into some detail on the expected experiments. 'The physicists, wearing hardhats, kneepads and safety harnesses, are scrambling like Spiderman over this assembly, appropriately named Atlas, ducking under waterfalls of cables and tubes and crawling into hidden room-size cavities stuffed with electronics. They are getting ready to see the universe born again.' There are photos, video and a nifty interactive graphic."

If an experiment works, something has gone wrong.