Posts Tagged ‘particle physics’

My 25 Mundane Neutrino Explanations

Today I had the most fun I’ve ever had on Twitter, thanks to the OPERA experiment working out of CERN, home of the Large Hadron Collider.

The blogosphere is ablaze with news that they seem to have detected neutrinos traveling faster than light.  If true, it would be the biggest science news of the century, overturning one of the most fundamental concepts in physics.  There is obviously much skepticism amongst scientists.  For a typically insightful explanation, check out Bad Astronomer Phil Plait‘s post:  Faster-than-light travel discovered? Slow down, folks

The Twitter fun began when a discussion between two physicist/mathematician-types, Blake Stacey (@blakestacey) and S.C. Kavassalis (@sc_k) led Blake to tweet:

@sc_k Maybe we need to counterbalance the HEP blogohedron with a Twitter meme? e.g., #mundaneneutrinoexplanations

Then he spun out a few funny examples of more mundane explanations for the unusual neutrino measurement:

  • #CERN physicists did arithmetic on old Pentium computers
  • #CERN physicists let undergrads near the experiment
  • Calculations done by visiting Americans who still don’t get the metric system.

…  all with the #mundaneneutrinoexplanations hashtag appended.

I think I was the first one to follow his lead with:

  • Forgot to carry the one
  • Confused neutrino with one sent later
  • Study published by Wakefield et al

Then @drskyskull and @physicsdavid and others joined in (even astophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson and the Bad Astronomer) and, before you know it, the Twitterverse was alive with funny explanations, some of which may be as likely as superluminal neutrinos.  I ended up spitting out about 25 of them, which I present here, as they were tweeted, in reverse chronological order (so start from the bottom).  Enjoy!




Science Comedian Essay in Symmetry Magazine

A few months ago I was asked to write an essay about being a science comedian for a really cool publication – Symmetry Magazine – and it finally came out today!

Symmetry is “a magazine about particle physics and its connections to other aspects of life and science” – and it’s put out jointly by Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory and the Stanford Linear Accelerator Center, two national labs funded by the Office of Science of the US Department of Energy.

It’s available in print and online editions – and anyone can receive a free subscription to the print version simply by filling out a form.  That’s a benefit of it being paid for by our tax dollars.

Symmetry is a great science magazine for the layperson, giving fascinating glimpses into the world of subatomic particles and gigantic particle accelerators and the people who attend to them.

The current issue is particularly good!


The picture was taken by my friend John Gilbey during a session at SciFoo 2008 entitled “Seducing the Public With Science.”

Brian Malow Essay in Symmetry Magazine