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APS 2010: The missing BEHHGK boson

APS 2010: The missing BEHHGK boson

Maybe Peter Higgs shouldn’t have stayed home. The 80 year old Scottish physicist, famous for the elusive mass-conferring particle named after him, didn’t make it to APS on Monday, when he was supposed to receive the Sakurai Prize along with five other theorists who played important roles in developing the theories that predict the particle. His absence — or perhaps the elevation of the five others involved in the prize — seems to be affecting the way that physicists talk about the particle. Rob Roser of Fermilab gave a talk this morning about how the Tevatron still has time to  … Read more

APS 2010: Science and secrecy

APS 2010: Science and secrecy

Is the censorship of sensitive science becoming more or less pronounced? Yesterday, during a session on ‘science and secrecy’, Steven Aftergood, who leads the project on government secrecy for the Federation of American Scientists, had numbers that told a mixed tale.  Read more

APS 2010: Sculpting physics

APS 2010: Sculpting physics

During a press conference today, I was pleased to meet the artist Jim Sanborn, a specialist in scientific sculptures who is probably one of the Washington DC’s most important artists. Sanborn is currently most famous for a piece, pictured here, that sits near the entrance to the CIA headquarters in Langley, Virginia. Using techniques taught to him by a former CIA spook, Sanborn in 1990 created the undulating copper screen with its 1,800 encrypted characters. Most have already been hacked, and the letters translate to three ambiguous and slightly sinister messages. But the last part, 97 or 98 characters long, has remained unsolved.  Read more

APS 2010: American Physical Snowciety

APS 2010: American Physical Snowciety

So the physicists have arrived in Washington DC for the April APS meeting to find themselves surrounded by a couple feet of snow. This is because the April meeting, this year, is in February. Nice one. Normally, February wouldn’t be so bad in Washington. This year was different. For arriving physicists who have somehow ignored the news over the last week, Washington has been hit by two blizzards within a single week. First was Snowpocalypse (aka Snowmageddon), followed up four days later by Snoverkill. But everyone seems to be cozy here in the Mariott Woodley Park hotel, and attendance isn’t down too much. I hope to check in through the President’s Day weekend with newsy bits and blurbs.  Read more

APS 2009: Back to DC

I’m set to head to the airport in a bit, and so this is sayonara. As usual, I didn’t get to half the sessions that I wanted to, but that’s part of the appeal. Just to keep us on our toes, it looks like APS is having its next April meeting in February. But it will be in Washington, DC, my home, so I’ll be happy to offer insider tours. I’m a journalist, so my rates are cheap!  Read more

APS 2009: Pierre Auger backs off claims for cosmic ray source

APS 2009: Pierre Auger backs off claims for cosmic ray source

The mysterious origin of ultra-high energy cosmic rays is, it seems, still a mystery. Two years ago, scientists at the Pierre Auger Observatory in Argentina thought they had it solved. They published a paper in Science, based on two dozen particles, that there was a correlation with the location of Active Galactic Nuclei — supermassive black holes that accelerate jets of material at near-light speed throughout the universe. At the time of the announcment, there was some doubt: The Hi-Res project, which scans the northern sky like Auger does the south, found no such correlation.  Read more