Looking for black swans


Criticisms to present management of science are recurrent claiming that only well-founded research is pursued while the search for new and risky avenues is generally dismissed as there is no  revenue, at least in short time, and, in the worst case, any investment may be lost.

About this matter I have found an article on Physics World’s blog (see here). Of course, one can disagree about writer’s arguments but the feeling that we are livng a time of stall is somehow pervasive in some communities. My personal view is that we have recurring periods of hype and a lot of work for preparing them. In a period of hype giant figures emerge but to recognize giants that, nevertheless, prepared the field for the coming revolution era is surely more difficult. It is the same situation we find in soccer where there is a player doing a decisive pass but, in the end, we only remember the one that realized the goal.

Paul Ginsparg and arxiv


One of the greatest revolutions in scientific publishing we have witnessed in these latest years has been the invention of arxiv due to Paul Ginsparg.

A beautiful article he wrote for Physics World is appeared in the latest number of the journal (see here). This paper has been emotionally shocking for me and turned back time to the pioneering era of personal computing. I still remember the PDP-11 machine I worked on at University of Rome “La Sapienza” to compute the lifetime of K_s^0, repeating an experiment performed years before, with two other classmates.  As soon as I uncovered arxiv I partecipate to this adventure submitting my preprints to it. Indeed, you can find papers of mine there starting from 1994.

Since then arxiv has changed in a significant way introducing a web interface, endorsement and requiring registration. But we have also been part of Perelman’s story and his preprints never published but just put on arxiv. They just contain the proof of Poincare’ conjecture. And someone thinks yet preprints are not worth a publication…

LHC and media


I cannot avoid to write down this post as a lot of friends and colleagues are asking me about the next doomsday on September 10th. Indeed, our newspapers in Italy are now plenty of horrible misinformation about claiming the possibility that in that day a black hole will be produced and World will be finally eaten up.

As for us physicists we know that nothing of this is really possible even if a story about a PhD student producing our universe for her thesis is recurring. We are aware that the injected beams on that date will be at very low energy, 0.45 TeV, but anyhow I have found a beautiful article by Matthew Chalmers in Physics World (see here) explaining all the matter. The interested reader should go through it.

Finally, I am pleased to think that Hawking would be in the verge of receiveing a Nobel prize wherever we see an evaporating black hole. As this theory is really fascinating, it would be also a big hit if it would be proved true in such a controlled way.


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