Tuesday, 15 December 2015

750 GeV Diphotons

The particle physics community is currently agog with rumours about the talks later today on LHC run 2 results.  These were planned months ago, before data taking started.  In the last couple of weeks, however, there have been steadily growing reports that both experiments see a common excess: two photons with an invariant mass of 750ish GeV.  From what I hear, CMS has about 2.8 sigma and ATLAS about 3.1.  Those are local significances, but if both experiments see an excess at the same place then we don't need to worry about that.  So, it could be very exciting.

Of course, excesses have been seen before at the LHC.  I am particularly reminded of the Higgs diphoton excess that both experiments saw, that has now pretty much gone away.  An element of caution is justified.  But that won't stop a lot of people writing papers on it.  There will be papers appearing on the arXiv tomorrow, you can be certain.  Sadly I'm not in a position to get something out that early, but I do hope to be quick enough to qualify as ambulance chasing.

Friday, 13 November 2015

KIAS-CFHEP Workshop Liveblog: Day Five Session Four

We come to the final session of the conference, which has only a single talk scheduled.  (Plus final thanks I'm sure.)

4:00 pm: Collider Phenomenology, hypotheses and measurements, Michael Spannowsky

Several approaches that we can take right now: SUSY, composite Higgs, effective operators.  Whatever we choose, modern analyses use simplified models.

The whole community is emotionally effected by the lack of naturalness promised by our data!  Plus, perhaps we have oversold what can be learned from the Higgs boson.  We essentially found it in the bin but it tells us nothing about the underlying physics.

The interpretation of any measurement is model-dependent.  Interpretation requires communication between different scales.  Increasing model complexity also means increasing model flexibility.  Our study of the Higgs physics at Run 1 has mostly used the very simple κ framework, modelling the Higgs couplings with a simple rescaling of the SM value.

There has also been a (somewhat long-running) struggle to come to a suitable unified language/basis for Higgs EFT.  Different bases, how many operators, validity of measurements and theory.  Even if flavour-blind, over 59 operators.  Though many are constrained by EW physics.  Focusing on operators relative to new Higgs physics gives us 8 operators.

Important that kinematic distributions set the validity of the EFT themselves.  Deviations set limits on Wilson coefficients.  Other observations more or less bound NP scale Λ.  This lets us properly understand where the constraints lie in the EFT parameter space.

However, LHC probes varying scales but generally low compared to Λ.  Need to renormalise from Λ to measurement scale, which is complicated due to the different scales measured.  Compare flavour physics, where typically there is only a single scale, e.g. the B meson mass.  Importantly get both running and mixing of Wilson coefficients with scale.  For example, can have T parameter at high scale but not at low scale.  Some efforts to place limits already.  Some of these constraints are in region where EFT is dubious, at least as simply presented.

Simplified models another approach.  Suitable for approaches with relatively light new particles.  Examples include singlet (Higgs portal), 2HDM variants, and triplet models (Georgi-Machacek).  Constraints from direct searches already push to alignment or decoupling limits.  Georgi-Machacek interesting as no decoupling limit, so can be truly excluded at LHC.

Dark matter searches involved similar question: EFT or simplified model.

Interpretation of results depends on language used.  Example: CMS width measurement, which uses on-shell and off-shell measurements of cross sections.  Claim to give model-independent bound on the width.  But only actually works for κ framework or EFT.  Simplified models can contribute on-shell only (e.g. Higgs portal) or new light scalars can cancel the on-shell enhancement.  In full UV models, the Higgs width is not a free parameter, so the constraint is not of general use.

Also, LEP measurements in same way give much stronger bounds than the LHC can ever do.

Matrix element method as tool for jet substructure, in contrast to previous use as hypothesis testing tool.  Computational challenges all over the place.  Parton shower with Sudakov factors and splitting functions.  Idea seems to be to calculate a library of these for signals and backgrounds.  Improves on tagging efficiency by factor of 2 to 4.  Relatively insensitive to pile up.  Application: discrimination of dijets, ditops and ditop resonances.

Summary: optimising data analysis and interpretations must be a primary goal at the LHC.  There is always a trade off between generality and precision.

Why stable to pile up? Using smaller jets.  Pile up goes like R squared, so this makes things much better.  Also, inbuilt pruning procedure to assign subjets to ISR/FSR.

KIAS-CFHEP Workshop Liveblog: Day Five Session Three

Our third session of the day is another plenary, three talks with titles that don't make the connection immediately obvious.

KIAS-CFHEP Workshop Liveblog: Day Five Session Two

The last day of the conference, and the day after the banquet.  As seems to be traditional, I overslept and missed the first session.  Oh well.  I missed two ILC talks that would probably have been interesting, but so be it.

Thursday, 12 November 2015

KIAS-CFHEP Workshop Liveblog: Day Four Session Four

For the final parallel session of the conference, I've decided to stay on the top floor for what is another flavour session.

Judicial Bigotry

Utah judge orders child taken away from adoptive parents because they are lesbian:
Utah state child welfare officials on Wednesday were wrangling with a ruling by a juvenile court judge who ordered a baby to be taken from lesbian foster parents and instead placed with a heterosexual couple, saying it was for the child’s wellbeing.
Sumner, from the child welfare agency, said she could not speak to specifics of the case but confirmed that the couple’s account of the ruling was accurate — the judge’s decision was based on the couple being lesbians. The agency was not aware of any other issues with their performance as foster parents.
Contrast that with the legal position of the Americal Psychological Association, from 2010:
There Is No Scientific Basis For Concluding That Gay And Lesbian Parents Are Any Less Fit Or Capable Than Heterosexual Parents, Or That Their Children Are Any Less Psychologically Healthy And Well Adjusted
(That's from the table of contents.) Or a literature review for the Australian Psychological Society from 2007:
The research indicates that parenting practices and children’s outcomes in families parented by lesbian and gay parents are likely to be at least as favourable as those in families of heterosexual parents, despite the reality that considerable legal discrimination and inequity remain significant challenges for these families.
(That's from the conclusion.)  In short, this judge acted not based on data but on the basis of his own homophobia.  Hardly surprising, but still outrageous.

[Edited to add reference for APA legal brief.]

KIAS-CFHEP Workshop Liveblog: Day Four Session Two

We have what I presume are two talks on the theory of flavour (the second one is another TBA talk).

KIAS-CFHEP Workshop Liveblog: Day Four Session One

So yesterday was interesting, the first time I've explored any of Seoul.  Won't be the last time, I'm sure.  Today we have sessions on flavour physics before lunch, and the second parallel session of the conference in the afternoon.  The flavour section is itself split into experiment first, then theory.

Wednesday, 11 November 2015

KIAS-CFHEP Workshop Liveblog: Day Three Session Two

We return for the final session of this short day with two talks marked as 'TBA'.

KIAS-CFHEP Workshop Liveblog: Day Three Session One

Our third day, which is a half-day so we can explore Seoul after lunch, is given the vague title "Astro-interplay And other topics".

Tuesday, 10 November 2015

KIAS-CFHEP Workshop Liveblog: Day Two Session Four

The final session of the day is, as promised, more SUSY aligned.  We also have a challenging six talks.

KIAS-CFHEP Workshop Liveblog: Day Two Session Three

This is the first of two afternoons of parallel sessions.  I've decided to stay on the fifth floor, and attend the session on composite Higgs followed by supersymmetry.

KIAS-CFHEP Workshop Liveblog: Day Two Session Two

We continue after coffee.

KIAS-CFHEP Workshop Liveblog: Day Two Session One

We had a very nice reception last night, together with cheese—good cheese—which is not common here in Korea.  Today we have morning plenary talks on Cosmology, followed by the first parallel sessions after lunch.

Monday, 9 November 2015

KIAS-CFHEP Workshop Liveblog: Day One Session Four

The final session of the day is also the most intense plenary session, with four talks.

KIAS-CFHEP Workship Liveblog: Day One Session Three

We return after lunch for more plenary talks (only two days this week have parallel sessions).  Our focus has moved to theory.

KIAS-CFHEP Workshop Liveblog: Day One Session Two

We return from the coffee break to finish the LHC experimental talks, followed by a discussion of Higgs theory.

KIAS-CFHEP Workshop Liveblog: Day One Session One

I've been in Korea less than three months and already I'm at my second conference here.  There's another one the first week of December that I could go too, to, though I probably won't; I need some time to do my own research.  This one gave me an excuse for my first visit to Seoul, though I haven't seen much of the city yet.

The full title of this conference is the KIAS-CFHEP Workshop and the 5th KIAS Workshop on Particle Physics and Cosmology, which is a bit too long for a title of this post.  We start, as is conventional, with experimental talks.

Monday, 2 November 2015

Dark Matter Interactions and Galaxy Structures

Another thing I rather fell behind on with my move to Korea is my academic reading.  So I only recently got around to a short and interesting paper from August on interacting dark matter (DM).1  This is one of those papers that takes a shockingly simple idea, the kind that you look at afterwards and wonder why you didn't think about it.  But it should make it easier to address a long-standing and fairly perplexing puzzle in dark matter physics.

Saturday, 31 October 2015

Next Generation Collider in China

I'm a little behind on this, but I did move in to my new apartment today.  The Guardian has reported that Chinese state media has announced that the proposed 100 TeV experiment will begin construction within 5 years.
China will begin work on the world’s largest supercollider in 2020, a mega-machine aimed at increasing understanding of the elusive Higgs boson, state-run media has reported.

Monday, 19 October 2015

CosPA 2015 Summary

Okay, so I kind of missed the last day of CosPA.  There were only three talks, and because I forgot to set my alarm I missed two of them; and wasn't all that interested in the third.  Anyway, with everything over it's time to summarize the whole affair.

On a personal level, I found the conference okay.  A lot of this was that there were a lot of talks on subjects like axions or experimental cosmology that are somewhat outside my interests.  Also, there were relatively few people I knew, hardly surprising given the location.  But these things do factor into my enjoyment.  It also didn't help that there were a few talks I had already seen this year; Daniel Eisenstein's talk on BOSS is excellent, but I didn't need to see it twice.

Thursday, 15 October 2015

CosPA 2015 Liveblog: Day Four Session Four

The final parallel session of CosPA.

CosPA 2015 Liveblog: Day Four Session Three

This afternoon looks to be about colliders (at least for me).

CosPA 2015 Liveblog: Day Four Session Two

The second session today features physics closely associated with high energies.

CosPA 2015 Liveblog: Day Four Session One

We now return to the CosPA liveblog.

Euro 2016 Qualification

We interupt this conference liveblog for me to talk about something that's been bothering me.  The group stage of Euro 2016 qualification finished this week.  England were the first team to qualify, and have become I think only the sixth team ever in European Championship qualifying to notch a 100% record.  However, pretty much all discussion of England's campaign has been met with "well, they had an easy group".  And, while I'm not claiming they got a hard group, I don't think this really stands up to scrutiny.

Wednesday, 14 October 2015

CosPA 2015 Liveblog: Day Three Session Two

The second session features only a single talk, from the particle theory group.

CosPA 2015 Liveblog: Day Three Session One

The third day of CosPA is a half-day, with the afternoon being devoted to the excursion.  The morning is focusing on our host institution, the Institute for Basic Science, and the three centres relevant for this conference.

Tuesday, 13 October 2015

CosPA 2015 Liveblog: Day Two Session Four

I spend yet another parallel session in the same room.  And wonder why they are so opposed to turning on the AC.

CosPA 2015 Liveblog: Day Two Session Three

The first parallel session of the day.  I missed the start of the first talk taking care of some money worries.

CosPA 2015 Liveblog: Day Two Session Two

We round out this morning's session.

CosPA 2015 Liveblog: Day Two Session One

Second day, I was still a little gate so I missed the first couple of minutes of the first talk.  The slides for today are not online, but unlike a certain conference I was at this summer, yesterday's talks are already posted.

Monday, 12 October 2015

CosPA 2015 Liveblog: Day One, Session Four

I missed the first parallel session because I as deep in conversation.  With only two parallel sessions, I've gone for one on gravitational physics.

CosPA 2015 Liveblog: Day One, Session Two

The second session continues with more experimentally aligned talks.

CosPA 2015 Liveblog: Day One, Session One

It's my first conference in Korea, and I've got off to a good start by sleeping in.  I don't even have the excuse of jet lag, but I do have the excuse of not having slept well for the last month due to the heat and humidity.  Though it looks like they are already running late, we seem to still be in the first talk which should have finished fifteen minutes ago!  The conference webpage is here, but annoyingly it seems that the plenary talks are not online (yet?).

Monday, 28 September 2015


Well, once again I have returned from a conference and not maintained my posting schedule.  My excuse this time is that I was moving countries, and for the first time going to one where English is not the main language.  I am now in the Republic of Korea, with what is probably my last postdoc.  And it is certainly quite a new experience.

Monday, 8 June 2015

A Sense of Humour

One thing about roguelikes is that they tend to have a sense of humour.  NetHack, for example, is famous for all its tailor-made messages, from stupid causes of death to obscure stuff, like reading a scroll of amnesia while named MAUD.  If I ever get around to finishing my review of TOME, I have a few examples there that caught my eye.

But this year, I've been playing a lot of Crawl, and a couple of things caught my eye enough to want to share.  The first is a minor thing.  The 'p' command prays to your god, having a different effect depending on which god you are worshipping.  If you have not yet chosen any god, you instead get a short message about contemplating the meaning of life... unless you are undead:
The other thing that amused me happened when I found a unique weapon, the Singing Sword, which sometimes renames itself the Screaming Sword.  And which apparently thinks it is an angry halfling...
Someone on the design team has good taste!

Friday, 5 June 2015

Planck 2015 Summary

It's a week after Planck finished, and I'm almost over the jetlag of my return flight.  So as good a time as any to write my summary of the conference!

I wasn't too impressed.

There were a number of problems with the conference this year.  Some of these were organisational.  Some were topical.  Some were just unfortunate, such as it raining the days of the excursion and conference banquet.  But of the four Plancks I have been to, it ranks the lowest; and while I have had worse experiences at other conferences, those were for somewhat unrelated personal reasons.

Friday, 29 May 2015

Planck 2015 Liveblog: Day Five, Session Three

The final session (not counting the summary talk) of the conference.

3:00 pm: "Searches Strategies for Heavy Quark Partners at LHC run-II", Thomas Flacke

Number of quark partners, depending of course on the fermion embedding.  Production can be divided into QCD pair production and various EW single production channels.  Their decay signals vary; some types have a single dominant decay, but the possibility of decays to bW, tZ and th in differnt regions of parameter space make a top-like top partner more interesting.

Classic exclusions from run-I based on pair production (less model-dependent).  Some single-production bounds from ATLAS (only).

At run II, single production will be relatively more important simply on kinematic grounds.  Additionally, boosted decay products (and hence the use of jet substructure) become relevant.

Some projected exclusion contours that look both reasonable and good. Limits could go up to 1 or 2 TeV, depending no the type of top partner.

3:50 pm: "How to Avoid Unnatural Hierarchical Thermal Leptogenesis", Jackson Clarke

Hierarchical Leptogenesis in Type I See-Saw is unnatural.  This is because the CP asymmetry, needed for leptogenesis, is proportional to the right-handed neutrino Yukawas.  Demanding that the loop corrections to the Higgs be below 1 TeV gives an upper bound on the NR mass of 3 x 107 GeV.  This is to be compared to the standard lower bound for leptogenesis, 108 GeV.

Original calculation was done in 1-flavour model.  Do things vary in 3-flavour model?  Get some benefits from mixing matrix, but it turns out that the constraint remains.

To solve this, move to a 2HDM where second Higgs couples to right-handed neutrinos.  This has a small VEV, which turns out to avoid the naturalness and leptogenesis bounds.  Some model-building to see if things can work.  Example here involves softly breaking Z2 together with a large, positive mass parameter for the second Higgs.

Various constraints (flavour, avoiding reintroducing fine tuning).  Notable one is the vacuum stability; need theory to remain under control at least to the see-saw scale.

4:00 pm: "Stabilizing the Higgs potential with a Z'", Venus Keus

Restrict ourselves to a heavy Z', 3 TeV, above even the current SSM constraints.  Running is not trivial now due to mixings of states, both vector kinetic mixing and also mixing involving dark Higgses or fermions.  Work is done in a highly general basis, allowing range of charges for SM fields.

Get extra, positive combination to running of Higgs quartic.  Also get extra negative contribution to top Yukawa.

Find regions in parameter space where Higgs potential is absolutely stable.  Reasonable chunks of parameter space.  Interestingly, if Z' can be light (leptophobic, 200 GeV) can get stable potential even if Higgs is not directly charged under the new U(1).

What about Yukawas with dark scalars?  Assumed small.
What of future constraints?  Will make things worse.

4:15 pm: "One loop corrections to the Higgs EW chiral Lagrangian", J.J. Sanz-Cillero

Non-linear Higgs EFT: computed UV divergences at NLO.  Consider the "κ framework" of coupling deviations from the SM.  This is fine for low precision, but need to use EFTs to handle precision data.

Planck 2015 Liveblog: Day Five, Session Two

The first of two parallel sessions, I'll be splitting my time between DM and SUSY.

Planck 2015 Liveblog: Day Five Session One

We come to the final day of the conference, and perhaps the most interesting one based on the talk titles.  We have one plenary session, not counting the conference summary.

Planck 2015 Liveblog: Day Four, Session Four

The final session of today is, again, devoted to parallel talks.  I will once again switch between the SUSY and DM sessions.

Thursday, 28 May 2015

Planck 2015 Liveblog: Day Four, Session Three

I skipped the morning sessions with almost no regret.  (Actually, there was a talk from LHCb among all the string theory, that might have been interesting to attend.)  Thankfully, there are two talks in the last plenary session of the day that should be interesting.

Wednesday, 27 May 2015

Planck 2015 Liveblog: Day Three Session Three

Today was the day of the conference excursion, to the Dodona archeological site/amphitheatre.  So we have only three sets of talks, finishing with the second set of parallel talks.  Thanks to the excursion, we're back on schedule, more or less, and I'm going to try changing sessions after three talks.

Planck 2015 Liveblog: Day Three Session Two

The second session today is ahead of the curve, with two talks I'm somewhat interested in.  Unfortunately the exception is the middle talk.  We are, of course, almost 30 minutes over time.

Planck 2015 Liveblog: Day Three Session One

Day three starts with a slightly odd session (for me); one talk I am interested in followed by three I am not.  I didn't finish writing my own talk yesterday, so I guess that works out for me.

Plank 2015 Liveblog: Day Two Session Four

The final session of the day is the first parallel session of the conference.  According to the conference timetable, the first talk was supposed to be at 5pm.  Even if we hadn't been running late, that would have left us with no time for the coffee break; or to put it another way, the schedule had an error.  Which isn't exactly a surprise for thie conference.  As it is, it looks like this session will start at 5:40pm, and so probably not finish till 8.

Given how bad timekeeping has been at this conference, I'll mostly stay in this session.  There is one talk at the end of another session I want to attend, though.

Tuesday, 26 May 2015

Planck 2015 Liveblog: Day Two Session Three

The first session after lunch looks pretty dull too.  Also, we are already starting five minutes later.

Planck 2015 Liveblog: Day Two Session Two

We progress to the second day of the conference.  I decided to skip the first session of the morning, as none of the talks interested me and I'm still writing my talk.  The second session, however, has some stuff on neutrinos and unification that could be interesting.

Planck 2015 Liveblog: Day One, Session Four

The final session of the first day is back to technical subjects.

Monday, 25 May 2015

Planck 2015 Liveblog: Day One, Session Three

The first session after lunch is very neutrino-focused.

Planck 2015 Liveblog: Day One, Session Two

Refreshed by two coffees, and learning that lunch has been paid for, we start the second session of the conference.  This set of talks is very SUSY-focused.

Planck 2015 Liveblog: Day One, Session One

So Planck starts today, with a day full of plenary talks.  It looks like a fairly technical slate, too, but on the other hand I got a good night's sleep last night so I might be able to stay awake.  I could do with another cup of coffee, but that's always true.

Sunday, 24 May 2015

Good News from Ireland!

I'm still planning to write my second response to the UK election, hopefully before Planck starts on Monday.  But before I do, I had to note the fantastic result from Ireland, which has become the first country ever to legalise gay marriage by popular vote.  And not by a small margin, either; over 60% voted for equality.  It's a wonderful result, and a sign of the changing times.  Congratulations to all who campaigned on the right side!

Sunday, 10 May 2015

UK General Election Results I: The Parties

The results of the UK election are in, and generally not what I was hoping.  Like basically everyone who had followed the polls, the final results surprised me.  But putting that aside, I have a lot of thoughts on the outcome, and what is a blog but a place for your opinions?  Like my pre-election thoughts, I have enough to say that I'm splitting everything into two posts.  Here, I'll talk about things solely in terms of the impact on parties.  My policy-related opinions will follow later.

Thursday, 7 May 2015

UK Election: The Good and the Bad

My previous post was getting quite large, so I've split off my opinions about some election things.

UK General Election: Thoughts on the Outcome

Tomorrow will see the UK general election, with results declared through the night.  I will miss the election, both in that I'll be flying across the Atlantic while votes are counted, and in that I'm not registered anywhere in the UK.   At this point, having lived abroad for over a decade, I don't think I can be.  Given that my parent's district is quite competitive this year, that's somewhat unfortunate.

I haven't written anything on the election campaign because I've been busy with work, travel and talk writing.  But I've certainly been keeping an eye on things, and I do have a few opinions I'd like to commit to paper (or the internet).  This post has gotten so long, I've decided to split it.  First, let's discuss what we are likely to see come Friday morning.

Phenomenology 2015 Overview

So ends my sixth Pheno conference.  It was fun, on the whole.  I didn't learn anything too groundbreaking, but to be fair I didn't expect to.  There were some good talks, some bad talks, and friends old and new.  One thing that did hit me was how old it all made me feel.  Pheno is a great conference for grad students and young postdocs, but that descriptor hardly applies to me any more.  So I might very well not return next year, and go to other conferences instead.

Pheno 2015 Liveblog: Day 3 Session 2

Last night was the conference banquet, and unfortunately as a consequence I missed the first session this morning.  So we come to the final session of the conference, which is both reflective of the current status and also looking to the future.

Wednesday, 6 May 2015

Pheno 2015 Liveblog: Day 2 Session 4

And, already, we come to the last parallel session of the conference.  I am once again bouncing around sessions.

Pheno 2015 Liveblog: Day 2 Session 3

I've decided to spend the first session after lunch today in a single session, Dark Matter III.  It will if nothing else let me charge my laptop.

Pheno 2015 Liveblog: Day 2 Session 2

The second session of the day is the dark matter session.  I'm looking forward to it!

Tuesday, 5 May 2015

Pheno 2015 Liveblog: Day 2 Session 1

We start the second day of Pheno 2015 with some talks on flavour physics and QCD.

Pheno 2015 Liveblog Day 1 Session 4

For the last session of the day, I'm staying in one place - the Higgs II session.

Pheno 2015 Liveblog Day 1 Session 3

First parallel session, I'll be moving around a bit.  I'll start in Higgs I.

Pheno 2015 Liveblog: Day 1 Session 2

We return, refreshed from some good coffee (by which I mean it existed and contained caffeine) for the second session of the day.  Though someone stole my seat.  This session contains another Higgs talk, followed by a couple of cosmology/dark matter ones.

Monday, 4 May 2015

Phenomenology 2015 Liveblog: Day 1 Session 1

If there's one thing that gets me to blog every year, it's attending a conference.  I'm again at Phenomenology, the sixth year I've been here.  As usual, we start with some experimental talks; these are pretty much standard reviews.  No new results are going to be announced here, and as everyone well understands we've only found SM stuff so far.

Friday, 3 April 2015

Goodluck says Well Done

I haven't been following the Nigerian election particularly closely.  I don't have any personal ties to Nigeria over any other African country.  But I've at least looked at the headlines, and today I saw an interesting little story on the BBC about the result.  Goodluck Jonathan, whose name I exploited for a cheap pun in the title, has been president since 2010, and is a member of the People's Democratic Party that has won every election since the end of the military dictatorship in 1999.  Well, every election till the present one, that is.

The mark of a democracy is the willingness of the governing party to step down.  President Jonathan's decision not to contest the result of the election and congratulate his opponent, Muhammadu Buhari, on his victory is a promising sign in this young democracy.  We can only hope it marks the beginning of a trend.

All of which makes the point of the article I linked above somewhat funny!
But even making the call was not straight forward. I heard later that the president could not actually get through to Gen Buhari. He rang all the numbers he had for people in his camp, but no-one answered. It turns out that so many calls were coming through that there was no time to answer them all - and Gen Buhari did not even know where his phone was.
President Jonathan resorted to sending a messenger round to his rival's house to tell him that the president wanted to speak to him. And that he should pick up the phone the next time he tried to call.
Maybe he could have tried Facebook.

Thursday, 12 March 2015

Pseudoscience still Bullshit, People still Idiots

The Guardian reports on a new study into the worthlessness of homeopathy:
Homeopathy is not effective for treating any health condition, Australia’s top body for medical research has concluded, after undertaking an extensive review of existing studies.
These claims have been widely disproven by multiple studies, but the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) has for the first time thoroughly reviewed 225 research papers on homeopathy to come up with its position statement, released on Wednesday.
This, of course, is right up there with detailed studies about the religion of the Pope.  But I committed a basic error: I read the comments.  And then I wept for humanity.

Saturday, 7 March 2015

Disappointing Titles

Sometimes, articles just don't live up to their titles.  In this case, I saw a headline on the BBC, Indian prisoners win right to cricket, which greatly amused me.  Then I actually clicked on the link, and found that it was not about being allowed to play cricket, but rather to watch the ongoing Cricket World Cup.  And I can't even get properly angry about them being given access to pay TV, as it will only apply to those awaiting trial.  Oh well.  At least they're sure to have matches to watch; if this had been an English gaol, by the time things were set up England would likely be eliminated on current form.

Saturday, 28 February 2015

Leonard Nimoy Makes His Final Journey

I woke up this morning to the sad news that Leonard Nimoy has died at 83.  Nimoy had a long career in TV and Film in front and behind the camera, but will always be remembered as Spock from Star Trek.

As I have mentioned before, I never got into Trek like I did other Science Fiction works.  I haven't even seen all the films (not even all the good ones).  But I've long respected the show for it's rare success in taking SF ideas to mainstream audiences.  And while there where many aspects to that, Nimoy's performance was clearly a big part; even people with little interest in SF know who Spock is.  That is the mark of a great character and a great actor.

For myself, I will perhaps remember Nimoy most for comparatively lesser roles.  His guest appearances as himself on The Simpsons were the first time I "saw" him, and thus stick in my mind.  His similar appearances on Futurama were even better.  And he played a small but powerful guest part in Fringe, only in a couple of episodes but they carried great weight.

Nimoy is the third member of the main seven Star Trek original actors to die, after DeForest Kelly and James Doohan.  With the 50th anniversary of the show coming next year, there's some additional sadness that the cast will be one smaller for those celebrations.  Additionally, with William Shatner apparently confirmed for the next reboot movie it seems we have also been denied a chance to see those two together on screen one last time.  But they will long be remembered, and ultimately, that is all that most of us can hope for.