I was very nearly on the BBC News at 6 Oclock today.
There are some moments where it becomes clear just how lucky I am to be studying at somewhere like imperial. If you’ve been keeping up with the news you might have heard that there was a big announcement from the Large Hadron Collider (one must keep the d and r in the correct order…) about the Higgs Boson*.
All day people around the physics department could be heard discussing the possible news. This was helped by an email sent around to all physics undergraduates:
“FOR YOUR INFORMATION:
The BBC are filming the Higgs Boson update between 1 and 3pm today, Lecture Theatre 3, so pop along if you are interested.”
A live stream of the announcement (it turned out to be more of a lecture) was to be shown and the BBC would watch our interested smiling faces taking in the wonderful discoveries.
The hall was packed.
There were a few technical hitches at the beginning as the video kept stopping. It became apparent that this was CERN’s fault, as someone announced that “Fermilab are having the same problem” – seemingly keeping in instant message contact with their US colleagues.
Eventually a person with a skype feed came down and plugged in their laptop, letting the eager crowd take in what was going on.
Unfortunately the sound quality meant we couldn’t really tell what was being said, but the slides gave us enough information to work out that the ATLAS experiment had nearly discovered the Higgs Boson (with 2σ – that’s 95.4% – certainty that it wasn’t just statistical fluke).
Satisfied that we had been sufficiently filmed and that ATLAS had done a pretty good job, we left before the second half of the announcement (from the other experiment looking for the Higgs – CMS – it’s results turned out to be pretty similar) to go be manly and hit the gym. Unfortunately the BBC elected to use footage from after we had left, hence not quite being on the news. My friend Klaus could be seen however; staring at his laptop, clearly in a world of his own.
Still, the excited atmosphere (there were plenty of high energy physicist who work on the experiments present) was great to be part of and the announcements interesting. Only at Imperial eh?
Ah, what a big a geek this all makes me, but why not? I’m studying physics, I might as well embrace it. One of the lovely things about being here is that if you want to be geeky about something, you can, and others will probably join in. And if you don’t, almost everyone is pretty nice and most defy stereotypes about social interaction ability.
In other news, the Hall’s Cold War themed Christmas party will be getting in the way of me finishing an essay (due friday) this evening, I’m singing in the Imperial College carol concert on Wednesday and I am no longer ill. I’m Thoroughly looking forward to going back home on Saturday to see all the lovely people there.
*I really wish that the media would stop calling it the “God particle” without any proper clarification. It’s a name that has the potential to suggest to the uninitiated that this Particle Physics theory has something to do with God and religion. As ever in physics, it has nothing to do with either. The name “The God Particle” might be seen as a bit of a joke among physicists, but anything that has the potential to add to the false perception of divisions between physics and religion does nothing to aid the public understanding of Science.
Now, back to that essay I’m meant to be writing.