New anti-crackpot on the block

March 30, 2011

Just when I thought I’d managed to chase away the anti-crackpots by ridiculing them with the anti-crackpot index, a new one pops up! JBL is a maths graduate working on combinatorics.  His unusual tactic for criticizing viXra submissions is to quote their abstract with a link and no further comment. Most anti-crackpots at least manage some rhetoric but for JBL just saying nothing seems to be enough. It has to be said that this level of criticism makes it hard to respond with any kind of defense. It was not until yesterday when he started to explain his actions that he was identified as yet another anti-crackpot.

JBL admits that he does not understand much physics so he just looks at a few of the viXra articles, yet he claims to have shown that viXra is a failure. This is despite the fact that viXra has very modest aims to allow anyone to freely publish their work. I like to think that my series of article on “crackpots” who were right shows why this is needed. With over 1800 articles in under two years it can hardly be said to have failed. Of course not everything on viXra is the highest quality of research, but there is a lot here that is of value to science and the goal is to ensure that nothing that might be of value will be lost. The professional scientific community as a whole hates censorship and suppression, until they get to the work of amateur scientists. JBL is typical of a sector of the academic community who thinks that the work of outsiders without access to an endorser for should not be allowed to publish their work in any form. Happily there are others who support the role of viXra and other organisations such as FQXi where the work of independent scientists is allowed to feature along side that of professional researchers. By the way, six of the 35 authors who made the final round of the latest FQXi essay contest have used viXra to archive examples of their work in the past.

JBL’s poor level of scrutiny is indicated by his odd belief that viXra:0812.0004 was the first publication on viXra. He also claims in another post that the amount of citations used by authors on viXra is next to zero. Anybody who looks through a random sample will quickly find that only a small minority lack any references and most have a very reasonable number. It seems that he thinks he can just spout any rubbish without risk of anyone checking it.

Indeed, given his rather poor level of debate you might wonder why I even bother to point him out. The answer is that sadly some people will read what he says and believe it without checking any further. It also has to be mentioned that despite his serious accusations on his blog which at some points cross the line between nonsense and slander, he has not yet allowed my responses to appear there. I will just have to hope that people who read them will also find this. He hopes that viXra will die but I am happy to report that it is thriving and it is the anti-crackpot blogs like his that are fading away.

Update: JBL has since appologised for his postings by email and removed them from the blog.

Abel Prize 2011 for John Milnor

March 23, 2011

The 2011 Abel prize in mathematics has to John Milnor for work on geometry, algebra and topology.

His discovery of exotic smooth spheres in 7 dimensions changed the landscape of mathematics. He went on to solve the problem in all dimensions. This was just a small part of his total contribution to mathematics described this morning at the prize announcement in Norway.

A talk on his work was delivered by Fields medal winner Timothy Gower, you should read his blog for a lot more detail.

LHC could provide up to 14/fb in 2011

March 23, 2011

Today there is a status meeting for the Large Hadron Collider that can be viewed as a webcast with slides also online. First to talk was Steve Myers reporting on the latest progress with beam commissioning. As we reported yesterday evening they have already surpassed last years luminosity limits with a run that collected 6/pb in 8 hours. This year they expect to have 124 days of full proton physics so even the most pessimistic forecasts where they collect 6/pb twice a day using present luminosity they would collect 12×124 = 1488/pb = 1.5/fb , easily passing the 1/fb goal for 2011.

So what is the upper limit they might reach? Myers is too cautious to suggest an answer but he has given us some more details that helps us to answer this question. In the next few weeks they will do scrubbing runs to clean out the beams and reduce the electron clouds that are adding to the unwanted background in the experiments. Depending on how successful this is, they will make a decision to run with either 50ns or 75ns bunch spacing for the rest of the year. With 75ns they can get 936 proton bunches in each beam, but 50ns would allow for 1404 bunches. Before the 124 days of full intensity running begins they have allowed for 40 days to ramp up the bunch numbers to these levels, so optimistically we can count about 140 days of full intensity runs. They could already collect about 15/pb in a day with 200 bunches so with 1404 bunches  they could collect about 100/pb per day. This sets an upper limit of  about 14/fb for the year or 9/fb if they opt for 75ns spacing.

Just to be clear, I am not predicting that 14/fb will be collected, I am predicting that less will be collected. This is only if everything runs as smoothly as possible. A better prediction will be possible in a few weeks. To ensure the best possible outcome Myers asks everybody to do this…

Record Luminosity at Large Hadron Collider

March 22, 2011

The Large Hadron Collider has continued this year’s run of success by surpassing last years luminosity record of 206/μb/s to set a new record of 254/μb/s for the ATLAS experiment and 248/μb/s for CMS. This evening they circulated 200 bunches for the first time this year to grab the new record.

With this level of power it should be easy to collect the 1/fb of collision data that the physicists need this year, but the limit of the machine has still not been reached. The plan for this year is to get to 900 bunches to provide luminosities of over 1000/μb/s. The actual amount of data they collect will depend on how quickly they can reach this level and how efficiently they can run. The more they can collect the better the chance for finding signs of new physics.

LHC delivers 5/pb and accelerates plans

March 20, 2011

This week the Large Hadron Collider has been demonstrating unprecedented success and exceptionally smooth running. When the present fill is terminated at around 6pm European time the collision data delivered this year will amount to 5/pb. This has been achieved in the space of just 50 hours with a total time in stable beams of about 32 hours. During that time they have only experienced two significant problems; one unplanned dump and a brief loss of cryogenic status. Last year when the systems were being commissioned it was normal for every other attempt to reach stable beams to fail for some reason. In comparison we now see almost every fill being completed with a planned dump and no problems. This bodes very well for the 2011 physics runs and the beam team must be very happy with the LHC today.

At the end of the present fill using 64 bunches they should have the all clear to increase luminosity again. I am told that previous plans to go up in three steps at 104, 152 and 200 bunches have now been replaced with a two step plan at 136 and 200 bunches. This will probably require switching from the present 8 bunch injection to 24 bunch injection. At each step they need to complete three fills totalling 20 hours of stable beams. The new goal is to reach last year’s highest luminosity in just a few days so that the schedule can be brought forward. According to the draft schedule of last week they had intended to do an intermediate energy run during April. The purpose of this run is cross-calibration between proton and heavy ion collisions which requires a proton run at the same energy per nucleon as used for the lead ion runs last year. If possible this will now be brought forward to complete it before the scheduled technical stop on 28th March.

There is one other chore that must be undertaken before serious proton physics data taking can begin. There will be a scrubbing run during the first two weeks of April to clear the collider of dust particles and other unwanted effects. As far as I know this will still proceed as planned. This leaves 7 weeks of data collection before the “Physics at LHC 2011” conference. They should be able to deliver as much as 200/pb (or even more) in that time if everything continues to run as smoothly as it has his week. That’s enough to significantly advance the ongoing  searches for SUSY and other exotic physics.

Thanks to “pcatom” on the lhcportal forums for the detailed info

Update: A new run with 136 bunches is now in progress giving a peak luminosity of 150/μb/s


LHC running with 32 bunches

March 18, 2011

The Large Hadron Collider is now running stable beams with 32 bunches per beam. The peak luminosity was 30/μb/s which is about twice the luminosity achieved with the same number of bunches last year. The improvement is due to a tighter squeeze parameter at the intersection points in the main detectors.

This year they will increase the number of bunches to about 900 compared to 368 last year so we should see a luminosity improvement of about five times taking the peak to 1/nb/s. This month they could reach 200 bunches which should bring them in line with last years luminosity record.

Here is a picture of an event in CMS captures a few minutes ago!

Update: This fill is still running and looks is approaching 0.5/pb of integrated luminosity for ATLAS and CMS. This is the first significant addition of collision data this year. Here is another collision.

Update (19-mar-2011): After 3 runs with 32 bunches provinding over 1/pb of collision data  they have moved quickly to 64 bunches giving a peak luminosity of 67/μb/s when stable beams were declared a few minutes ago. Last year they did not reach such high luminosity until October.

Stable Beams at LHC

March 13, 2011

The Large Hadron Collider has reached stable beams for the first time this year. This marks the start of the phase where all the setup processes are essentially complete and they will now gradually increase the luminosity by adding more proton bunches. If all goes well they could reach and possibly surpass last years record luminosities of 200/μb/s within just two weeks.

In the present run they are using 3 bunches per beam at 3.5 TeV and a beta* of 1.5m.  This provided a peak luminosity today of 1.2/μb/s but this is with suboptimal bunch intensities. The bunch spacing being used is 75ns meaning they can get up to 900 bunches compared to the maximum of 368 achieved last year.

With stable beams declared the experiments can now start adding to the 40/pb data collected in 2010, however, the rate will be low until higher luminosities are reached. Serious data collection will not begin for another month after some scrubbing runs have been used to clean the beam pipes out of UFOs.

First collisions at LHC for 2011

March 3, 2011

Last night at midnight central European time the Large Hard^H^Hdron Collider collided protons for the first time in 2011. They used two bunches per beam and a squeeze beta* of 1.5m at 3.5TeV per beam. Various setting up tasks are still ongoing before the number of bunches can be increased and serious physics can begin, but to have reached this position after just two weeks of running with beams is a very good sign.

Update: Here is a preliminary schedule plan for the first half of 2011 from the Chamonix summary meeting with some extra annotations. Click on it for full size.

FQXi essay contest

March 2, 2011

This year’s FQXi essay contest is now entering the last stages of community rating. The topic of the essay was “Is Reality Digital or Analog?”, a question that attracted 161 essays from a diverse range of authors. This is the third contest that the institute has run. The first two had 136 and 113 entries, making this one the biggest yet.

I don’t want to say much about specific essays while the voting continues, but here are a few statistics: There are 11 authors in the contest who have submitted papers to the viXra archive (including myself.) 6 of the essays by these viXra authors are in the top 35 by community rating. If they stay there they will make the cut into the final round to be judged by the panel of experts. There could be up to 20 prizes awarded altogether with prize money ranging from $1000 to $10000. The top 8 prize winners will also be offered FQXi membership if they dont already have it. In fact there are just 5 authors who already have FQXi membership so 3 new members is the likely outcome.  Two prizes are reserved for  “non-professional and/or non-academic entrants.” It is not clear exactly who qualifies but by my reckoning there are about 45 authors who would be considered professional or academic going by the biographies they provided. Some of the prize winners may also have their essays featured in Scientific American.

On the question itself, I count that 24 authors concluded that reality is analogue, 50 said it was digital and 37 went for some combination of both. The remaining 50 gave another kind of answer such as “neither” or “we can’t tell yet”.

Rating and voting is not what determines scientific correctness, but it is a good way to attract interest in such a contest. People base their ratings on all kinds of qualities and writing an essay to appeal to the community is not quite the same as writing about what we think is interesting and important. It follows that the rating and prizes should not be considered the main point for most of us. Submitting our work to a forum that gives it good exposure and a chance for feedback is the real reason for taking part. Making the top 35 so that the essay goes before the expert judges would be an excellent result for any amateur independent physicists like myself, even though we wont see their assessment. I’m pleased that the rating system has improved since the first contest to give us more chance. Along with viXra, FQXi is one of the few institutions that gives independent scientists a chance to be noticed, so thank you FQXi and the contest sponsors (the Peter & Patricia Gruber Foundation).

update 16-Mar-2011: The community voting stage has now ended and the ratings so far have been revealed. I am very happy to have made the top 35 essays who will now be judged by the expert panel. I am even more happy that five other viXra authors have also made it through. I will be sure to use this as a point of argument in future whenever people say that we are all cranks. The point will be even stronger if one of us gets a prize.

Here are some extra statistics concerning the 35 finalists: Five are FQXi members. Seven have won prizes in previous FQXi contests. Thirteen are independent researchers who would be eligible for the special prizes for “Non-professional and/or non-academic” authors (the exact criteria for this are unclear and will be decided by the judges).

There will be up to 18 prizes awarded altogether in the 1st/2nd/3rd/4th prize rankings and eight will be offered FQXi membership if they don’t already have it. The most likely outcome is that three of the 13 professional authors who are not already members will get the offer, but surprises are always possible. It would be good to see a truly independent researcher make it onto the membership list.

The community rating system is not perfect and inevitably there are some very worthy essays that missed the cut. Some of my personal favourites that did not make it are

Nature herself will judge the rest in time. Those of us who did make it have just three months to wait while the experts mull over their decisions. Good luck to everyone.

By the way, the competition FAQ says that there is no problem if authors want to submit their essays to an e-print archive so long as it is not a peer-reviewed journal. For those who do not have access to arXiv endorsers, viXra is happy to give them a place if they wish.


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