Thursday, April 07, 2011

High-energy physics, p-values and the sporting life

Eric sends this link:
When you look at the data it's not some disagreement with the Standard Model, it's a nicely formed bump in the distribution that looks really like the kind of bump you'd get if a new particle was being exchanged in this process," said Fermilab's Dan Hooper. "There's a 0.1 percent chance that this is a statistical fluke. Other than that possibility that lingers, this is the most exciting new physics we've learned about in my lifetime.
Eric adds this comment:
There you have it: There is only a 10-3 chance that this is not the most exciting new physics in his lifetime. Gosh I'd love to fade that action. Hooper suggests 1000-to-one odds, so surely he'd jump at the opportunity to put up a mere ten grand against my one grand.


BMGM adds this comment:
I think it is really sad how "new" particles are discovered whenever particle physics funding is imperiled. In this era of limits to science funding, I think it would be wise to have rational discussions of science and funding priorities.

There are actually some good uses for particle physicists outside of the academic realm. But do we need so many? And how do we match the graduates to those job openings? Or perhaps there are more optimal academic paths to train for those jobs?

I'm not just talking about "accelerator fodder"--the armies of cheap graduate students needed to run particle accelerators and sift through the data. I am also critical of ballot-box initiatives that direct science funding to trendy topics like breast cancer and stem cell research. They are worthy of research, but are they worthy of the huge sums (relative to other fields) spent on them? Students (necessarily) follow the funding and these highly politicized allocations of science funding skew our nation's available talent base for decades.

I am off to bed. Perhaps I will wake up to a functioning government?

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