Thursday, July 29, 2010

Update and future plans

To all three regular readers of this blog,
I apologize for not having posted in several months. By way of explanation, I will say that since April 2, I finished and defended my dissertation, spent a month out of the country, moved to a new city, started a new job and finished it off by watching my sister get married in a beautiful ceremony in Maine. That said, I'm now back and I plan to post more regularly for the foreseeable future.

A giant sun dial in Jaipur, India

To give a little more detail about my new job, I have moved to Chicago to work as a postdoctoral associate at Fermilab, which is the location of the second largest particle accelerator in the world now that the new LHC has turned on at CERN in Switzerland. To a large degree, Fermilab has been the focus of high energy particle physics over the last twenty years, and I'm really excited to be here. Fortunately for all of us, I still plan to work on a dark matter experiment, so I won't have to start on a completely new thread in the blog but instead can pick up where I left off in April.

Let me restate the way I imagine this blog looking - to me, the study of physics builds upon the huge amount of effort and thought that humanity has put into the subject for several hundreds of years (with emphasis on the 20th century). Nothing that we do is a completely new idea, but instead we must draw on all the experiments, theories and results that have gone before. My goal in this blog was to illustrate that idea by starting with a very modern, exciting topic of research like dark matter and showing how each argument that leads us to believe both in its existence and that we might be able to detect it depends on other, more established observations. And then I hoped to explain all of those observations in a more or less simple to understand fashion.

"Standing on the shoulders of giants (taken from mushon)."

As an example, I started with the argument that galaxy rotation curves prove that we are missing something, which of necessity led me to the Doppler effect, light as a wave, Newtonian gravity and back to dark matter. I'm currently trying to explain the Cosmic Microwave Background, which led me to a discussion of thermal equilibrium and then Fourier Analysis, and I'm not quite finished yet.

That is the image I have for this blog, but I'm open to suggestions if I'm failing somewhere or otherwise losing your interest, so please do not hesitate to let me know what you think. And in the next post, I'll get back to physics.