Tuesday, 26 March 2013

Another look at NetHack

So, nearly a year ago I offered my thoughts on NetHack, one of the classic roguelikes.  I wasn't a big fan, much preferring Angband, and indeed pretty much all the roguelikes I've tried.  However, after playing a lot of Crawl last year I decided to give NetHack another try.  I found both games to be similar even within roguelikes, and thought I'd see if my experience with the former helped me with the latter.  I had, after all, struggled to make any progress through the Mazes of Menace.

Well, I have changed my opinions slightly.

Testing Times (I)

I'm not a huge cricket fan, but I do like to follow test matches, especially England's. The recent series against New Zealand has definitely been on my radar, and ended in a pretty dramatic fashion today.  England scraped a draw in the third test, drawing the series 0-0, becoming only the third side to avoid defeat by batting through the final day, starting from four wickets down.  With New Zealand taking the eighth and ninth wickets with just three overs to go, it must have been incredibly tense in the stadium.

Thursday, 21 March 2013

Kenyan Condom Ad

Surprise, surprise, religious leaders are trying to cause actual harm, this time in Kenya:
A TV advertisement promoting condom use in Kenya has been withdrawn after an outcry by religious leaders, health official Peter Cherutich has said.
The argument is at least slightly less obnoxious than usual:
Christian and Muslim clerics said the advert encouraged infidelity, rather than safe sex to curb HIV/Aids.
I say slightly less, because infidelity can cause actual emotional harm, instead of the fictional harm often invoked (see: Roman Catholic Church, passim.)  But I get the feeling that this implied message is: cheaters deserve whatever punishment they get.  After all, sex is only acceptable in marriage as that is a great tool of social control what god wants.

Monday, 18 March 2013

One Year Anniversary!

So, I've managed to stick with this blogging thing for a year.  With 120 posts, that's nearly one every three days!  Unfortunately they tend to be rather clumpy, with far to many dead weeks.

It's been an eventful year for me; I travelled to a different continent and, indeed, hemisphere; started a new job; had an abstract rejected from a conference for the first time (boo!); learnt that I really, really need to get air conditioning for my apartment; and attended my first conference in a non-English speaking country.  It's also been an interesting year in particle physics, with the discovery of the Higgs providing a lot of excitement but the lack of hints for BSM physics casting a shadow over the field.

Looking to the year ahead, then, here's to a more regular update schedule here; more papers this year than the last; and hopefully something pointing to new physics from our experimental colleagues!

Tuesday, 5 March 2013

A Clear Statement of Intent

From the BBC:
Chancellor George Osborne is in Brussels determined to renegotiate the European Parliament's proposals to curb bankers' bonuses.  But EU finance ministers in the Economic and Financial Affairs Council (Ecofin) are expected to approve last week's proposals.  They include limiting bonuses to 100% of a banker's annual salary, or to 200% if shareholders approve.  The City of London fears the rules will drive away talent and restrict growth.
I mean, just imagine what the British economy would be like right now without the bankers.

Monday, 4 March 2013

Collider Searches for Dark Matter

The quest to find non-gravitational evidence for dark matter proceeds along several different fronts.  The most direct approach is to look for dark matter particles scattering in detectors here on Earth.  Indirect searches, looking for cosmological signals of dark matter annihilation or decay, has provided a number of tantalising hints, of which the "line" signal at Fermi is the most recent.  However, directly producing dark matter at experiments like the LHC offers us the most control over the initial conditions and thus the least ambiguity in interpretation.

The problem with dark matter at collider experiments is that it is dark, i.e. it doesn't show up in the detectors.  To get around this problem we look for the production of other stuff as well as the dark matter itself.  We can then tell if the dark matter is there by seeing an apparent violation of conservation of momentum; the missing momentum is carried away by the unobserved dark matter particles.

The traditional approach to these type of searches is to take a complete model of new physics (such as supersymmetry) and use that to model the production process.  So in SUSY, we produce gluinos or squarks, which then go through a several-step decay producing dark matter and multiple Standard Model (SM) particles.  Indeed, even today the signal "jets and missing transverse momentum" is considered a characteristic SUSY search.

However, a couple of years ago an alternative and somewhat opposite approach began to become popular.