Tuesday, 26 February 2013

Living in the Wrong Country

I noticed a news story on the effects of poor sleep today:
A run of poor sleep can have a dramatic effect on the internal workings of the human body, say UK researchers.
The activity of hundreds of genes was altered when people's sleep was cut to less than six hours a day for a week.
Heart disease, diabetes, obesity and poor brain function have all been linked to substandard sleep.
What missing hours in bed actually does to alter health, however, is unknown.
Which struck a chord given what I've experienced over the last few weeks.  My apartment doesn't have air conditioning, indeed seems to have been built to keep heat in.  And so I've been struggling to get to sleep, and waking up during the night, thanks to being too hot.  All in all, I'm more of a cold weather person.  Which does rather bring to mind the question: why did I decide to move to Australia?

I'm invoking these conditions as my excuse for not posting anything recently.  Still, it is supposed to cool down for the rest of the week, which will strip me of that excuse hopefully let me get  something substantive out.

Now if you'll excuse me, I'm off two inches in front of my fan.

Thursday, 14 February 2013

SUSY Mass Upper Limits

Supersymmetry remains the most popular theoretical extension of the Standard Model of particle physics.  It's not hard to see why; in addition to its structural appeal, many people have spent years working on it.  With all that time invested, a minor detail like it not showing up at the LHC is hardly going to dissuade us.

What has changed is the perspective we take, especially as far as the motivation for supersymmetry is concerned.  The traditional arguments about avoiding regions of theoretical fine-tuning have taken a battering from the combination of the observed Higgs mass, and the high exclusion limits on superpartner masses.  These already force most models to be tuned to at least one part in a thousand, often worse.

But once we abandon fine tuning as a motivation for supersymmetry, we also remove one of the main arguments for electroweak supersymmetry; that is, for the superpartners to be light enough to show up at the  LHC.  And this is reflected in recent model building, with theorists increasingly willing to consider models where some or all of the superpartners are heavy; for example, mini-Split SUSY models put most of the new scalar particles at a hundred to a thousand TeV, with the new fermion masses around one to ten TeV.

Against this, a recent paper develops some interesting arguments for upper limits on superpartner masses.

Cars Kill Cities

An interesting article that's being doing the rounds suggests that cars are bad for cities:
In the early 1960s – when highway construction was at its peak and cars were just beginning to leave their mark – a handful of critics predicted there would be irreconcilable tensions between vibrant cities and their motorized inhabitants. Nearly 50 years later, researchers at the University of Pennsylvania published research validating this idea.
The essence of the argument is that cars need places to park.  Space devoted to parking is not devoted to people, in the form of commerce and other sources of employment.  In short, cities should prefer public transit over cars as the primary means of commuting.

Thursday, 7 February 2013

Gay Marriage Passes!

I know I'm running a little late on this, but the news that the House of Commons passed gay marriage is fantastic.  While civil partnerships offered same-sex couples effectively all the rights of marriage, and the government had proven itself willing to enforce that, recognising that hetero- and homosexual unions are fundamentally the same is a significant moment.  It seems odd that, within my lifetime, a Conservative government should have passed Section 28; and within my memory, there were scandals over homosexual members of a Labour government.  It's always nice to be reminded that things can get better.