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Interactions News Wire #03-05
13 January 2005 http://www.interactions.org
Source: InterAction Collaboration
Content: Press Release
Date Issued: 13 January 2005

"Quantum Diaries" Chronicles World Year of Physics in Real Time, Real Lives

Media contacts:

Elizabeth Clements, Fermilab + 630-840-2326, lizzie@fnal.gov
Mieke van den Bergen, InterAction Collaboration, + 31 6 41512999 bergen@interactions.org
Neil Calder, SLAC, +650-926-8707, neil.calder@SLAC.Stanford.EDU
Chelsea Wald, Quantum Diaries Editor, +703-549-9690, chelsea@interactions.org

Batavia, Ill.-- Members of the InterAction Collaboration for particle physics communication today (January 13) launched "Quantum Diaries" a Web site that will follow the lives of some 25 physicists worldwide as they live the World Year of Physics, 2005. In their own words, in blogs, photographs and video clips, and in half a dozen languages, the Quantum Diarists will give readers a real-time picture of the lives of 21st-century scientists.

Writing in French, English, Russian, Japanese, Italian, Dutch and German, among other languages, scientists from universities and laboratories in the Americas, Asia and Europe have volunteered to "blog" their experiences, thoughts, impressions, triumphs and disappointments as the year 2005 unfolds.

"The 'Quantum Diaries' web site will be a marvelous contribution to the global celebration of the World Year of Physics," said Dr. Raymond L. Orbach, director of the U.S. Department of Energy's Office of Science. "Albert Einstein after all was a person, and the public needs a sense of how people do science. 'Quantum Diaries' promises to help the public understand how scientists think, behave, and accomplish their goals. Diaries from real physicists, doing real physics, will show that being a physicist is much more complex, frustrating and yet rewarding, than most people think. Most of all, the fruits of scientific discovery, and the intellectual contribution these discoveries make to our lives, will become visible. We shall all be able to share in the delights that drive these men and women to devote their lives to science.

"'Quantum Diaries' also will highlight other important facets of physics," Orbach said. "Science in general and physics in particular is international, so it is fitting that diarists will contributing in many languages from many nations around the world. DOE's Office of Science is the largest supporter of basic research in the physical sciences in the United States, so it is not surprising that all the American diarists are either employed by DOE's national laboratories or users of their fantastic facilities and instruments."

In a January 10 posting to Quantum Diaries, Canadian physicist Makoto Fujiwara, of TRIUMF laboratory in Vancouver, Canada, for example, described the proposal for a new experiment that he and his colleagues would like to carry out at CERN, the European Center for Nuclear Research in Geneva, Switzerland.

"Perhaps there is a parallel between physics and real life" Fujiwara wrote. "A particle physics experiment, probably like most marriages, starts with a proposal. We just made one today. A pretty decent one (I'd like to think)."

In the United States, Fermilab physicist Debbie Harris will share the experience of starting up a brand-new physics experiment, due to begin operating in late winter 2005. The MINOS experiment uses a beam of neutrinos from the Department of Energy's Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory directed to a detector half a mile below ground in northern Minnesota, 450 miles away. Currently, scientists are readying the beam of neutrinos to leave the Fermilab site for Minnesota. Harris, the mother of two young children, carried the "real life" metaphor a step further. In a December 3 posting entitled "Congratulations, It's a Beamline," she compared the commissioning of a beam of neutrinos to delivering a baby.

As monitors showed the step-by-step progress of particles down the beamline to an on-site target at Fermilab, Harris wrote: "The crazy thing is, I had a severe mental flashback to being in labor. With each new profile monitor that was passed, I was reminded of how the baby's head goes through the different stations."

Sandra Leone, an Italian physicist of the Istituto Nazionale di Fisica Nucleare in Pisa, who is a "coming soon" Quantum Diaries blogger, said, "This project is challenging and unconventional, because it's more about being a researcher than about physics. Collaborating in big international groups has human and social aspects that are usually unknown to the public."

Dr Rino Castaldi, director of INFN Pisa, agreed.

"I find this initiative very interesting, and I'm very glad that a 'voice from Pisa' is part of it," Castaldi said.

Physicist Tommaso Dorigo described a recent episode in the life of a physicist whose university and family are in one country (Italy) and whose research laboratory is in another (the U.S.):

"Here we go again" Dorigo blogged on January 10. "I'm just back from a day of work at the University, and a minute ago I was finally able to get Ilaria asleep by singing to her a few children songs. Now, after this post, I will be packing a light suitcase with what I need for 9 days at Fermilab, checking that I have everything essential: keys of the house in Naperville; notebook; power cord; wireless card; memory pens; passport; number of electronic ticket written somewhere - no, not on my shirt's wrist; credit card; cash; coins for tollway from O'Hare Airport to Fermilab - 80 cents should do; confirmation number of compact rental car; ear-plugs and sleep mask for the flight; toothbrush, toothpaste, brush, and the like; Fermilab ID card"

From the opposite side of the globe, writing in Japanese, physicist Shohei Nishida described his transition from physics theory to experiment in an on-line biography for Quantum Diaries.

"I was born in 1976 in Kyoto, Japan," Nishida wrote. "I was interested in the theoretical study of elementary particle physics because I wanted to know more about fundamental laws of the world. However, through the experiments that I chose at Kyoto University, I found that experiments are more interesting to me."

The Quantum Diaries Web site was developed and is jointly maintained by the InterAction collaboration, whose members represent the world's particle physics laboratories in Europe, North America and Asia, with funding provided by the science funding agencies of many nations.

"We wanted to develop a project for the World Year of Physics that would present the global collaboration that is particle physics research in very human terms," said James Gillies, CERN press officer. "Particle physics experiments commonly involve hundreds or even thousands of scientists from every country on the globe. Each one has a story to tell."

Quantum Diaries: www.quantumdiaries.org
Department of Energy World Year of Physics Site: http://www.science.doe.gov/Sub/Newsroom/News_Releases/DOE-SC/2005/index.htm .