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Particles and interactions

Particles and interactions

Web life: ParticleBites

23 Feb 2017
Taken from the February 2017 issue of Physics World

So what is the site about?

As you may guess from its name and strapline, ParticleBites – “The high-energy physics reader’s digest” – presents the latest research updates in high-energy particle physics. The blog, which serves as an online particle-physics journal club, covers both experimental and theoretical research, with each post based on a recently published research paper that is available on the arXiv preprint server. ParticleBites’ main aim, much like its sister website AstroBites, is to make research more accessible to those starting out in academia, by simplifying research papers and making the science more accessible to undergraduate students. “For most people, it takes years for scientific papers to become meaningful. Our goal is to solve this problem, one paper at a time,” claim the creators. Each post is written such that not only is the new research explained, but its importance in the field at large is also provided, giving some much-needed context to current research, especially for those who are new to particle physics. The website has about six to eight posts a month and topics range from dark matter and supersymmetry to neutrinos and nuclear physics. There is also the odd post about outreach, science policy and rumours, all with a particle-physics twist.

Who is behind it?

By particle physicists and for particle physicists, the posts are written and edited by a team of graduate students and postdoctoral researchers, including 10 regular authors and the occasional guest author. ParticleBites was founded in 2013 by Flip Tanedo, the website’s editor, following the Communicating Science 2013 workshop, which was organized by Harvard University’s Nathan Sanders, who co-founded AstroBites. Tanedo – an assistant professor in theoretical physics at the University of California, Irvine – also serves as director, together with Julia Gonski – a PhD student in the high-energy experimental group at Harvard. Tanedo also created the ParticleBites logo, which depicts a gauge boson (a force carrier) “eating” a Goldstone boson (spinless particles associated with the spontaneous symmetry) and becoming longitudinally polarized. According to Tanedo, the cartoon “represents the part of the phenomenon of electroweak symmetry breaking, which plays a central role in the Standard Model of particle physics.”

Can I get involved?

Yes – if you are a PhD student or postdoc in particle physics. The website has a “Write for us” section, which says that “if you’re a particle physicist (broadly defined) with a passion for writing and science outreach, feel free to contact us about writing opportunities with ParticleBites”. Potential authors are expected to have a solid background in particle physics and are selected on the basis of a sample blog post. Authors are expected to write a new post every two to four weeks, as well as edit fellow writers’ posts. The team is also looking for undergraduate and graduate students who can get involved in editing and proofreading posts.

Can you give me a sample quote?

From a post published in September 2016, titled “Horton hears a sterile neutrino?”: “Neutrinos, like the beloved Whos in Dr Seuss’ Horton Hears a Who!, are light and elusive, yet have a large impact on the universe we live in. While neutrinos only interact with matter through the weak nuclear force and gravity, they played a critical role in the formation of the early universe. Neutrino physics is now an exciting line of research pursued by the Hortons of particle physics, cosmology and astrophysics alike. While most of what we currently know about neutrinos is well described by a three-flavour neutrino model, a few inconsistent experimental results such as those from the Liquid Scintillator Neutrino Detector (LSND) and the Mini Booster Neutrino Experiment (MiniBooNE) hint at the presence of a new kind of neutrino that only interacts with matter through gravity. If this ‘sterile’ kind of neutrino does in fact exist, it might also have played an important role in the evolution of our universe.”

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