This week: the birth of our nation and the validation of our physics. And a couple things of lesser gravity, too, like this picture of John Nash and Tina Fey chatting on Cannon Green.
Fey spent July 2 and 3 on campus filming scenes for the upcoming movie Admission, leaving in her wake dozens of hastily snapped mobile uploads and gleaming new profile pictures, a rare treat for those trapped in the Orange Bubble during its sleepy summer session. In the film, Fey plays a admissions officer named Portia Nathan who tries to bend the rules to admit a brilliant but underperforming boy named Jeremiah — a boy who might actually be the son she long ago gave up for adoption. (Cue poignant orchestral swell.) Paul Rudd’s also in the movie but unfortunately there is no photographic evidence of him ever having been on campus. Oh well.
If you’re still feeling the lingering warmth of Fourth of July fireworks and beer and patriotism, try digging around the massive digital collection of Revolution-era documents kindly donated by “avid book collector” Sid Lapidus ’59. After a monumental scanning job — it took a team of eight library staffers almost a year to scan in the roughly 32,000 pages — it’s finally all online, in pleasingly high resolution, free to peruse. Until now I’d never really waded too deep into our Digital Library, but having now been charmed by its easy interface and cute page-turning animation, I’d definitely recommend it. Reacquaint yourself with T-Paine and all your other favorite insurrectionary idealogues.
Presently, the nations of England and America are entangled in a different, more hashtagged debacle. Recent graduate Nell Diamond ’11 found herself in the crosshairs of the British media after she tweeted in defense of her dad, Barclays CEO Bob Diamond, who resigned shortly after the bank became embroiled in an interest rate-fixing scandal. Diamond aimed a saucy tweet at two British politicians who’d previously made public comments about her father’s resignation:
George Osborne and Ed Milliband you can go ahead and #HMD
Perhaps most amusing was watching various media outlets scramble for some printable euphemism for the acronym. The Guardian, with all the sweetly endearing naïveté of old people exploring texting and the World Wide Web, wryly speculated that it stood for “help my dad” or “honour Mr. Diamond,” before revealing the slightly crasser truth: “hold my dick.” Nell soon deleted the tweet and replaced it with a tamer one. Despite the generally loathsome tone that most tabloids assume — especially those across the pond — and how quick they are to adopt the “look-at-this-product-of-privilege” angle, Diamond seemed to be painted in a somewhat well-rounded and positive light, with some outlets praising her sense of humor about the whole affair (she retweeted some playfully deprecating insults about her dad), and this strange, painstakingly researched piece even dredging up details about her Princeton work ethic. (You get the sense that they were mucking around for some really incriminating details, and came up empty-handed.) For better or for worse, all of the papers managed to shoehorn our fancy college’s fancy name into the headline, proving yet again that an Ivy League degree is somehow almost newsworthy in itself.
And somehow, we managed to find a surname even more frequently splashed across last week’s headlines: Higgs!
THE GOD PARTICLE!
Princeton University does some real good physics, so you might not be surprised to learn that 15 of our researchers were involved in the international hunt for the Higgs boson. In particular, Princeton physicists were tasked with managing tiny tiny tiny proton beams; others were seeking out signs of the Higgs itself. The homepage has reported this story pretty thoroughly, so I’ll let them do the talking:
Among other things, Princeton physicists are responsible for determining the luminosity, or the precision at which the beams intersect — a key measure of how well the LHC is functioning. Knowing the luminosity also allows researchers seeking the Higgs to determine the number of the elusive particles they should expect to see.
“A huge amount of work goes into making sure things are working properly,” said Daniel Marlow, the Evans Crawford 1911 Professor of Physics, who works on luminosity measurements with his colleague Assistant Professor Valerie Halyo.
Coaxing the two beams to line up perfectly is extremely difficult — requiring a precision similar to hitting a target with a laser beam shot from New York to Chicago. Each beam is just tens of microns thick, smaller than a human hair, and about 10 centimeters in length. If the beams miss each other even slightly few or no particles will be produced.
Another two Princeton physicists, professors Christopher Tully and James Olsen, are leading initiatives to find signs of the Higgs boson. A boson is one of two fundamental classes of particles that make up atoms.
Finding the Higgs would validate a widely accepted theory of the universe known as the Standard Model, which includes the Big Bang. The Standard Model brings together the all known physical forces with the exception of gravity.
The Higgs particle and its corresponding Higgs force field are essential for explaining how particles have mass and how the universe evolved. “Without the Higgs, matter would not exist as we know it,” Tully said.
Hip hip hooray for the Standard Model, and for the calmed consciences of physicists everywhere!