Archive for High Energy Physics

Why traditional scientific journals are redundant

Posted in Open Access, The Universe and Stuff with tags , , , , on August 20, 2015 by telescoper

Was it really six years ago that I first blogged about the Academic Journal Racket which siphons off millions from hard-pressed research budgets into the coffers of profiteering publishing houses?

Change is coming much more slowly over the last few years than I had anticipated when I wrote that piece, but at least there are signs that other disciplines are finally cottoning on to the fact that the old-style model of learned journals is way past its sell-by date. This has been common knowledge in Physics and Astronomy for some time, as I’ve explained many times on this blog. But, although most wouldn’t like to admit it, academics are really a very conservative bunch.

Question: How many academics does it take to change a lightbulb?

Answer: Change!!???

Today I came across a link to a paper on the arXiv which I should have known about before; it’s as old as my first post on this subject. It’s called Citing and Reading Behaviours in High-Energy Physics. How a Community Stopped Worrying about Journals and Learned to Love Repositories, and it basically demonstrates that in High-Energy Physics there is a massive advantage in publishing papers in open repositories, specifically the arXiv.Here is the killer plot:

citations_arXivThis contains fairly old data (up to 2009) but I strongly suspect the effect is even more marked than it was six years ago.

I’d take the argument further, in fact. I’d say that journals are completely unnecessary. I find all my research papers on the arXiv and most of my colleagues do the same. We don’t need journals yet we keep paying for them. The only thing that journals provide is peer review, but that is done free of charge by academics anyway. The profits of their labour go entirely to the publishers.

Fortunately, things will start to change in my own field of astrophysics – for which the picture is very similar to high-energy physics. All we need to do is to is dispense with the old model of a journal and replace it with a reliable and efficient reviewing system that interfaces with the arXiv. Then we’d have a genuinely useful thing. And it’s not as far off as you might think.

Watch this space.


Ode to SnarXiv

Posted in The Universe and Stuff with tags , , , , on April 30, 2014 by telescoper

So many things pass me by these days that I’m not usually surprised when I have no idea what people around me are talking about. I am however quite surprised that, until yesterday, never heard of the snarXiv. As its author explains:

The snarXiv is a ran­dom high-energy the­ory paper gen­er­a­tor incor­po­rat­ing all the lat­est trends, entropic rea­son­ing, and excit­ing mod­uli spaces. The arXiv is sim­i­lar, but occa­sion­ally less ran­dom.

The snarXiv uses “Context Free Grammar” together with a database of stock words and phrases to generate its content, which is actually just limited to titles and abstracts rather than entire papers. It’s just a matter of time, though. The results are variable, with some making no sense at all even by the standards of theoretical particle physics, but the best are almost good enough to pass off as real abstracts.

Here’s an example in the form of the abstract of a paper called (P,q) Brane Probe Predicted From Conformal Blocks:

Recently, work on new inflation has opened up a perturbative class of braneworld matrix models. We make contact with observables, moreover investigating trivial Beckenstein-Boltzmann equations. Next, using the behavior of a left-right reduction of models of WIMPs, we reformulate instanton liquids at the LHC. After discussing positrons, we check that worldsheet symmetric central charges are equivalent to electric-duality in gravity. Finally, we make contact with a special lagrangian brane, surprisingly obtaining models of inertial fluctuations.

Why not have a go at arXiv versus SnarXiv to see if you can spot the genuine article titles?

I’m tempted, with a nod in the light of the Sokal Affair, to suggest that a similar approach used in the social sciences, but the thing that really struck me is that someone should do a snarXiv for astronomy and astrophysics. Or is someone going to tell me it already exists?

Come to think of it, judging by some of the proposals I’ve read while serving on the Astronomy Grants Panel over the years, a similar generator may already exist for writing grant applications…

Cosmology and the Constants of Nature

Posted in The Universe and Stuff with tags , , , , on January 20, 2014 by telescoper

Just a brief post to advertise a very interesting meeting coming up in Cambridge:


Cosmology and the Constants of Nature

DAMTP, University of Cambridge

Monday, 17 March 2014 at 09:00 – Wednesday, 19 March 2014 at 15:00 (GMT)

Cambridge, United Kingdom

The Constants of Nature are quantities, whose numerical values we know with the greatest experimental accuracy – but about the rationale for those values, we have the greatest ignorance. We might also ask if they are indeed constant in space and time, and investigate whether their values arise at random or are uniquely determined by some deep theory.

This mini-series of talks is part of the joint Oxford-Cambridge programme on the Philosophy of Cosmology which aims to introduce philosophers of physics to fundamental problems in cosmology and associated areas of high-energy physics.

The talks are aimed at philosophers of physics but should also be of interest to a wide range of cosmologists.  Speakers will introduce the physical constants that define the standard model of particle physics and cosmology together with the data that determine them, describe observational programmes that test the constancy of traditional ʽconstantsʼ, including the cosmological constant, and discuss how self-consistent theories of varying constants can be formulated.


John Barrow, University of Cambridge

John Ellis, King’s College London

Pedro Ferreira, University of Oxford

Joao Magueijo, Imperial College, London

Thanu Padmanabhan, IUCAA, Pune

Martin Rees, University of Cambridge

John Webb, University of New South Wales, Sydney

Registration is free and includes morning coffee and lunch. Participants are requested to register at the conference website where the detailed programme of talks can be found:

For enquiries about this event please contact Margaret Bull at

More Boring Than Advertised? (via Occasional Musings of a Particle Physicist)

Posted in The Universe and Stuff with tags , , , , , on July 29, 2011 by telescoper

My (probably ill-informed) earlier post about particle physics seems to have generated quite a lot of traffic, so I thought I’d reblog this short article (by a real particle physicist) for the benefit of those people who want to find out about the latest results from someone who actually knows what they’re talking about.

You would be forgiven for seeing the headlines from EPS-HEP 2011 and thinking the LHC is less interesting than maybe you were led to believe. A year or so ago you might have expected hints of supersymmetry, black holes, extra dimensions or even something more exotic to have been found in the ever increasing LHC datasets. But the current story is that the Standard Model is still describing all data analysed so far pretty damn well. There may or ma … Read More

via Occasional Musings of a Particle Physicist