4.3 inverse femtobarns of data

 	Composite illustration of Sloan Digital Sky Survey, Top Quark event, Wilson Hall

And it all happened at Fermilab

No, I don’t know how much a femtobarn is either, but analysis based on that much data has got some particle physicists rather hot and bothered, and they plan to repeat the analysis with at least twice as much data ASAP.

I have nothing to add, except that I plan to bewilder non-particle-physicists of my acquaintance with overuse of the word “femtobarn” in future.

Waddyamean I could google it? You’re no fun.

Categories: language, Science


10 replies

  1. No, I can’t be bothered Googling it either, but I do remember that a barn is a ludicrously small unit, and a femto-anything is also ludicrously small. That makes this a ludicrously-squared small amount of data.
    But cool, nonetheless. I hope for their sake this doesn’t go the same way as the first extra-solar planet. 🙂

  2. My thoughts were along those lines, but then wouldn’t an inverse femtobarn be ludicrously large?
    My imagination is flipping between inverted tinier-than-nanoscopic barns and barns bigger than Jupiter right now.

  3. Heh. My guess is that an inverse barn is a per barn. So they were seeing 4.3 per femtobarn – which makes you both right and wrong – a ludicrously large number per square inch, but they were looking at a ludicrously small area.
    This is a rather silly conversation based on a complete stubbornness to just look the damn thing up. I’m rather enjoying it. 🙂

  4. Well yes, when it makes absolutely no difference to us either way, idle speculation is amusing.
    mr tog thought so too, which is why he made this pic for me:

  5. I confess I googled, but I will say nothing about barns other than to mention that there are apparently related units named the outhouse and the shed.

  6. there are apparently related units named the outhouse and the shed

    Oh, those wacky particle physicists and their jokes! *dies*

  7. I googled it, read the wikipedia page, etc, but I’m still none the wiser. My ability to understand physics stops at apples falling from trees hitting bewildered Newton’s on their noggin. It be weird and crazy down there at the microscopic level. And the people who study it are even crazier. Sometimes I wish the Large Hadron Collider *would* blow a hole in spacetime and suck us all down to our doom – then at least my head would stop hurting from trying to understand whatever it is they are trying to do with the damn thing.

  8. Large Hadron Super Collider – I just met her.

  9. without reading the article, I am familiar with the term barn in physics. Femto means 10^-12, the standard unit below nano (milli, micro, nano femto). A Barn is a unit of area measuring the effective cross section for a reaction between two particles (how likely things are to hit each other depends on their area, but there’s a lot more involved also). Wikipedia article is: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Barn_%28physics%29

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