Saturday, May 3, 2014

Data is Data

Sounds sort of Zen like.  The joy of acquiring and then the fun of analyzing and interpreting the data.

     After acquiring and storing the data now to analyze the data. .  First thing is to replay the data so as to clean it up.  By this I mean replay the data and using software cuts remove data that you know is spurious but that the hardware gates were opened up wide so as to be sure not to miss something new and interesting.  Here in applying software cuts comes your knowledge of your detector and events that you think you might get, but making sure not to remove too much, tricky.   So you clean up the data being careful to remove only spurious data that is well understood and can be removed with software gates.  So now you have cleaned-up data
    Now time to see what the data says.  You know from acquiring the data what your data looks like in "raw" form.  With the cleaned up data what do you see?  Depending on the experiment your data maybe similar to other experiments except that yours has higher statistics, better resolution in areas of interest or something else.  Now again using your physics knowledge you again analyze the data.  Here let's say you are interested in a peak in the data.  You want the area of the peak since this along with other data taken gives you the cross section for your peak.  Your peak maybe sitting on some background so you need to understand this background since it might contain something interesting,. you just don't know.  You apply your physics knowledge to understand the background .  Putting these results in you see how well this describes the background.  There might be new physics in the background.  .  Now you are getting the physics from your experiment.  What is the absolute magnitude of the data?  What is its energy?  Whats the width of the peak compared to the know resolution of your detector?  New physics maybe.  The fun of analyzing data.
     When typing this up I had in mind how I use to analyze nuclear physics data from a magnetic spectrometer.  I also had in mind maybe what the folks go through in analyzing LHC data looking for the Higgs, or folks trying to understand their cosmic microwave background data  (CMB)    Maybe I also have data envy.
     Hopefully lots of new and interesting stuff in your data.  But you already know that the next generation detectors are either being built or planned to get even better data on the same area of interest.  It maybe that the physical universe presents itself in only a few ways and we must try to get as much information as we can  from observations.

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