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Last night, the Fairfax absentee ballot results were announced.   Herring (the Democrat) picked up 1130 votes (there were just over 3,000 ballots, but he only got 68.8%, somewhat less than expected).   That put Obenshain's (the Tea-hadist) lead at 130.

This morning, Arlington reported its provisional ballots, H-59, O-21.   That drops Obenshain's lead to 82.    Provisionals have now been counted in all of the top ten Obenshain counties, but not in Fairfax, Alexandria, Richmond and Norfolk.   It is probable that Herring will take the lead when these come in, perhaps this afternoon.

The SBE website is very slow to update these.  The best source for breaking news is Dave Wasserman, Cook Political Report (who broke the news about the Fairfax absentees a few days ago), at

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Rasmussen has McAuliffe leading by 17 points.   Sarvis has 8%.    Having 500,000 pissed off federal workers in Northern Virginia is having an effect--

In addition, PPP has polled early voters, and has McAuliffe at 57, Kookinelli by 39.   Almost the same margin.

We will finally have our state back.


Public Policy Polling has just surveyed 24 House districts currently occupying by Republicans.      In 17 of them, a generic Democratic candidate is ahead, in 4, a generic Democrat is ahead when the respondent is told the Republican supported the shutdown, and in only 3 is the Republican ahead.

To:  Interested Parties
From: Jim Williams, Public Policy Polling
Re:  24 New Polls show GOP in grave danger of losing House in wake of government shutdown.

If the 2014 elections were held today, Republicans would be in grave danger of losing control of the House of Representatives, according to a series of 24 surveys conducted by Public Policy Polling in Republican-held House districts over the past few days. The surveys challenge the conventional wisdom that gerrymandering has put the House out of reach for Democrats.  The surveys, commissioned and paid for by Political Action, show Republican incumbents behind among registered voters in head-to-head contests with generic Democratic challengers in 17 districts. In four other districts, the incumbent Republican falls behind a generic Democratic candidate after respondents are told that the Republican incumbent supported the government shutdown. In only three districts do Republican incumbents best generic Democratic challengers after voters are told the incumbent supported the government shutdown.   Democrats must pick up 17 seats to win control of the House. These poll results makeclear that if the election were held today, such a pickup would be well within reach.

Details are at

Sun Jul 07, 2013 at 05:00 PM PDT

Sunday Puzzle (from science)

by science

Welcome to Sunday Puzzle.  I'm dong the puzzle today, for a change of pace.   I made up a JulieCrostic (instructions below) and a couple of puzzles from Nova.   If you wish to add a puzzle, please do so in the comments and I'll paste them here.   First, a message from our leader:

It's the first Sunday of the month, which means it's Potluck Puzzle Party time...

... which I completely forgot until science reminded me this morning.  Oops!

My brain is a bit addled so I've asked science to take over the hosting of today's party.

Science is supplying tonight's JulieCrostic, so I get to sit on the solving side of the table tonight. Not sure how much help I'll be to the team, but I'm looking forward to the challenge.

Puzzle Party / SUNDAY PUZZLE / Puzzle Party / SUNDAY PUZZLE / Puzzle Party /
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Wed Jul 03, 2013 at 02:46 PM PDT

Higgs boson update - one year later

by science

The most important discovery in particle physics in the past 40 years was announced last July 4th.   The long-sought Higgs boson was discovered.    This diary is to update you all on the current status and future prospects.

Two years ago (July 2011), I  posted a diary here describing the beginning of the search at the Large Hadron Collider (LHC), at CERN in Geneva, followed up with a couple of other diaries over the next few months and then finally posted a diary here on "discovery day" a year ago.   I was very gratified by the response - far above anything I expected.    

You will not learn what the Higgs boson is in this diary.    For a brief discussion, go to the "discovery day" diary, and for a more substantial introduction, go to the first diary linked above.    In the earlier diaries, I explained that the Higgs field is responsible for the masses of all fundamental particles, and that without the Higgs field, the laws of physics would be much simpler.  Recently, I did hear (in an article by a friend, Frank Wilczek) of another analogy that might explain why this discovery is so much more important than just the discovery of "a new particle".  

Imagine a planet composed entirely of water.  A fish civilization develops and begins to learn about chemistry and physics.   Since the water is always around them, they don't even know it is there.   They would find that something as simple as the laws of motion would be incredibly complicated --  boxlike fish would move more slowly, torpedo like fish would move more quickly, some fish drift down, dead fish drift up, etc.   It would seem to be a mess.  Then a very smart fish, Fish Newton, makes a suggestion.  Suppose there is a substance everywhere called "Ocean".   All of inertia is due to the interaction of objects with Ocean.   If Ocean were to completely disappear, the laws of physics would become incredibly simple.    Fish Newton would propose that if you could put a lot of energy into a small volume, you might shake loose a molecule of Ocean, and in that way detect its presence.  That would be the "Ocean boson".

The Ocean is the Higgs field.  While the Higgs boson isn't exactly the same as a "molecule" of Higgs field (no analogy is perfect), it does represent direct evidence that the Higgs field is real.

The discovery a year ago today established that there really is an Ocean.  The Ocean is real.   This is hugely important for our understanding of Nature.

A description of the current status of the Higgs, and of prospects for the future, is below the Great Orange Croissant.

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As has been mentioned in many diaries, a subcommittee of the Virginia State Senate voted to change the manner in which electoral votes are counted.   Applied to 2012, it would have given Romney 9 electoral votes and Obama 4, even though Obama won the state by 4%.    The State Senate is split 20-20.   It is not known how the tie-breaking Lt. Governor Bolling feels about it.  One Republican on the subcommittee abstained.

But just now, TPM reports

Virginia State Sen. Ralph Smith (R) has come out against a proposal to apportion electoral votes in the state by Congressional district, warning it could set off a chain reaction of similar schemes around the country. Smith sits on the closely divided Privileges and Elections Committee that is examining the bill, meaning his opposition likely ensures the proposal doesn't reach the floor for a vote.

“What if all states got to skewering it to their advantage?" Smith told the Roanoke Times in explaining his decision. He added that he would only consider a shift in Virginia's electoral vote rules "if every state does it that way."

That means the supporters of this scheme have at most 19 votes, and probably fewer

Tue Aug 21, 2012 at 01:20 PM PDT

PPP--VA Obama by 8 !!!

by science

Just out from PPP:  

First, without Virgil Goode on the ballot:

PPP's newest poll of Virginia finds Barack Obama leading by 5 points, 50-45. In 8 Virginia surveys PPP has done this cycle, Obama has never led Mitt Romney by less than 4 points. It continues to look like it could be his firewall state this fall.

Obama's continued success in the state is very much a product of its rapidly changing population. Among voters who have lived in Virginia for less than 20 years Obama leads Romney 62-32. When you narrow it to folks who have come to the state in the last ten years his advantage expands even further to 67-29. Romney leads 51-45 with folks who have been in Virginia for more than 20 years and they make up 68% of the electorate, but the transplants are so heavily Democratic that he leads the state overall.

One effect the newer voters are having on the Virginia electorate is to make it more racially diverse. Obama trails 56-40 with white voters, but with non-whites he's ahead 75-19.

And then with Virgil on the ballot
The Virgil Goode situation continues to be worth keeping an eye on in Virginia. Our new poll finds him receiving only 4% of the vote but he pulls it pretty much all from Romney, pushing him down to 42% while Obama remains at 50%, giving him an 8 point lead. It's unlikely Goode will really end up having that big of an effect if he gets on the ballot, but if it gets to the point where Virginia is just decided by a point or so social conservatives in his old district voting for him instead of Romney really could prove to be a difference maker.
Virgil Goode has turned in 18,000 signatures (10,000 needed) and is likely to be on the ballot.    He is very popular in south-central Virginia, and his support might not drop much between now and November.

Note that the Kerry states, plus New Mexico, Nevada and Virginia add up to 270.   That's a win even if Romney carries Ohio, Florida, Colorado, Iowa, North Carolina (four of which are unlikely, IMO).    But we need to keep up the momentum in Virginia....


Tue Jul 10, 2012 at 08:06 AM PDT

PPP polls VA, NC -- good news

by science

PPP has just released their poll for Virginia and North Carolina.

In 2008 Barack Obama put North Carolina and Virginia in the Democratic column for the first time in decades. PPP's newest poll in those two states finds him running very close to his performance four years ago. In Virginia he leads Mitt Romney by 8 points, 50-42, and in North Carolina he has a single point advantage at 47-46.

Our polling in both of these states has been pretty steady over the last year and a half. Obama has consistently fared very well in Virginia, leading by 6 points, 8 points, and now 8 points again on our last three polls. This is looking like it could be something of a firewall state for him. We have now polled North Carolina 22 times since late November of 2010. 21 out of those 22 times Obama and Romney have been within 3 points of each other. The state's about as much of a toss up as it could possibly be.

It gets even better if Virgil Goode (Constitution Party) is on the ballot:
If Virgil Goode gets on the ballot in Virginia it could spell trouble for Romney. He pulls 9% of the vote, getting most of his support from Republicans and conservative leaning independents. With him in the picture Obama's lead pushes out to 14 points at 49-35. It's highly unlikely Goode would get 9% in the end but he certainly could make a difference if Virginia ended up being more like a 1-2 pt race. Goode staying off the ballot may be vital to Romney's prospects there.
So, should Democrats circulate petitions to help get the odious Virgil on the ballot?

A few minutes ago, one of the most important announcement in particle physics in the past 30 years was made by scientists working with the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) at CERN, in Geneva.  For decades, tens of thousands of physicists have been involved in an intense experimental search for the "holy grail" of particle physics, the Higgs Boson.    It has now been discovered.  

I'm a theoretical particle physicist, whose first paper in 1978 was about the Higgs.   Since then, I've written over 100 published papers on the Higgs (in the Standard Model and in various alternatives).   Had the LHC not found it, much of my career would have been spent on something that doesn't exist.   It would be hard to describe how I'm feeling right now....

In four earlier diaries, I discussed the status of the Large Hadron Collider's (LHC) search for the Higgs.   The first diary, last July, described what the Higgs boson is and why it is so important.   The  second diary, a week later, gave the first results presented from the LHC.   No Higgs boson was found, but the range of possible masses was narrowed.    In November, the final update on all of the data collected through last August, was presented in the third diary.    The fourth discussed an announcement last December, covering all of last year's data, in which the first solid evidence for the Higgs was presented.    Although solid, it wasn't enough to announce a discovery.   All four diaries got a lot of comments and made the rec list.  This may be the last, since the discovery has finally been made.

In this diary, I will give a rough idea of why the Higgs is so important, and what the new results are (and what they mean), and what will be done in the future.   For a more detailed description, written at a level that I think is comprehensible to the layman, please look at the first diary above (some of the text in that diary is copied below).

And now, in honor of our European colleagues, I invite you to go below the Great Orange Croissant for the details.

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Wed Feb 22, 2012 at 01:17 PM PST

Braking: Superluminal neutrinos NOT

by science

Last November, the physics world was stunned by the announcement from the OPERA collaboration at CERN that neutrinos from CERN (in Geneva) to the Gran Sasso laboratory (under Mont Blanc in the Italian Alps) appear to make the trip at a speed faster than light.   They seemed to make the trip roughly 60 nanoseconds faster than they would have had they traveled at lightspeed.   This would, of course, completely overthrow some of our basic theories of physics.

Physicists were skeptical, of course, as were the OPERA scientists themselves, but the OPERA scientists simply couldn't find their error, so they made the announcement, causing a firestorm in the media.

These neutrinos would have traveled within a part in 100,000 of lightspeed (but faster).  However, it is known that neutrinos from a supernova in 1987 traveled within a part in a billion of the speed of light, and there is no plausible reason for how those two facts can be consistent.  The energies are different, but no reasonable energy dependence could account for it.     So we were all awaiting other experiments to confirm or refute their experiment.

A nice description of why this was not believed by most physicists is in the diary by fizziks at

However, OPERA has just found a problem that completely accounts for the effect, and thus their neutrinos do not travel measurably faster than light.  Details are below the Great Orange Croissant.

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UPDATE--There is a very nice summary of the Higgs, what is expected and a liveblog during the talks at

Tomorrow morning (at 8:00 Eastern time), an extremely important announcement will take place at CERN, in Geneva.   The entire field of particle physics is on pins and needles.  This announcement could be the most important in 30 years.  

In three earlier diaries, I discussed the status of the Large Hadron Collider's (LHC) search for the "holy grail" of particle physics, the Higgs Boson.   The first diary, in July, described what the Higgs boson is and why it is so important.   The  second diary, a week later, gave the first results presented from the LHC.   No Higgs boson was found, but the range of possible masses was narrowed.    Four weeks ago, the final update on all of the data collected through August, was presented in the third diary.    All three diaries got a lot of comments and made the rec list.

From August to the end of October, four times as much data was collected as previously, and there was clearly enough data to cover the entire region in which the Higgs might hide.   I stated that it was likely that the results would be out in late February or early March.   But apparently the results are sufficiently exciting that the experimenters will be releasing results now.   I know reasonably well what the results will be (it's hard for two experiments with 3000 physicists each to keep secrets -- although it must be emphasized that until the announcement, these are just rumors) and will discuss them below.   You will not learn what the Higgs boson is here---go to the first diary link above to learn about it (or look at some of the links given by DarkSyde Saturday morning).

For 30 years I have been waiting for this.   And now, in honor of our European colleagues, I invite you to go below the Great Orange Croissant for the details.

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Sun Nov 27, 2011 at 03:32 AM PST

NH Union-Leader to Endorse Newt

by science

The  endorsement of the Manchester Union-Leader is crucial in the GOP NH primary.   After rumors yesterday that it was going to Perry, Faux news is reporting that it is going to Newt.

Fox News has learned that former speaker of the U.S. House and current GOP presidential candidate Newt Gingrich will receive the coveted endorsement of the highly-influential New Hampshire newspaper "The Manchester Union Leader," an endorsement Republican rival Mitt Romney has adamantly sought.

The endorsement of the conservative newspapers' editorial board places an exclamation point on Gingrich's impressive surge from has-been GOP contender to front-runner, and sets him apart as the new anti-Romney candidate amongst his competitors.

Gingrich has now fully reached a pinnacle as a front-runner. He shares this title with Romney, who has established himself as the consistent man to beat by the amorphous GOP field.

Mitt's worst nightmare is coming true.  There is now one solid not-Romney, and with Mitt stuck in the mid-20s, we will now start discussing the not-Gingrich.    Alas, we will have to look at that loathsome Baron Harkonnen type slug for another year.

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