Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Particle astrophysicist, PI commits suicide

Alberto Lemut worked in underground experiments

Just four weeks ago, we watched a press conference of an experiment in South Dakota, LUX, whose precision and sophistication allowed it to exclude all the hints of a light dark matter particle suggested by other experiments. Some really good work is taking place in the Sanford Lab.



Sadly, that didn't guarantee that everyone in Lead, South Dakota was happy. The police and media revealed the name of a 37-old man who shot himself dead last Thursday. It was assistant professor Alberto Lemut.




He was an important investigator of the DIANA experiment who moved from the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory to the School of Mines and Technology in August 2013. The DIANA, or Dual Ion Accelerator for Nuclear Astrophysics, has been active for about four years and it has been relocated from California to South Dakota by itself. Its goal was to study nuclear reactions that take place in the stars.

In particular, Lemut served as the principal investigator of CASPAR, or Compact Accelerator [S]for Performing Astrophysical Research, also known as the DIANA Demonstrator, and he was called their "poster boy" by a boss.




He has received a degree in Italy where he has also worked in the Gran Sasso underground lab. This article is the most informative one.

My condolences to his colleagues and relatives.

Voice search for Chrome users

By the way, Chrome users with desktop PCs are recommended to download this extension that enables Voice Search at Google.com (after you click at "install", "allow access", click the microphone logo, allow access to the microphone). In my case, it expects the speech to be in Czech and the degree of understanding is just spectacular.

27 comments:

  1. I am slightly disappointed that apparently the staff knew he was a good cook but never had the time to have dinner (per the article) I am quite aware that South Dakota is one of the most desolate and remote places on earth. Miles and miles of grassland broken up by the Black Hills, Mount Rushmore and nothing else. Pretty different from Italy. We obviously don't know all the facts, but it would be sad if this were another death swept under the rug by the sorts of self involved unapologetic types. If he was a rising star I wouldn't be surprised that the antisocial bias of his colleagues was driven by jealousy. Sad

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  2. Hm, I am not sure ...


    I am sure that nice small tight-knitted research-groups where people truely like, respect, and appreciate each other and their work, without jalousy etc, can exist too ...



    But anyway this is very sad indeed, so I offer my condelences to his family, his colleagues, and his friends too

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  3. Oh I'm not doubting they exist, but I doubt their as tight knit as they claim...how can you claim to be tight knit with someone you've never broken bread with? Unless of course they aren't being included in the tight knit part of the group? Sorry, unless more evidence comes to light, I won't be an apologist for those who should have been checking in on this person's well being

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  4. Maybe you know more than I do ...


    But I have no clue about the reason for his sad decision to depart. So blaming his colleagues seems, without furter information, a bit premature to me.


    I have heard that sometimes not even the people closest to a person who decided to do suicide knew that something is really really wrong with him/her. How a peson feels and thinks can simply not be seen from the outside sometimes.

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  5. Now retired, I try to keep in touch with my former colleagues and visit them regularly. The pressures on untenured faculty (which Lemut was) is stunningly intense. The demands for huge amounts of money and many papers in only high-impact journals causes self-doubt and in some cases despair. It is worse if one's colleagues are competitive and unsupportive or if one is socially isolated and left to stew in one's own juices.


    And these pressures exist even in backwater fields like civil engineering. What must they be like in cutting edge fields? Especially in modern big physics labs with hundreds of people involved. The culture of modern physics leaves much to be desired.


    South Dakota is empty, but it is stunningly beautiful.

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  6. Dear Tom, I have no doubts that investments in stocks depend on many aspects - but considerations of alternatives to store the wealth, like considerations about inflation, are among these aspects.


    This inflation considerations and other considerations contribute specific contributions to the expected (or real) stock prices, these contributions operate at a particular scale (very quickly, sometimes minutes after announcements), and they can't be forgotten. So the fact that there are also other contributions are completely irrelevant in the considerations about how the changes of inflation expectations influence stock prices!

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  7. Who is arguing? We seem to have two one way conversations here. I keep basing my position on clear principles and have no problem stating what they are. You seem to be basing yours on faith, just like those Jehovah Witnesses you seem to have problems with. Actually, Jehovah Witnesses tend to be more receptive to listening to principle based arguments than you are.

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  8. The "tight knit" (friendship) in American doesn't mean the same in Italian. An American can appear extremely friendly with you one day and ignore you completely the day after. Superficial they are. Americans very often have an ill-bred, schizophrenic attitude in the workplace. For a lonely Italian... he must have felt... I dunno.

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  9. Did he leave a suicide note or a research proposal? Depression is anger without enthusiasm.

    What fundamental ills of the world could not be repaired, aside from innate stupidity, by brothels - beginning in middle school? Homosexual marriage is granted while denying Mormons their religion and Scotsmen their sheep. We live in pestilent, parasitic, hypocritical, toxic societies. Be enthusiastic.

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  10. It's *funny* to hear what the colleagues have to say about him, well actually about themselves vis-à-vis him. Haven't you notice that it is all about how friendly and nice THEY were to him... "chatting and laughing"... Typical, washing their hands huh ?

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  11. LOL. He was kind and had extremely good ears (he was saying that I was the best musician in the U.S.).

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  12. jealousy - it's lousy with a jea.

    http://bethewriteryoudreamofbeing.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/12/Jealousy.jpg

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  13. Please don't take it personal. I get that one wrong too.

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  14. Wow! You’ve known some shitty Americans. We do have our share but we are surely not ill-bred or schizophrenic as a whole.

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  15. Suicides are so tragic, Lubos. I have been close to a few of them, including my own stepson's, and they are so preventable, so damn preventable.

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  16. I don’t think they are washing their hands, Shannon. You have to know something serious is going on and they didn’t. They are in a state of shock, of course. I know that feeling all too well.

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  17. Is the culture in modern physics different from other competitive human ventures? I don’t think so.

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  18. Ok yes, every country has nice people and rascals ...

    About Germans there exist many more or less funny cliches ... :-)

    http://www.maxbratwurst.com/images/german_guy.png

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  19. Certainly true. That can be even more pronounced due social circumstances that may mask clues.
    My former sister in law got up one morning, went about her usual routine including daily journals regards her garden. Then she blew her brains out. She had no domestic or financial troubles she was a very carefree person. She left no note and no one of her closest family or her spouse had any warning or explanation.

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  20. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2010_Austin_suicide_attack
    Bury me with lions.

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  21. Perhaps always? No. I've been depressed. I wasn't angry at anyone.

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  22. Not even angry at yourself?

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  23. All it takes for the alternative explanations to be plausible is a hidden-variable theory replacing QM strongly coupled to a cosmological arrow of time. Just saying...

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  24. Hm, good question. Perhaps in some sense I suppose? More disappointed, really.

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  25. I can not concur completely with this hunch of yours and Uncle Al's.

    Underneath the "stem" of a depressed state (possibly a frustration so strong it generates chronic seething) there are "roots" typically made up of the conditioned-in aftermath of intractable predicaments (or ditto ordeals) that without inbuilt synapse-blocking or more specifically pain gating defenses would have been destined to have a deadly or seriously debilitating consequence and that, if endured and preserved as CURSES, continue to loom in the direction of such a destination (i.e. a self-defeating hormonal and neuromuscular distress).

    In our phylogeny, real-time and conditioned-in such (intractable) sensory detected sources of threat have in tandem with procreation promoting environmental opportunities tended to select for ‘ambiadvantageously adaptive’ functions that primarily allow us to block and secondarily to reroute (toward opportunity-exploiting preoccupations) excitatory neural signals that are on the verge of giving rise to futile and seriously maladaptive distress; IOW, what we naturally tend to block and reroute are sensory-motivational signals that would otherwise motivate or drive a profusely but "hopelessly" focused and paid - in the primary currency of neurometabolic resources - 'actention' {~=behavioral response}.

    So, YES, depression is a hopeless (or enthusiasm depleted) state of batted down synaptic hatches against a potentially painful onslaught of accumulated (conditioned-in) past (and possibly, but less commonly, present) "traumatic" predicaments.

    In consideration of the paltry possibility of stating that we humans commonly end up in "traumatic predicaments" (they are obviously especially common early on in our lives) I propose that it is at least equally apt to say that we all too often end up under some 'SHI (-type) threat'. ;-}

    A "SHI threat" is a concEPT that resulted from a MAD{-inspired} acronym-building approach and some distinktly sardonic SEPTIC humor.


    [Luckily the science-aligned but distinKtly SEPTIC humored acronym is nicely counterbalanced within my explanatory platform terminology by the clean spirited antiSEPTIC humored and far from ineptly defined notion that we might as well aim and try (against the odds) to promote a greater prevalence of ALQ-holism (a holistic approach at increasing people's ALQ or, conversely, that we try to decrease the prevalence of ALQ-holes (~=CURSES) within people's central neural actention selection serving systems. (ALQ is short for Absolute Life Quality.)]


    By a 'SHI threat' I mean a sensed threat that demands or beg (or synonymously "implore") to be survived by "specific/synaptic hibernation" - as if any threats beg to be survived!
    ;->

    [The expression that "SHIT" is derived from is not completely silly also in that a post-synaptic neuron that is actively blocked (by way of one or more inhibitory neurotransmitter such as GABA or an opioid) from being stimulated to fire (and give rise to self-defeating distressed response) will save its metabolic fuel and that it has been as if put in a state of ‘relative dormancy’. That I ended up not making use of the word "dormancy" but instead "hibernation" (in preference to “aestivation”) had everything to do with that I desired to build a distinKtly allusive acronym.]

    So yes, Uncle Al's statement, "Depression is anger without enthusiasm" is rather apt! But it is also not quite EPT. ;-}

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  26. I don't mean to be disrespectful to the professor, but are you sure its suicide? You can't always tell in America with respect to self-inflicted gunshot wounds. Often the weapon is found in the wrong hand, or has fired too many shots etc. The local police often don't worry about these small details.

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  27. I am not sure and I share your worry.

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