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Achintya Rao
Works at CMS Experiment at CERN's LHC
Attends University of the West of England


Achintya Rao

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CMS releases first batch of high-level LHC open data

The Compact Muon Solenoid (CMS) Collaboration at CERN is excited to announce the public release of the first batch of high-level, analysable and open data from the Large Hadron Collider (LHC), recorded by the CMS detector. The datasets are being released into the public domain under the Creative Commons CC0 waiver, in keeping with CMS’s commitment to data preservation and open data. “We have a duty to society to do so,” says Tiziano Camporesi, CMS Spokesperson. “The scientific knowledge we produce is for everyone to share and we hope educational tools built on top of our data will inspire the next generation of scientists.”

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+CERN press release:

#cernopendata #CERN #LHC #opendata  
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Watch today's CERN webcast (16:30 CEST) to celebrate 50 years of Bell's theorem - "arguably one of the most groundbreaking theoretical findings in physics", according to the CERN Courier.

Anton Zeilinger "From John Bell at CERN to Quantum Communication and Quantum Computation."

Image shows Anton Zeilinger of the University of Vienna & Austrian Academy of Sciences. Image credit Jaqueline Godany, Austrian Academy of Sciences.
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Hi rao
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The history of “scientist”

J.T. Carrington, editor of the popular science magazine Science-Gossip, achieved a remarkable feat in December of 1894: he found a subject on which the Duke of Argyll (a combative anti-Darwinian) and Thomas Huxley (a.k.a. “Darwin’s bulldog”) held the same opinion.

Carrington had noticed the spread of a particular term related to scientific research. He himself felt the word was “not satisfactory,” and he wrote to eight prominent writers and men of science to ask if they considered it legitimate. Seven responded. Huxley and Argyll joined a five-to-two majority when they denounced the term. “I regard it with great dislike,” proclaimed Argyll. Huxley, exhibiting his usual gift for witty dismissals, said that the word in question “must be about as pleasing a word as ‘Electrocution.’”

The word? “Scientist.”

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Today is a red-letter day for readers of The Renaissance Mathematicus; I have succeeded in cajoling, seducing, bullying, bribing, inducing, tempting, luring, sweet-talking, coaxing, coercing, entic...
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More outreach, not less, please!
Is Engaging in Science Outreach Damaging to Scientists?

A few years ago, I started posting about science publicly on Google+. I did it in my spare time because as a scientist, it was obviously a topic I was interested in. I also found the public ignorance about science particularly depressing. This, coupled with a woeful misrepresentation of science on the part of many science journalists on popular media meant that even if the public cared enough to read about science, they would be ill-informed by sensationalised over-hyped articles. There was only one solution, as I saw it - the scientists themselves should engage directly with the public. This has always been my personal motto when it came to doing science outreach ( and 

So it is with dismay that I read this 'joke' article on Genome Biology by Neil Hall ( In it, he defines the K-index (Kardashian Index) as:

“a measure of discrepancy between a scientist’s social media profile and publication record based on the direct comparison of numbers of citations and Twitter followers.”  A high K-index indicates that the scientist may have built their reputation on a shaky foundation, while a low K- index indicates that the scientist is not being given credit where credit is due.

An unfortunate consequence of the K-index is that it is damaging to other scientists who genuinely engage in science outreach on social media. Scientists are evaluated by their publication records. People who have a low K-index will likely be older and well-established. Someone who started publishing 30 years ago and just joined Twitter will have a very low K-index. On the other hand, early career researchers who haven't published a lot but engage in outreach can appear to have a high K-index. The author also advises people that "if your K-index gets above 5, then it’s time to get off Twitter and write those papers". Never mind that only 1% of scientists regularly publish one paper a year ( Do we really want the other 99% of scientists to stop writing about science on social media?

I understand that this paper was 'semi-serious'. I understand that there are certain science outreach 'personalities' on social media who regularly over-estimate their popularity and importance. But I can already imagine how this index can be used to patronise young researchers who engage in outreach. I can imagine the smirks from senior scientists at job interview panels and evaluation committees. 

This 'joke' article is only funny if you are a senior tenured professor with lots of papers and yet have a low follower count on social media. "Ha ha, let's laugh at those silly scientists doing social media outreach when they should be writing papers!" The K-index trivialises those of us who work hard to communicate science with the public. 

I don't earn anything from doing outreach. It doesn't benefit me professionally. I don't have better job prospects because I have an audience. I do it because as a scientist, I feel I have a duty to directly engage with the public. Doing outreach doesn't harm me either. I hate to think that someday, it might. I hate to think that I might be taken less seriously because I do this. I especially hate to think that other young researchers might be discouraged from engaging in outreach because of this. 

Thanks to +Tommy Leung for the discussion that inspired this post. 

Image: Twitter followers versus number of scientific citations for a sort-of-random sample of researcher tweeters. Individuals with a highly overinflated number of followers (when compared with the number predicted by the trendline) are highlighted by the area labeled Kardashians. (from:

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Yes, yes, the Indian guy was providing tech support. At some stage, I said, "Have you tried turning it off and on again." :P
Making of the +CERN hangout at +LHCb Experiment  : My laptop was on the stairs (that's what  was constantly looking at on the side). +Achintya Rao was holding the camera. The network connection came via his phone.
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Too funny! XD
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Follow-up to Journalists vs Scientists

Following yesterday's surprising reaction to the GIF I put up on G+, I thought I'd write a bit more about it and clarify my position. Feedback / discussion welcome! Please weigh in, scientists and scicomm people, preferably on the blog itself.

(The website's buggy so you may need to refresh it once to get it to load.)
#amirite? Some context: To advertise the collaborative-editing capabilities of Google Drive, Google ran a campaign two years ago using the Hall & Oates song Maneater, featuring the eponymous musicians simultaneously using a Google Docs file to come up with lyrics to the hit.
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Journalists vs Scientists

[*Edit (2014-05-07T10:38+02):]

Something I made using the Google Docs Story Builder tool a couple of years ago. Don't take it too seriously!

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Have him in circles
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Achintya Rao

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This is such a beautiful photograph. #SpaceJam  
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I'm rather taken by this idea. Can't wait to see it in action!
The LHC as a photon collider

Yes, that’s correct: photon collider.

The Large Hadron Collider is known for smashing together protons. The energy from these collisions gets converted into matter, producing new particles that allow us to explore the nature of our Universe. The protons are not fired at one another individually; instead, they are circulated in bunches inside the LHC, each bunch containing some 100 billion (100,000,000,000) particles. When two bunches cross each other in the centre of CMS, a few of the protons — around 25 or so — will collide with one another. The rest of the protons continue flying through the LHC unimpeded until the next time two bunches cross.

Sometimes, something very different happens. As they fly through the LHC, the accelerating protons radiate photons, the quanta of light. If two protons going in opposite directions fly very close to one another within CMS, photons radiated from each can collide together and produce new particles, just as in proton collisions. The two parent protons remain completely intact but recoil as a result of this photon-photon interaction: they get slightly deflected from their original paths but continue circulating in the LHC. We can determine whether the photon interactions took place by identifying these deflected protons, thus effectively treating the LHC as a photon collider and adding a new probe to our toolkit for exploring fundamental physics.

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Image: Quartic gauge coupling – A Feynman diagram showing how protons radiate photons that then interact and produce W bosons.

#LHC #CERN #particlephysics  
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CMS Experiment's analysis software featured on +GitHub Showcases

Sixty-four petabytes or about 64 million gigabytes. That is how much data the CMS detector has collected from three years of proton collisions at the LHC. These data are processed and analysed using a complex software framework called CMSSW, which was recently showcased by GitHub, the world’s largest code host…

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#GitHub #LHC #CERN #CylindricalOnion  
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My first visit to +LHCb Experiment with +Patrick Koppenburg! 
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+Franc Schiphorst: LHCb is an asymmetrical detector. The interaction point (or collision point) is actually outside the cavern itself (behind the LHCb sign). The beams go across your screen.
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I love heavy-ion collisions!
New CMS heavy-ions results presented at #QM2014 in Darmstadt

Although the CMS experiment was designed primarily for precise measurements in proton–proton (pp) collisions, in recent years it has demonstrated exceptional capabilities in studying interactions of heavy nuclei. At Quark Matter 2014, the CMS collaboration presented a wealth of new results from their heavy-ion physics programme. The most recent analyses focus on collisions of protons on lead ions (pPb), delivered by the LHC in early 2013.

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(via the +CERN Courier)

Image: Heavy-ion collisions in CMS, recorded in December 2010.
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Science Communicator / PhD Student
  • CMS Experiment at CERN's LHC
    Science Communicator, 2010 - present
  • BBC Science Radio Unit
    Intern, 2010 - 2010
  • Telegraph Media Group
    Data mining for 2010 UK Parliament elections, 2010 - 2010
  • Zeus Learning
    Science Content Writer, 2008 - 2008
Basic Information
RaoOfPhysics: Science Communicator / PhD Student
I work with the Communications Group for the +CMS Experiment at +CERN, mainly for outreach. I'm a PhD student at the University of the West of England's Science Communication Unit. I also moderate /r/CERN.

I dabble in a little photography and my photographs are all available under the Creative Commons BY-NC-ND 3.0 licence.

In what seems like my previous life, I used to play the tabla with Rang.

My shares on Google+ are fairly varied, but you will find the following topics appearing regularly:
Bragging rights
Organised the first deep-underground science Hangout:
  • University of the West of England
    PhD: Science Communication, 2014 - present
  • City University, London
    MA: Science Journalism, 2009 - 2010
  • St. Xavier's College, Bombay
    BSc: Physics (with Computer Science and Mathematics), 2005 - 2008
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