Dennis Overbye in the New York Times covers this week’s news from the Large Hadron Collider at CERN, where hopes of “new physics” beyond the Higgs boson are not panning out: “The Particle That Wasn’t”.
The Higgs, one of the heaviest elementary particles known, weighs about 125 billion electron volts, in the units of mass and energy favored by particle physicists — about as much as an entire iodine atom. That, however, is way too light by a factor of trillions according to standard quantum calculations, physicists say, unless there is some new phenomenon, some new physics, exerting its influence on the universe and keeping the Higgs mass from zooming to cataclysmic scales. That would mean new particles.
Sabine Hossenfelder shares her perspective on this story of non-discovery, as a theoretical physicist: “The LHC ‘nightmare scenario’ has come true”.
That the LHC hasn’t seen evidence for new physics is to me a clear signal that we’ve been doing something wrong, that our experience from constructing the standard model is no longer a promising direction to continue. We’ve maneuvered ourselves into a dead end by relying on aesthetic guidance to decide which experiments are the most promising. I hope that this latest null result will send a clear message that you can’t trust the judgement of scientists whose future funding depends on their continued optimism.
My reaction was that a few billion dollars spent on human origins research would produce a much higher rate of discovery than the LHC.