16 July 2010

Nothing Cool Happening At Fermilab

The two main collaborations conducting research at Fermilab (D0 and CDF) gave a press conference with a live web feed this afternoon to address rumors (even in the National Enquirer) that major new advance in physics had been discovered.

A summary of the latest findings of the projects, in great detail, experiment by experiment, for a variety of possible "new physics" results or detection of anticipated new particles like a Higgs boson, came to a simple ultimate conclusion. Nothing that hasn't already been discovered was discovered. New physics of various types has been ruled out in a slightly larger range of experimental conditions than previous data had permitted.

The two possible discoveries that many people in the high energy particle physics community might expect the data to reveal are evidence for the existence of a Higgs boson and evidence that a theory called supersymmetry (aka SUSY) is correct. So far, neither kind of evidence has turned up, leaving open the possibility that neither the predicted low mass Higgs boson, nor supersymmetry, exist. Little by little the range of conditions where evidence of the phenomena could be observed is being narrowed. The range of conditions where we will either find something, or we won't, is getting increasingly narrow.

If these experiments and the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) fail to find these things, then the mechanism by which the Standard Model provides its particles with mass will be ruled out, and the most theoretically favored models of string theory will be ruled out by experiment. This would send a large share of the theoretical physicists in the world back to the drawing boards to come up with new models, while resigning the currently most popular models to the trash bin of history. The information necessary to resolve these issues should be available within a few years, or sooner, so the physics world is paying unusual attention to every new rumor.

1 comment:

SteveB said...

Sounds like "old" physics is winning so far. Or, more likely, updated versions of old physics a.k.a. generally covariant unified field theories. That space has to be heating up the less is found by the new physicists. Geometry rocks!