Sunday, May 18, 2008

SUSY in Trouble?

Tommaso Dorigo is a fine scientist and blogger. He has handled silly criticism from others with style and grace. This week at the Particle Physics and Cosmology meeting (PPC008) in Albuquerque Tommaso will show how Tevatron data is wiping out one supersymnetry model after another. This could be the beginning of the end for a class of ideas called SUSY.

The standard model of particle physics contains at least 20 free parameters, from particle masses to the speed of light. Finding a mathematical basis for these numbers has obsessed physicists for decades. SUSY hypothesised that each particle had a corresponding "superparticle." These superparticles conveniently have energies too great to be detected by our experiments. This turns the problem of 20 free parameters into hundreds. This is progress?

Like inflation and cosmic strings, there was no way to falsify the theory. For years SUSY provided employment to many theorists. It turned into a framework in which anyone could insert their own speculations. New accelerators are approaching the energies in which superparticles would be found. As experimental energies get higher, more SUSY theories may be falsified.

There is Trouble With Physics because theories like SUSY have not led to advances in our understanding. Funding and respect for physics is dropping along with job prospects for young researchers. In the meantime, out of the spotlight, progress is quietly being made. If the speed of light can be predicted, there is hope that someday we will find a mathematical basis for other numbers.



Blogger Kea said...

Yes, the Standard Model has too many parameters. Now Carl, not content with lepton and neutrino masses, has moved on to relations for pion masses at PF.

7:56 PM  
Anonymous a quantum diaries survivor said...

Hi Louise,

thank you for the nice words. I bet you will also be interested to read my writeup of Marfatia's talk on a varying fine structure constant...


3:25 PM  
Blogger L. Riofrio said...

For kea: Thanks, and thanks for your comment on "Groping in the Dark." I don't always have time to answer the yoyos out there.

For Tommaso: Thanks for the mention in your blog! I just skimmed over your latest fascinating post. As kea knows, I've been working on the idea that the product hc and alpha are constant. That could be a tiny link between Relativity and quantum theory.

6:07 PM  

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