HEPAP today released a new publication designed to convey to the general public excitement about prospects for particle physics in the coming years. It’s entitled Discovering the Quantum Universe, and it has a companion web-site. Both the web-site and the document itself are beautiful and impressive productions. The web-site also contains the earlier 2004 HEPAP report Quantum Universe, which was mentioned in one of the earliest posts of this blog. The newer document is based on an earlier version from last summer, and one of its main goals is to make the case for a linear collider. In some sense this is promotional material for the conclusions recently reached by the EPP2010 panel. Also part of the promotional activity today is a briefing for members of Congress that will include a talk by my colleague Brian Greene.
While I hope that this all has the intended effect of getting the public, the Congress and the Administration excited about particle physics and willing to support it at the level necessary to fund a new generation of machines and experiments, as you might guess I have my doubts about the wisdom of some of the material included in this report. Unlike the EPP2010 report, which oversold string theory a bit, this report oversells it a lot, with language like:
… preliminary studies have looked at the ability of linear collider experiments to detect the telltale harmonies of strings. Here linear collider precision is essential, since the string effects appear as small differences in the extrapolated values of the superpartner parameters. A combined analysis of simulated LHC and ILC data shows it may be possible to match the fundamental parameters of the underlying string vibrations.
The inclusion of this kind of language seems to me to be misleading and irresponsible. Ten years from now when we have real LHC data, know that the ILC can’t tell us anything about string theory, and are asking the US government to put up large sums to finish the ILC, we’ll have to hope that the relevant decision makers didn’t get convinced by this report that the ILC is a machine designed to get information about string theory.
Update: More about this at Cocktail Party Physics.