Today’s Wisconsin State Journal covers the String Phenomenology 2011 conference going on in Madison this week, where, according to the organizers, about 100 scientists are discussing how to “test string theory”:
The Madison conference is something of a milestone in the study of string theory, Shiu said, because it represents 10 years of thought and advances. “It means the field is moving forward, that interesting things are going on,” he said.
Kane agreed and said much of the conference focuses on the predictive powers of string theory. If the theory can predict the existence of certain particles or behaviors, Kane said, and those are then borne out by successful experiments at projects such as the Large Hadron Collider in Europe, string theory would become an accepted explanation for the workings of the universe.
Kane has a long history of making “predictions” based on string theory, including a 1997 Physics Today article String Theory is Testable, Even Supertestable, which gave a plot showing the masses of all superpartners, in the range of 50-300 GeV. His latest “generic predictions” from the conference are here(see page 22). These days most of the superpartners have for some reason moved up to 50 TeV, well beyond any hope of observation at the LHC. There’s a gluino though at a bit above current bounds of around 500 GeV, and claims that, with the right sort of analysis, this will be visible. Once this analysis gets done, one suspects the gluino will go join its friends at much higher masses. There’s also a “prediction” of the range of the Higgs mass, which happens to be within the range not yet ruled out.
Another conference going on at the moment is at Les Houches. There Luis Alvarez-Gaumé gave a survey talk about string theory, and in his conclusion he makes quite clear what he thinks of efforts like Kane’s:
One cannot make LHC-accessible predictions.
Update: After posting this, I remembered that I’d once read a much more interesting story about theoretical physics in the Wisconsin State Journal. This was from when Dirac, not string phenomenologists, came to town, and gave the paper an interview.