This week in Madrid there’s a conference going on with the title Why mH= 126 GeV?. It brings together HEP theorists working on “Beyond Standard Model” physics, with the majority of the participants from Western Europe, especially Spain. As part of the workshop they did a survey, getting about 50 responses. Among the results:
- For the question “Do you think that String Theory will eventually be the ultimate unified theory?”, 27% said Yes, 73% No, with the Nos breaking up into 27% just “No” and 46% “No, but it is a step in the right direction”.
- For a question about the hierarchy problem, the three opinions that got the highest numbers were pretty much split evenly among them: “Low energy SUSY solves the problem”, “Anthropics solves the problem”, and “There is no such problem.”
- Opinion was evenly split on whether the LHC would or would not find non-SM behavior of the Higgs, and 60-40 in favor of the LHC finding some non-SM new physics.
If you’re at all interested in what the current mood and thinking is in this part of HEP theory, you should definitely take a look at the video of this evening’s discussion section, moderated by Joe Lykken. It included extensive debate about the questions raised by the survey and what people’s answers meant. At the end there was a short interesting discussion about AdS/CFT and its relation to string theory, with Michael Douglas arguing that AdS/CFT should be thought of as an improved version of the renormalization group, with no necessary connection to string theory. String theory and SUSY only come into it by providing certain examples where you can do explicit calculations in the dual theory. By the way, I’ve heard a rumor that Douglas is going on leave from his physics job to work at the Simons hedge fund Renaissance Technologies.
Among the talks so far on-line, you might want to take a look at Alessandro Strumia’s Is Naturalness Natural, for an example of the sort of thinking that denies the dichotomy of “low energy susy or anthropics”. As the survey showed, this insistence on other alternatives has at least 1/3 support, and Joe Lykken mentioned that he was in this category.
Michael Dine’s talk on Alternative Futures for Particle Physics starts off with slides about Neil Turok’s comments on the “crisis” in the field, and shows this blog entry. He then goes on to give a string theory landscape/anthropics-based point of view on prospects for BSM physics. At the end of the talk there’s some pushback from the audience, with one questioner describing Dine’s anthropics as “a kind of sleeping pill, so you convince yourself that you are smart”, calling this “theology” not physics.
Dine describes my blog entry he showed as one that personally insults him, something that certainly wasn’t intentional. He’s not mentioned at all, but I gather he’s unhappy about my description of the material in the slides of Sally Dawson’s HEPAP presentation
Dine was chair of the committee that produced this report on The Future of U.S. Particle Theory and it’s well worth reading for a detailed overview of the current state of HEP theory research in the US, especially from the more phenomenological end. Like the slides though, I’d describe it as mostly avoiding dealing with the intellectual crisis that Neil Turok was describing. Even though Dine was the chair of the committee, there’s nothing in its report about his favored road ahead (the landscape and anthropics). I’d guess that the committee members felt that when trying to get support for HEP theory from other scientists or government funding agencies, talk of crisis-level problems with conventional wisdom was to be avoided, but even more so any mention of the string theory landscape and anthropics.
Update: For the latest on the landscape, see Michael Douglas’s talk on The string landscape and low energy supersymmetry. At the beginning of his talk he notes that “most people seem to have given up” on this, and from the talk itself it’s easy to see why. Actually, Douglas himself seems to be giving up. I’ve heard more about his move from physics to finance, which began last fall when he went on leave to work at the Rentech hedge fund. Evidently this fall he is not coming back to the Simons Center, but staying at Rentech, leaving his academic position. Rumors are that one reason he gives for leaving is that there is not much of interest going on in HEP theory these days.