Some wag at the Wall Street Journal put the headline Don’t Buy Into the Supercollider Hype on today’s Op-Ed piece by Michio Kaku about the LHC, which describes its significance as follows:
The LHC might shed light on the “theory of everything,” a single theory which can explain all fundamental forces of the universe, a theory which eluded Albert Einstein for the last 30 years of his life. This is the Holy Grail of physics. Einstein hoped it would allow us to “read the Mind of God.”
Today, the leading (and only) candidate for this fabled theory of everything is called “string theory,” which is what I do for for a living. Our visible universe, according to this theory, represents only the lowest vibration of tiny vibrating strings. The LHC might find something called “sparticles,” or super particles, which represent higher vibrations of the string. If so, the LHC might even verify the existence of higher dimensions of space-time, which would truly be an earth-shaking discovery.
If I were an experimentalist or accelerator scientist working on the LHC, I might have a problem with the fact that the biggest media outlets are having theorists, often string theorists, be the ones to tell the public about the LHC (yesterday was Brian Greene’s turn, in the New York Times). Many such stories imply that the LHC will somehow tell us something about string theory, while even one of the blogosphere’s most enthusiastic string theory supporters puts the probability of this at about half of one-percent.
For some hype-free LHC predictions based on serious science that I fully endorse, see Resonaances, where the probability of seeing anything relevant to string theory isn’t even listed, and supersymmetry is given a one-tenth of one percent chance, on the grounds:
1% is a typical fine-tuning of susy models, and the additional factor of .1 is because it makes me puke.
which seems about right. The probability of the LHC producing black holes is given as something exponentially small, somewhat less than the probability of producing dragons.