This Week’s Hype

Now that the LHC has turned out to be dud, producing no black holes or extra dimensions, the latest news is that physicists are planning a new machine, “to follow in the footsteps of the Large Hadron Collider”. This one will be based on “A laser powerful enough to tear apart the fabric of space”, able to “rip a hole in spacetime”, and it will do this much more cheaply than the LHC ($1.6 billion).

For details, see for instance here, here and here. The new laser will also explain what dark matter is, and provide new treatments for cancer.

It’s unclear to me who is responsible for the extra-dimensional hype, which appears to be inspired by ADD models that were popular 10 years ago (and that became much less so once the LHC turned on and saw nothing).

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56 Responses to This Week’s Hype

  1. anonymous says:

    So Europe is going to fund this with their bailout money? I can’t believe anybody would pay ten cents towards it. I guess this is what happens in the ultimate fantasy – after all dimensions and black holes have been exhausted we will just through billions of $$ of cash into the furnace.

  2. Nat Singleton says:

    Seems to me that the military will find this new project of particular interest.

  3. Z says:

    I think the NIF lasers at Livermore has higher radiative flux (and energy) per pulse than this proposed laser, although the purpose is different. There were some nice news focus articles last week in Science on the NIF.

  4. Dave says:

    The LHC is far from a dud. The experiments are doing exactly what they were designed to do – hunt for the Higgs. Its also doing this in a careful, non-sensationalist way and the results (positive or negative) will be landmark measurements.

    In addition to that, the LHC experiments are steadily falsifying a number of models which purport to describe new physics at the TeV scale and making precision measurements of SM processes in the electroweak and strong sectors which take place at the smallest measurable distance scales .

  5. Armin Nikkhah Shirazi says:

    If the laser can be used to measure the gravitational field of a laser beam, then that would seem to me to constitute the first direct experimental test of the assumption that gravity must in fact be described by a quantum theory. As this fundamental assumption underlies basically all current theories of quantum gravity, it seems to me that this would make it a very important experiment. In fact, if it finds something totally unexpected, it could become the MM experiment of the 21st century.

    I really hope that they are considering this type of experiment.

  6. chris says:

    Armin,

    this assumption has been tested by neutron interference in a gravitational field almost 2 decades ago.

  7. Armin Nikkhah Shirazi says:

    Hi Chris,

    You are probably referring to Staudenmann et. al 1980 (although there are probably others) where Bragg reflected neutrons were observed to accelerate at g. In fact, when you get down to it, the gravitational bending of light, Einstein Rings etc. have already tested the same assumption that you speak of.

    What characterizes these kinds of tests (and all others that are tests of gravity involving quantum objects that I am aware of) is that strictly speaking, they involve testing the passive gravitational charge of quantum objects.

    The test I mentioned would be a test of the active gravitational charge of a quantum object (here, a beam of photons). Now, I agree that it is eminently reasonable to assume that since we have already confirmed that they obey the equivalence principle as applied to passive gravitational charge, then we should also expect that it applies to the EP as applied to gravitational charge. If it didn’t, it would appear that conservation of momentum would be violated, as a first of a host of major consequences…

    …but still, should we not at least make an effort to test our assumptions by experiment? If you know of a direct test of the gravity field produced by a quantum object, please do let me know, as I am unaware of any, despite searching for it. So, to the best of my knowledge this is still an empirically unverified assumption, as plausible and reasonable as it is.

    I made the comparison with MM consciously. If anyone had suggested a null result prior to the performance of the actual experiment, they would have been laughed at for making such an obviously ridiculous suggestion.

    However, it was a null result, and as result the physics of the 20 century looks completely different from the physics of the 19th century.

  8. Bernhard says:

    Apart from the confusing hype of probing extra-dimensions, does anyone know what is the real physical potential of this experiment and what is it really trying to measure?

  9. Anon says:

    I am not sure why the negativity. I would have thought proposed expenditure on foundational experimental HEP were a good thing. What am I missing?

  10. mesasola says:

    Hello from Greece
    here in Europe we do not have that kind of money just for theories.

  11. Rhys says:

    Never mind the brief mention of extra dimensions; the whole Telegraph article is awful. I don’t know whether it is entirely the journalist’s fault, or whether somebody has fed him the nonsense line “this laser will tear apart the fabric of space”, and misled him into suggesting it will allow scientists to observe the “ghost particles” which usually “pop in and out of existence too fast to be seen”. “Ghosts” are a technical feature of certain QFTs, but certainly can’t ever be observed, even in principle. And did a physicist really say “even a true vacuum is filled with pairs of molecules…”?

    The Daily Mail is, unsurprisingly, even worse:
    “Scientists say it will be so powerful they will be able to boil the very fabric of space and create a vacuum.”
    FFS, to use the vernacular of the age…
    In fact, this article also says “tear apart the fabric of space”, so that has obviously come from somebody who should know better, rather than the journalists themselves.

    Bad reporting of science, whether caused by the journalists or the researchers whom they interview, is at least partly to blame for the stupidity of people like “mesasola” and the first anonymous commenter in this very thread.

  12. anon. says:

    It seems pretty clear that what they’re actually proposing is to test the Schwinger effect….

  13. jg says:

    At the offical site there is no obvious hype about extra dimensions etc
    http://www.extreme-light-infrastructure.eu/what-is-eli.php

    And in fact there may be practical benefits:

    ELI will have a large societal benefit in medicine with new radiography and hadron therapy methods. It will also considerably contribute to material science with the possibility to unravel and slow down the aging process in nuclear reactors and in the environment by offering new ways to treat nuclear wastes.

  14. Julien Sorel says:

    Peter, please don’t judge the ELI Ultra High Field Laser until it has had a chance to produce results. This machine has great potential. The physics community should put its whole support behind this project.

  15. AI says:

    So far LHC is a dud, it didn’t lead to any new leaps in our understanding of reality. Cutting down empty speculations is far from enough. What we need to justify it’s costs is new actionable knowledge to further fuel technological progress of human race. Progress which when it comes to fundamental physics has stalled for decades.

    The reality is that you physicists are failing us all. Whether it is due to your personal shortcomings or the fact that remaining problems are “objectively” intractable at current levels of human intelligence and technology is in the end irrelevant. If all you can come up with is speculations and hype don’t expect the money to keep coming.

  16. strong field physicist says:

    While generally sympathetic to the aims of your crusade, you can really bend the stick too far – this article being a case in point. The physics behing ELI is really quite simple, to produce an electromagnetic field strong enough to polarise the vacuum and pull virtual particles onto the mass shell. Its nothing more complicated than basic QED.

    Yes everyone knows the high energy laser facilities have spin offs that include medical applications. That’s one of the selling points of FELs and Synchrotrons around the world.

    Are you against selling points for the funding of physics facilities? Whose side are you on?

  17. Peter Woit says:

    Dave,

    The “LHC is a dud” comment was tongue in cheek, it only made sense if you believed the hype about the LHC being designed to look for extra dimensions.

    Others,

    This in no way is intended as a criticism of the ELI project, which seems likely to do interesting science with practical applications, including medical ones. The “tearing apart the fabric of space-time” hype though I think is a big mistake. This kind of intense EM field may do all sorts of interesting things, but it’s not going to do anything to space-time degrees of freedom. I can’t see exactly where the reporters got this from in this case, but physicists need to put a stop to selling everything with a helping of extra-dimensional BS. This may work for a while, but sooner or later is going to do significant damage to the credibility of the field (this may already have happened).

  18. jpd says:

    “ADD” = attention deficit disorder?

  19. Andy says:

    I think this is just an endemic problem with science communication. Scientists have a duty to talk to the public about these sorts of big iron projects (we are, after all, spending their tax money) but having to go through the media is really hurting the message.

    Of course the media is going to muddle the details and sensationalise; they’re the media, that’s what they do. I wouldn’t be surprised (if this was some sort of press conference rather than a press release, they don’t seem to reference their sources…) if the scientists were fed the question about extra dimensions, answered it in a typically scientific way with caveats (e.g. “I suppose the possibility exists that extra dimensions could be seen under such and such a condition” etc.) and the media spins it into “Experiment looking for extra dimensions!”.

    Likewise things like “the vacuum is full of pairs of molecules” is almost certainly a misquote. No physicist would be daft enough to say that on purpose.

    That said, I don’t know what the solution is, other than training people who come in contact with the media to consider them as the enemy.

  20. SpearMarktheSecond says:

    At first I thought that link might have something to do with old proposals to backscatter lasers off of electrons beams, and do gamma + gamma > Higgs. But looking at the link, it seems to be (as strong field physicist notes) a QED experiment. I liked Uranium + Uranium for strong field QED better.

    What I’m hearing is a`absence’ of an LHC Higgs might be interpreted as a suppression of the rate of Higgs ->gamma gamma via loops from new physics that destructively interfere with SM or SM+SUSY loops. Anyone got info on that?

  21. Doug says:

    I think the negative consequences of the thoughtless hyping of speculative physics are quite right here in this thread. The commenters anonymous in the first post, mesasola, and AI. People who are not informed enough to know what is actually going on and just get their info from sound bytes and press releases (although one would hope that people coming to a blog like this would know better) and make erroneous comments like “Progress which when it comes to fundamental physics has stalled for decades.” AI is right about one thing though: if the public feels like they’ve been misled by the physics community they will not decide to fund future important projects on the level of the LHC or ELI (and many smaller projects that will be shut out of the smaller monetary pool).

    I do think it is perhaps a problem of irresponsible journalism: I would wager that whoever made the “tear a hole in spacetime” comment was being purposely hyperbolic, and that any speculations are couched in realistic views about what can be achieved (unless the interviewee was Kaku or Greene). The journalist probably just decided to only include the “sexy” bits because that’s what sells papers.

    Which goes to illustrate: unless you know the periodical publishing your interview is scientifically reputable, you should treat them as a tabloid and give them the bare minimum of speculation to work with.

  22. Doug says:

    *quite apparent

  23. MP says:

    Actually AI is right. Scientists *are* failing us. The amount of money sunk in theoretical models that are basically a bunch of BS are hurting the community and it’s creditability. The LHC certainly is a dud in that respect. Never mind it is doing fantastic work. It isn’t working as advertised. No SUSY, no extra dimensions, no Higgs, no no no. Just confirmation of what we already knew. Woit and Smolin are dead on. The string mafia is keeping valuable money out of alternative research. The amount of money sunk into to that BS in incredible and there are no signs of letting up. Variety is the spice of life; there *needs* to be more research done in something else than string.

  24. Peter Woit says:

    SpearMarktheSecond,

    I don’t know anything about the particular scenario you mention, but if the Higgs is really not there, part of the way it will play out is with theorists coming up with a sequence of models, more and more complicated, trying to evade the no-Higgs conclusion. Lowest masses around 120 GeV will be the last to be ruled out, mainly by the H->gamma gamma data, so evading that SM prediction will be the first order of business….

  25. Peter Woit says:

    MP,

    I don’t think there’s a lot of money (on the scale on which HEP is financed) being sunk into string theory, extra dimensional models, the multiverse, etc. these days. There is a huge attention given to them in the press though, and that’s going to cost a lot to the credibility of theorists. The LHC has cost and is spending a lot of money, which is money well spent: the only way to find out if there is a Higgs or not and to make progress is to look for it with something like the LHC. I think it was a mistake for people to try and justify the LHC with extra dimensional models, but already people are stopping doing that, as the models fail. Hopefully that mistake won’t have long-term consequences.

  26. anonomous says:

    AI is dead on – the consequences (from a public perspective) of the LHC are damaging. Many exotic objects were promised – we all know good science comes from ruling out models but not getting positive evidence on any model is bad news from a funding perspective. In other words, we believe in science but the era of big budget science funding is likely go the way of Apollo and Orion missions of NASA. Once this happens it will take quite a while to get some public trust back. Our criticism of ELI is not based on the science (which would be very interesting) but on the hype that is surrounding it to try and get it funded.

  27. Christian Takacs says:

    Peter,
    String Theory and a great deal of physics hype and speculation for the last fifty years may quite possibly be ruled out by the LHC quite soon. Before more money is spent on the next shiny new toy, should not the physics community do some house cleaning? I am curious at this point how far back the wayback machine is going to have to be set to put physics on level footing with testible reality again…back to QCD? earlier perhaps? It would be wise in the name of enlightened self interest for the high energy physics folk to reacquaint themselves with the formula HYPE = BULLSHIT = BAD FOR FUNDING.

  28. Eye says:

    AI and MP are happily using the web (which was given for free to the world as a result of developments that ocurred at CERN) to show us their ignorance. Shame on you. Those who say the LHC is failing us don’t seem to understand very basic things. One is that doing science is not a Hollywood movie, full of easy discoveries every two months. It is a painful endeavour. What the LHC guys are doing is extremely difficult and they are doing a superb job of it. What comes out of the LHC is whatever nature hides there for us to find and the LHC finds will remain forever in the history of science as a treasure for all humankind, long after nobody remembers who Obama was.

  29. Jeff says:

    Eye

    I’m not going to comment on the lhc, as a mathematician I have the luxury of not worrying about heavy duty funding. The notion that the web came frome CERN however is just silly, HTML came from CERN, but HTML is just an Implementation of hypertext, an idea which goes way back (the first Mac came with a program “HyperCard” which had clickable links and allowed you to build your own decks). The nuts and bolts of the web go back well before that. It is certainly true that the web came from public funding though.

  30. MP says:

    EYE,

    You are misunderstanding me. The LHC is doing great and fantastic work and will be for the foreseeable future. The folks who work there are advancing science the way science should be advanced.

    The failing part is selling machines to the public that don’t produce the predicted speculative models. The public quickly starts thinking that the science community are a bunch of clowns that simply make (complicated) stuff up.

    If the LHC was sold as a “advance science” machine then it would be exceeding expectations. Speculative science is great and needs to be part of the eco-system but it is called speculative for a reason.

    Again, LHC = good, selling lies to the public who pay for it = bad. I have nothing but admiration for the hard working folks at the LHC and I sure hope that speculative science community didn’t blow it for these types of experiments.

  31. Eye says:

    Sure, the web didn’t come out of the blue and any given breakthrough, in technology, science or otherwise is stepped on the work of others. The crucial step forward for the web was taken at CERN as everybody knows.

    Then, describing the output of LHC so far as “Just confirmation of what we already knew” is plain wrong. One example among many: so, you knew already the SM Higgs didn’t weight 160 GeV? Hey, you should’ve told everybody!

    You are being mislead by the likes of Woit or Dorigo who can’t wait to bury Supersymmetry even if the surface of those theories has been barely scratched. Searching for new physics is a tough business and the attitude of some bloggers that should know better is just shameful.

  32. Peter Woit says:

    Eye,

    “the surface of those theories has been barely scratched”

    I understand the tactic of doubling-down on the hype when faced with failure, but don’t think it’s ultimately going to work out for the people trying it…

  33. Eye says:

    Peter, there is no tactic and there is no hype, at least in what I’m writing. I can understand that some people dislike some particular theory, for whatever the reason. But they should at least share with the rest some standards on what it means to check a theory against experiment in a serious way. You are not helping science when you say SUSY is dead, because nobody can help science by propagating falsehoods. I actually sympathize with your criticisms of those claiming string theory will be tested at the LHC (not with your conclusion that string theory is a failure) but you should be more careful when criticizing the hard work of many people (theorists and experimentalists) who are trying to test the best motivated models beyond the Standard Model, simply because you happen to dislike those proposals. That’s not very serious and in my opinion is bad service to the popularization of the scientific endeavour.

  34. jpd says:

    and roger ebert must hate movies because he criticizes so many

  35. MP says:

    For now Woit and Dorigo are more right than string, SUSY, multiverse etc speculators. 30 years in and not a single shred of evidence or testability. Serious science can only be advanced when grounded in reality and experiments.

  36. Eye says:

    MP, to be “right for now” is very cheap. What do you guys propose as a meaningful search goal to the LHC experimentalists? Do you have any theoretical insight about what to expect for physics beyond the Standard Model? If not, maybe it would be smarter to shut up and let people do their job.

    What does your 30 years time span mean? The greek were right about the atomic structure of matter and experimental confirmation had to wait for centuries. Who told you the pace of scientific discovery is fixed?

    Why don’t you stop whining and advance some positive idea?

  37. Peter Woit says:

    Eye,

    The claim that for SUSY, “the surface of those theories has been barely scratched” is just hype. This has nothing to do with whether I ‘like” SUSY models or not. You know very well that the main motivation given for low-energy SUSY, stabilization of the weak-scale, implies a SUSY-breaking scale low enough that it was hard to understand why SUSY effects were not being seen pre-LHC, and even more difficult now. The LEP + Tevatron + flavor physics + LHC results are not “a scratch on the surface” in any honest description of the current situation, they’re a huge problem for the whole idea.

    Besides the Higgs work, it IS hard to come up with well-motivated suggestions for what LHC searches should be looking for. I trust the experimentalists to have pretty good judgment about what the LHC + their detectors can do, and to work hard at viable analysis targets. Theorists of course have an important role to play, but I don’t think they’re doing anything helpful if they engage in hype, dramatically over-estimating the chances of extra dimensions, black holes, or superpartners being found.

    As far as what the most useful thing physicists can do in terms of presenting the situation to the public, I think stopping the “LHC is looking for really cool stuff like extra dimensions, or super-this and super-that” hype would be a good idea, instead getting to work on explaining that ruling out a SM Higgs would not be a failure, but the most exciting thing to happen in high energy physics in more than 30 years.

  38. Eye says:

    Peter,
    what’s the LHC limit for neutralinos or for stops? We can discuss about how dead SUSY is after you tell me this.

    “Besides the Higgs work, it IS hard to come up with well-motivated suggestions for what LHC searches should be looking for.”

    They need to know what to trigger on, don’t they?

    There is a similarity between overselling ideas, which I dislike as much as you and
    overselling how bad the situation is, which you are very good at.

  39. Peter Woit says:

    Eye,

    “They need to know what to trigger on, don’t they”

    Exactly. If a load of hype is being used to convince them to trigger on obscure SUSY signatures and dump everything else, that’s a problem that deserves pointing out.

    Sure, one can reasonably point out that ruling out gluinos and two-thirds of the squarks up to around 1 TeV still allows an stop at a mass worth looking for. However, describing this situation as “barely scratching the surface” is just absurd.

  40. Eric says:

    Peter,

    It is not true that gluinos and two-thirds of squarks haven been ruled out up to 1 TeV. This is only true for certain benchmark points in the mSUGRA parameter space which feature large missing transverse energy signals. The reason these points were chosen as benchmarks is that they have well-defined signals that are easy to see. The majority of the SUSY parameter space is not the same as these benchmark points, and for these points in the parameter space it is much more difficult to identify a signal. So, the true statement is that most of the supersymmetry parameter space has not been tested yet. You should really please stop attempting to mislead your readers, although I am aware that you and Dorigo have been making a planned and concerted effort to do so.

  41. Peter Woit says:

    Eric,

    The claim that the only thing ruled out is specially chosen benchmark points is just not true. See for example

    http://www.slac.stanford.edu/th/lectures/RIZZO/CERN-Scans_8-31-11.pdf

    which reports that more than 90% of 2 million randomly chosen points in parameter space have now been ruled out.

  42. Bernhard says:

    Eric,

    The majority of the SUSY parameter space is a really large thing, so sure, the LHC will have a hard time scanning it. But what Peter is saying is that for the part that was sold in the pre-LHC era as likely to show up and natural, this has been killed. One has to admit this is not a strach in the surface, this is a serious wound. That´s why you hear depressing comments from SUSY enthusiasts like John Ellis. Of course, for the die-hards (like you) the limits will have to be much stronger and that´s fine. But the limits Peter is quoting, however particular are a serious injury the idea of SUSY. It might still be correct but it got unquestionably less popular and less compared to pre-LHC era. If you have been in particle physics congresses (at least here in Europe) in the last months like I did, you for sure heard that from people who worked and were cheering for SUSY their whole carrier lifes.

  43. Eric says:

    Bernhard,

    Sure, what was advertised in the pre-LHC era was the most optimistic possibility based on the simplest assumptions, namely universal soft supersymmetry breaking soft terms as in mSUGRA/CMSSM. Now, it may be true the this simplest possibility has been nearly ruled out, the majority of the supersymmetry parameter space has not. Obviously, the simplest version of supersymmetry with the cleanest and most identifiable signals were used to sell the idea of supersymmetry to those making decisions on funding etc.. However, just because this simplest and most highly optimistic possibility may not be correct does not invalidate or lessen the motivation for expecting superpartners to show up at the LHC. It simply means that it will be much more difficult to find them since the signals are not as clean. It may take some time to establish discovery, however in the next year we should expect at least a three-sigma Higgs signal in the region favored by the MSSM, and there should be anomalies such as trilepton events (which have already been seen) which are predicted by generic SUSY models.

    @Peter: You should have a look at the comment section of the Resonaances blog.

  44. Eye says:

    Peter,
    “If a load of hype is being used to convince them to trigger on obscure SUSY signatures and dump everything else, that’s a problem that deserves pointing out.”
    It doesn’t need to be pointed out: everyone involved in the searches knows the importance of this issue. Now, it’s very cheap to call the best motivated BSM theory that has been proposed obscure or overhyped. By pointing this out without offering alternative BSM signatures or theories you’re just being a pain in the ass.
    So, experimentalists are eager to know what other alternatives they could be looking for. Please contribute to this if you have anything worth saying. Otherwise let more competent people do their jobs.

  45. Jim Rohlf says:

    The LHC triggers are dominated by electroweak interactions in order to look beyond the 100 mb strong-interaction garbage pail. These triggers are first-principle simple: single muon, single electron, single tau, MET, single photon, and then combinations of dileptons, diphotons, and then leptons plus jets, etc. The only reason to make combination triggers is to lower the thresholds, but these are still very generic. The LHC is pretty much a lepton and photon game. The exception is inclusive jet which was foreseen to be explored very early, indeed the jet spectra are very well measured out to a few TeV. The inclusive electroweak net catches W, Z, top, onia, rare B decays, etc. So there really is no “SUSY”, “higgs”, “black hole”, “put your favorite theory here” trigger as these things are (very importantly) caught by generic triggers. All it costs us to make limits on SUSY, etc. is analysis manpower.

  46. Jim Rohlf says:

    BTW a nice what I would call “even handed” talk was given by Joe Lykken at the US LHC users organization on Friday, Nov. 4 on the status of SUSY at the LHC. It is available here:
    https://twindico.hep.anl.gov/indico/getFile.py/access?contribId=46&resId=0&materialId=slides&confId=641
    An interesting political issue is whether limit setting will be outsourced to theorists. It is currently being discussed by the experiments.
    I have only ever heard 2 really motivational talks for SUSY: one by Steve Weinberg in the early 1980s and another by Ed Witten 7 years ago. They were enough to make a person believe that there might be something to it.
    I personally think LEP took a very big byte out of SUSY. People are quick to forget this.

  47. emile says:

    For the non-specialists reading this blog:

    The main motivation for the LHC (and the SSC) and the main selling point was that it was going to find something: either the Higgs, or if there is no Higgs, the new physics that prevents WW scattering from violating unitarity. A second motivation is that we could understand the new physics that solves the naturalness problem: if there is a Higgs, then we would like to know what allows the the Higgs mass to stay at the electroweak scale. If there is no Higgs, then we are back to the first motivation above. Some potential solutions to the naturalness problem have received a lot of publicity and some will have been over-hyped. One possible answer is that our world is fined-tuned (to some unknown amount) or maybe we just don’t understand the naturalness problem (theoretical physics has bigger problems with the smallness of the cosmological constant). Bottomline is that the LHC was sold to find the Higgs or the physics that replaces it. It will do that. It was not built or funded to find extra dimensions.

    P.S. to Rolf above: you forgot the incl. etmiss trigger

  48. SpearMarktheSecond says:

    Rizzo has posted a pretty good Higgs summary… don’t know where he spoke…
    http://www.slac.stanford.edu/th/lectures/RIZZO/BSM_Higgs.pdf

    Hilarious that Lykken characterizes the need for good SUSY searches as a `fiduciary responsibility to the taxpayer’. Odd language, perhaps all the money spent on theorists salaries is the taxpayer investment, and if there is no Higgs, no SUSY, at the LHC, that would be the financial loss like a Greek bond.

    But among experimentalists, merely getting good luminosity at the high energy frontier has always been the point. Mel Schwartz was always the most direct about that, and he was right. Promising great discoveries is and was hype, but getting the machine and experiments built always has great value: without experiments, we would never advance.

    Jim, you’ve heard 2 more inspirational SUSY talks than I ever have. I lost it at the complexities introduced to suppress flavor changing.

    Why not outsource limit setting to theorists? If SUSY is present and important, it should not be so subtle to discover. I doubt, however, that theorists and phenomenologists will ever be convinced by mere experimentalists, so let them dig through the data (after the straightforward analyses have been done) and convince themselves.

  49. Peter Woit says:

    Jim Rohlf,

    Thanks for the reassuring comments about triggers…

    I think the Witten talk Jim was referring to might have been something like this one:

    http://conferences.fnal.gov/lp2003/program/papers/witten.pdf

    while Witten is quite fond of SUSY, he’s careful there to explain the problems.

  50. Jim Rohlf says:

    I don’t think Lykken meant that we have a fiduciary responsibility to make a discovery but rather that we have such responsibility to extract as much as we can quantitatively about SUSY and other limits. I hate setting limits. Nobody will ever care that we did not see something and the only worthwhile thing about not seeing something is to help tell us where to look next. I agree there is absolutely no possibility that a theorist could discover SUSY because the signatures are not subtle.

    I agree totally with your comment about Mel Schwartz. We used to joke that our friends Jack and Leon may never get the prize because then they would have to give it to Mel too, which was thought to be politically incorrect because he left the field, unlike the other 2 who made sustained, important, high-visibility contributions throughout their careers. They had to wait a long time, from 1962 to 1988, considering the central importance of the result (2 neutrinos). It was a great prize. Whenever I teach particle physics, I always spend a whole class going over the 1960 paper of Schwartz on how to make a neutrino beam with enough intensity to study the weak interaction. The actual beam made in 1962 was very much according to the vision of Schwartz. Of course, Bruno Pontecorvo also had the idea but was not in a position to do the experiment. It is absolutely amazing that from conception to construction to discovery took only 2 years. This was as far as I can tell in a large part due to the drive of Schwartz.

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