Supersymmetry and Beyond

Back in the year 2000, Gordon Kane published Supersymmetry: Unveiling the Ultimate Laws of Nature, a popular book promoting supersymmetry and string theory. The thrust of the book was that there was already indirect evidence for SUSY, with confirmation by discovery of superpartners due to come soon from LEP (which was running at energies near 100 GeV/beam) and the Tevatron (where Run II at high luminosity and nearly 1 TeV/beam was to start in 2001). The LHC was also discussed, mainly as the place that would confirm and extend the LEP/Tevatron superpartner discoveries.

Thirteen years later, with no hint of SUSY showing up as promised, not only at LEP/Tevatron energies, but also at the much higher energies and luminosities of the 8 TeV LHC, Kane has a new popular book promoting supersymmetry and string theory, entitled Supersymmetry and Beyond. It includes his claim to have predicted the Higgs mass using string theory (see Matt Strassler’s take on this here, mine here). Much of the book though consists of exactly the same text as the 2000 version.

How does Kane handle the detailed failed predictions of the 2000 edition in the new 2013 version? Basically by editing them out, with no indication to the reader that this has been done.  What’s the right word to describe the result of an Orwellian exercise like this? You can make up your mind about that yourself, since I’ve gathered together here some examples of the book text, showing the edits that were done to create the new version.

Pages xvii/xviii

Supersymmetry is still an idea as this book is being written (mid-1999) in late 2012. There is considerable indirect evidence that it is a property of the laws of nature, but the confirming direct evidence is not yet in place. That is not an argument against nature being supersymmetric; rather, the accelerator collider facilitiesy that could confirm it (the LHC) are  is just beginning to cover the region where the signals could appear (Chapter 5)[about LEP and Fermilab].

Pages 2-3/3

If we understand supersymmetry and its implications correctly, direct experimental evidence for supersymmetry will be found in the next few years – possibly soon after this book is published (or, with great luck, even before).

Pages 13/16

Only now are colliders and detectors at laboratories are now achieving the energies and luminosities (amounts of data) and sensitivities needed to explicitly detect the superpartners explicitly, at least if our thinking about their properties is more or less right.

Pages 70-71/77-79

The manner in which supersymmetry explains the Higgs physics is elegant and has important consequences for how we expect to test supersymmetry experimentally. It is rather technical. A more detailed description is given in Appendix B; here I will give a short version. There are three parts…

Therefore, the supersymmetric Standard Model explanation of the Higgs mechanism would not make sense unless the some superpartner masses were not much larger than the Standard Model masses they explain. That gives us an estimate of the masses we should expect the superpartners to have as we search for them, and it tells us at what stage we should question the validity of the theory if the superpartners have not been detected. Such estimates are only approximate, but luckily the expected masses are small enough that they imply the superpartners should be detected soon.

Appendix B was deleted entirely, it contained the text (page 156)

Therefore, the superpartner masses cannot be very much larger than the Z boson mass if this whole approach is valid. This is the only place where we can use the theory to relate the unknown superpartner masses to known masses, so on the one hand, it is a major test of the correctness of the supersymmetry explanation of the Higgs physics, and on the other, it is the most significant reason whey we expect the masses of the superpartners to have values that allow them to be produced at Fermilab or even LEP. This connection also suggests that if the superpartner masses are much larger than the Z boson mass, then the apparent success of the supersymmetry theory in explaining the origin of the Higgs physics of the Standard Model could be an accident.

Pages 88-89/89

Several arguments imply that some sparticles are within the reach of Fermilab the LHC. The strongest One of the most appealing is based on the explanation supersymmetry gives for the Higgs mechanism of the Standard Model, as described in the last chapter Chapter 7. Basically the qualitative argument is that because since supersymmetry provides the Higgs mechanism that accounts for the masses of W and Z, the some sparticle masses cannot be much heavier than the W and Z masses themselves. Fermilab has already produced and detected thousands of W’s and Z’s. When this argument is framed put in a technical form, it implies that gluinos and probably charginos and neutralinos and stops should be in the Fermilab within the LHC reach. If they are not, the impressive successes of supersymmetry listed at the beginning of Chapter 4 may be meaningless coincidences. There are some arguments, both theoretical and phenomenological, suggesting that squarks and sleptons will be too massive to produce at the LHC.

Chapter 8, on SUSY implications for matter/anti-matter asymmetry, proton decay, rare decays like mu to e-gamma, and CP violation has been deleted. Appendix D, on large extra dimensions, has also been completely deleted.

Witten’s preface has been edited:

Experimental clues suggest that the energy required to produce the new particles is not much higher than that of present accelerators. If supersymmetry plays the role in physics that we suspect it does, then it is very likely to be discovered by the next generation of particle accelerators, either at Fermilab in Batavia, Illinois, or Large Hadron Collider (LHC) or its upgrades, at CERN in Geneva, Switzerland.

This entry was posted in Book Reviews. Bookmark the permalink.

51 Responses to Supersymmetry and Beyond

  1. In SUSY we trust says:

    We admire the consistency and the persistency of theorists who always predict that SUSY will show up at the next collider.

  2. johnnythelowery says:

    Shameless is Kane. Kane is shameless. Kane is therefore Supersymmetric!
    Good work and thanks for your Eagle eyedness.

  3. eric blare says:

    What’s the right word to describe the result of an Orwellian exercise like this? The word is ‘crimethink’. Email Gordy Kane a pdf or scanned copy of the above, with a prefatory comment that this is doubleplus ungood.

  4. jinb says:

    While there’s no arguing against Kane’s blind faith in supersymmetry, it’s no more an argument against the appeal of the theory as a possible well-motivated mechanism in nature than to quote the rantings of an extremist muslim as an argument against religion being a bad idea in general.

  5. Colin Rosenthal says:

    He needs to future-proof his sentences – “Surely the workers will shake off their chains and rise to overthrow their masters within the next decade.”. You don’t even need to change that one for the second edition.

  6. theoreticalminimum says:

    Reminds me of Jonah Lehrer’s copy-pasting/editing. Shame on Gordon Kane! Shame on the publishers!

  7. Bob says:

    The Amazon website has glowing reviews from Brian Greene and David Gross. Shame on them also!

  8. Peter Woit says:


    There might be evidence of a more general problem if the “extremist muslim” was being supported by the most highly respected other religious leaders, and leading interfaith organizations were awarding him prizes for his public pronouncements, as in

  9. chris says:

    “the supersymmetric Standard Model explanation of the Higgs mechanism would not make sense unless the some superpartner masses were not much larger than the Standard Model masses they explain.”


  10. Peter Woit says:


    My personal favorite among the edits is

    it tells us at what stage we should question the validity of the theory if the superpartners have not been detected.

  11. El-Coco says:

    This is such a disgusting fraud on the public that Kane should be thrown out of his university. This is as bad, in its own way, as faking data for a paper.

  12. Shitake says:

    Peter: are there some parts of the book that are actually new? What percentage, roughly?

    What is most shocking to me is the edited blurb from Witten. Unless he had explicit permission from Witten for this, that is highly dishonest and unworthy of any scientist.

  13. Peter Woit says:


    I’d say that maybe 1/4 of the book is new, mostly updated material about the Higgs and its discovery, some sections of the old book much more heavily edited than just replacing “Tevatron” by “LHC”.

    Besides the edit I showed, a couple other sentences in the Witten preface have also been changed, (basically changing example of recent experimental progress from the discovery of neutrino masses to the discovery of the Higgs). The preface carries a revised date, and I don’t see any reason to believe it was changed and reused without Witten’s permission.

  14. Shantanu says:

    Peter, great review.
    just out of curiosity, does he mention evidence of neutrino mass as evidence for supersymmetry in his 2000 edition?

  15. old v new says:

    Send copies of the excerpts ‘old and new’ to Kane, Witten, Gross, Greene and ask for their reactions.

  16. Bill says:

    I don’t see what the problem is with all these minor updates (e.g. accelerator to collider)? I couldn’t find one change that would qualify as an admission of mistake, it sounds more like bringing the book up to date…

  17. Peter Woit says:


    The fact that there is nothing at all in the new book that qualifies as an admission of mistake is precisely the problem (yes, I’ve shown the complete set of changes in these passages, some of the changes are minor). If you’re a scientist and you write a book claiming to have a wonderful theory, that it makes specific predictions that are about about to be tested at LEP and Fermilab, and that your arguments are wrong if LEP and Fermilab don’t see what you predict, what should you do after LEP, Fermilab, and the LHC at 4 times the energy don’t see what you predicted? If you’re going to “update” your book, don’t you think you need to admit that your predictions turned out to be wrong? Instead, Kane has just deleted the predictions and the text saying that his arguments were wrong if the predictions were falsified, replacing them with new predictions about future observations at the LHC and future accelerators. Do you see a problem with doing this?

  18. Peter Woit says:


    About neutrino masses and SUSY, both editions just say:

    “Here supersymmetry is helpful in formulating ideas, but it has not played an essential role so far.”

    In the new edition he adds the claim

    “If the underlying theory is supersymmetric, the needed extension of the Standard Model to include neutrino masses can be reliably done.”

  19. Bill says:


    Okay, I agree that he should have been more honest and admitted that his was too optimistic. But is it not possible that string theory will turn out to be correct in the end, maybe, after making necessary modifications?

  20. Peter Woit says:


    I suppose that in principle it’s possible that the product Kane is selling will some day turn out to have some value. But while he’s selling the 2013 version, he owes it to his customers to inform them that almost the exact same thing in its 2000 version was defective and blew up in his face.

  21. Bill says:


  22. new book says:

    What justification does Kane offer for putting out a new book? Does he refer to his old book, or say why he did not publish a revised of his earlier book? In the latter case, it would be reasonable that most of the text would be the same, with some passages revised.

  23. Peter Woit says:

    new book,

    Oddly, there’s nothing at all anywhere in the text of the book to indicate that it’s a revised version of an older book. On the cover, there’s a new title, but also the words “Revised Edition”, and the Library of Congress cataloging info on the copyright page describes the book as a revision of the 2000 version. Other than that though, I couldn’t find any reference to the earlier version.

  24. Bill says:

    Peter, can you, please, explain in one paragraph to a non-expert what the experiments at CERN say about Standard Model, supersymmetry and string theory? What did the discovery of Higgs boson mean in this context and what do people expect to learn in the next few years? Maybe, you can point me to some relevant posts about this. How can the entire physics community be so wrong and dishonest? Am I wrong at interpreting your blog? Maybe, I should read your book, but some brief overview would be helpful.

  25. Peter Woit says:

    Sorry, this is getting off-topic. A one-sentence answer though is that at the LHC the SM is confirmed, no evidence of SUSY, and string theory predicts nothing, results that most of the physics community (the wrong ones are a minority, the dishonest ones a small minority) expected.

  26. Eric says:

    Dear Peter,

    I think that you are perhaps the most dishonest, by some margin. The fact is that the expectations for superpartner masses is closely tied to the Higgs mass, which was not known a decade ago. As the Higg mass turned out be somewhat larger than expected, although still below the MSSM bound, correspondingly the expected masses of the superpartners is larger. In particular, to obtain a 125 GeV Higgs essentially requres large radiative corrections from the stop quark. This implies that the stop quark and other scalars may be heavy, unfortunately possibly too heavy to be observed at the LHC. In addition, in the past decade or so, it has been realized that it is possible to have heavy scalars while still maintaining low-fine tuning, e.g. focus point supersymmetry. I see absolutely nothing wrong with Kane providing an update on the situation, which I must say is much more honest than your blatant attempt at negative propaganda.

  27. Mike says:


    “As the Higg mass turned out be somewhat larger than expected, although still below the MSSM bound, correspondingly the expected masses of the superpartners is larger. In particular, to obtain a 125 GeV Higgs essentially requres large radiative corrections from the stop quark. This implies that the stop quark and other scalars may be heavy, unfortunately possibly too heavy to be observed at the LHC. In addition, in the past decade or so, it has been realized that it is possible to have heavy scalars while still maintaining low-fine tuning, e.g. focus point supersymmetry.”

    Assuming what you say is correct, wouldn’t a more honest approach by Kane have been to at least mention his previous “predictions” and then use the foregoing as an explanation for why they fell short?

  28. CLAUDIE says:

    As a scientific observer – I truly cannot understand why there is such a disparity of opinion within the scientific community, regarding the topic of SUSY. There seem to be two conflicting camps – those whom see Supersymmetry as the light at the end of the otherwise boringly linear tunnel … and those whom regard those believers in Supersymmetry to be somewhat deluded. From what I have read no one knows or will know the true nature of the universe for some time (i.e. multiple lifetimes away!) so why be so dismissive. Surely to progress we must take a broader and more all encompassing approach. It’s hardly a bunch of crackpots that believe in SUSY – it is in fact some of the greatest minds of out time. Nature is phenomenally complex after all…

  29. Peter Woit says:

    Eric and Claudie,

    Arguments over the virtues or lack thereof of SUSY extensions of the SM have been going on for decades and will go on for more decades, with experiment for now (and I think for ever…) weighing in on the negative side. But that’s not what this posting is about. It is about Kane’s new book, and, more specifically, his choice to “update” the old one by just deleting every argument in it that experiment has shown to be wrong, without any acknowledgement that that is what he has done. I’ve documented accurately that in the posting, up to people to decide for themselves what they make of this.

    To editorialize, I think Mike is quite right to point out that Kane owes his readers some explanations.

  30. DB says:

    Don’t forget that SUSY was a useful argument to help justify the various colliders mentioned above, even if it was never the primary reason for building any of them. This is why physicists tolerated the nonsense hawked by the likes of Kane and Greene for so long. Now it’s clear that there is virtually no prospect of the LHC ever seeing it, and very little prospect of a successor machine being built in our lifetimes. Therefore SUSY usefullness has expired and it’s now an embarrassment. For this reason, it’s increasingly career-toxic for young physicists to be seen to be associated with it.
    The old men will cling to it, as without it string theory dies, and with it their hopes of immortal fame.

  31. MathPhys says:

    One of the reasons young people do science is the scientific ideal, wherein a scientist is perceived as honest, fair, and precise. Reading Mr Kane, one realizes that a scientist can also be a less-than-forthcoming salesman.

  32. M. Wang says:

    Over at, there is a columnist called Gordon Chang, who has predicted the total collapse of Chinese economy by year-end every year for the past two decades. He remains very popular at Forbes and has a sizable following. So, it would seem that some particle physicists has joined with stock market analysts in the rank of pseudo-sciences.

  33. kanefriend says:

    I’ve been a friend of Gordy Kane for many years, but this is going too far. It is technically not plagiarism, since the copyright says it’s a revised version of the 2000 book. But it is scientifically unethical to erase, Soviet style, false predictions from the past as if they never existed. At the moment, there are no Amazon reviews. I hope someone (not me, since I’m not sure how anonymous they are) will write one pointing this out (with a link to this blog).

  34. Narad says:

    What justification does Kane offer for putting out a new book? Does he refer to his old book, or say why he did not publish a revised of his earlier book?

    Having made the acquaintance of a few acquisitions editors in my days, I wouldn’t discount the possibility of the publisher’s hoping to wring a few more dollars out of an old property.

  35. Peter Woit says:


    Checking Amazon, someone seems to have taken up your suggestion.

  36. johnmcAllison says:

    Good work, the public needs to be informed.

    I guess it’s another example of physicists falling in love with the beauty of their theory, only to be slapped across the face by reality.

  37. Peter Woit says:

    new book, Narad,

    I should make it clear that I see nothing wrong with putting out a revised version of a book like this, updated to include what has been learned over the course of the last 13 years. It is a little odd though not to mention in the preface that the book is a revised version and to explain a bit about the nature of the revision.

    What is problematic is just the sort of editing going on in the passages I included in the posting, for reasons explained earlier.

    One reason for this comment is that there seems to have been some misunderstanding about the point of this posting, see here:

  38. Maciej says:

    Quite ironically – individuals like Kane, while popularizing ST and writing a lot about it, are at the same time responsible for making other scientist literally laugh at ST claims.

    I remember once at AEI there was a seminar about ST phenomenology given by B. Ovrut (who was all the time defending the point that ST makes predictions). At some point somebody asked “…yeah but Kane claims that he can predict 125GeV exactly!” to which Ovrut replied “It’s amazing, isn’t it?” – and then everybody laughed.

    I think this example makes it clear that even for devoted string-theorists, claims by Kane are simply embarrassing.

  39. Pingback: Jean Perrin i atomy, 1913 | Nie od razu naukę zbudowano

  40. It’ll be funny if it wasn’t so pathetic.

    I see that some commenters suggested that there should be consequences for such blatantly unethical conduct. If somebody was to fake data for a publication there’d be a process to follow to get some traction.

    Apparently when it comes to books for the great unwashed masses all is fair game?

  41. book says:

    Books come under the First Amendment. Publishing fake data is fraud. But writing a book, even a nonfiction one, and making idiotic or unsubstantiated or unjustifiable claims is different. As long as there is no libel or fraud or trade/patent/copyright violation or intellectual property theft, Kane can publish what he likes. If large numbers of people pan the book, well, Kane can cry all the way to the bank.

  42. M says:

    Eric, you are confusing two different arguments.
    The naturalness argument (that correctly lead Kane et others to claim years ago that SUSY should be discovered at Tevatron) is only weakly affected by the measurement of the Higgs mass.
    Next, this measurement offers a new, different, argument to guess the SUSY scale.

    So, in order to avoid Orwellian doublethink, one should honestly say that the previous expectation has not been confirmed by Tevatron, nor by LHC.

  43. Eric says:


    The naturalness argument is actually greatly affected by the measurement of the Higgs mass such that it leads to a new problem known as the little hierarchy problem. In point of fact, the mass of the putative superpartners in the MSSM is directly related to the mass of the Higgs via REWSB. If the Higgs mass had been below 120 GeV as expected for the last decade, one would have expected the superpartners to have shown up by now on the grounds of naturalness and all of Peter’s arguments would have been correct. However, to get a Higgs mass as large as 125 GeV requires large radiative corrections and/or large left-right mixing from the top/stop sector. This generically means heavy squarks leading to the problem of introducing some fine-tuning. However, in cases such as focus-point supersymmetry, the squarks and sleptons can all have multi-TeV masses while fine-tuning remains low. So, it is quite possible that supersymmetry solves the hierarchy problem naturally while having squarks and sleptons which are too heavy to be observed at the LHC. Thus, not finding superpartners at the LHC does not make the existence of supersymmetry less likely or imply that supersymmetry has ‘failed’.

  44. paddy says:

    Do you have any idea how much your rationale sounds like sophistry (if not cavilling) to us practicing non-hep physicists out here?

  45. Eric says:


    It is not my fault that persons such as yourself do not possess the technical knowledge to understand the real issues involved in this topic. If you were able to actually follow the physics and do the real calculations on your own, you would realize that what I am saying is completely accurate, while most of what you learn from PW is pure BS.

  46. paddy says:

    Quite in character…the ad hominem attack. ..enough said.
    (The so obviously ignorant) Paddy
    PW: sorry about that distraction..I should have known better.

  47. chris says:


    in all humbleness, i can follow and my BS detector is on red when i hear your arguments.

    basically you are saying: well, there is this problem A (Higgs mass at the verge of excluding low energy SUSY all by it self), which we could not have forseen a decade ago. because of it, problem B (we see no superpartners) in not a problem at all.

    the unnaturally high higgs mass naturally pushes the squarks unnaturally high. naturally this fulfills naturallnes, no?

    take a deep breath, one mont off and look at it again. seriously.

  48. Yatima says:

    “If the Higgs mass had been below 120 GeV as expected for the last decade”

    It is sad that one cannot post a reaction image. I somehow remember that “most” of the expectations were for m_H ≫ 120 GeV/c², what with the vacuum becoming unstable and all that.

    Google-fu reveals:

    “Higgs-mass predictions” by Thomas Schücker

    …in which we learn that there are 96 predictions, of which only 20 are below 126 GeV/c². One would of course need weight this with the “number of adherents”….

    Anyway, let’s have a quotation:

    Our list contains 96 Higgs-mass predictions. Supersymmetry is behind 26 of them with central values between 120 and 255 GeV. Compactified additional dimensions motivate ten predictions ranging from 117 to 450 GeV. There are three superstring inspired predictions: 117, 121 and 154.4 GeV. The embedding of the electro-weak Lie algebra su(2) ⊕ u(1) in the superalgebra su(2|1) produces four predictions: 130, 161, 250 and 426 GeV. Five predictions, between 124 and 317 GeV use the Coleman-Weinberg potential. One prediction, m_H = 125 GeV uses dynamical symmetry breaking with the Higgs being a deeply bound state of two top quarks. At the same time this model predicted two years prior to the discovery to the top its mass to be m_t = 175. Another prediction for the Higgs mass motivated by dynamical symmetry breaking via a neutrino condensate is at 178 GeV. We have listed four predictions from Connes’s noncommutative geometry: 170, 203, 241 and 271 GeV. Lattice gauge theories lead to two predictions: 515 and 760 GeV. Eight predictions are based on the (approximate) vanishing of particular terms related to quantum corrections: 154, 155, 200, 210, 309, 374 and 536 GeV. We have two lower bounds for the Higgs mass and 37 upper bounds, 26 of which come from supersymmetry. Five predictions, one upper and one lower bound come from the recent idea that inflation is driven by the Higgs scalar together with a strong non-minimal coupling to gravity. The Higgs mass is obtained from fitting the observed spectral index and tensor-to-scalar ratio of the Cosmic Microwave Background.

  49. Yrast says:

    This is a very disingenuous review, and amounts to nothing but a personal attack on a first rate scientist…. The cover of the book clearly indicates that it is a REVISED EDITION. I don’t see anything wrong with Kane’s approach, which is common in popular scientific literature. The subject of the book is high-energy physics, not celestial mechanics. There are more wild ideas in his field than all the pages in the book…. Do you really expect authors of these bold theories to publicly declare their errors on every minute matter that is discounted by experimental results? To the best of my knowledge, they even don’t do it in their professional milieu. They move on…

  50. Peter Woit says:


    This posting contains mainly just accurate information about changes Kane made to the 2000 version of the book. People can judge for themselves the significance of those changes, for instance whether the predictions about superpartners are a “minute matter”, and whether Kane’s approach is “common in popular scientific literature” (as well as whether, like you, they “don’t see anything wrong with it”).

Comments are closed.