The BBC have a nice article about new LHC results that exclude yet more supersymmetry models. What this article doesn’t point out is that, so far as I’m aware just about all of string theory requires supersymmetry to exist. If I were a string theorist, I’d be worried at this point.
I’m not the first person to point the finger at string theory and suggest that it’s an edifice on shaky ground. I’m also far from being one of the best informed on the topic. However, I have had far more than the average person’s interaction with quantum gravity theorists. And I’ve also had a lot more training in body-language and communication skills than most people who attend those conferences. And what I can say with confidence is that string theory casts a long, fear-inducing shadow over much of the rest of the field, regardless of whether the physicists involved want to parse it as such. People working on other theories seem to have to fight awfully hard for their credibility, while those babbling about multiverses and branes don’t seem to have much concern.
Maybe this result heralds an adjustment in the physics community. I hope so. There are a lot of great theories out there that could use some attention right now. And some of them are even discretist. 🙂
There are two reasons why I’m not ready to call the discovery of the Higgs a done deal. The rational part of me is reluctant because the best the physics community can say at this point is a ‘Higgs-like particle’. That’s far from conclusive.
Then there’s the intuitive part of me, and it doesn’t want to think they’ve found the Higgs, because it would, IMO, be terrible news for physics. Yes, terrible. To tidy up the loose ends of a theory that looked complete before anyone discovered dark matter or dark energy means we’re in horrible shape to understand these deeper questions about how the universe works. In that scenario, there are no particle interactions we can generate that would help us even start to understand.
Also, bear in mind that the LHC has been punching large holes in lots of supersymmetry theories. That’s one result out of CERN that we can feel confident about. Hence, the idea of supersymmetric particle pairs as candidates for dark matter looks a lot shakier than it did a few years ago.
I would rather that physics have something chewy and hard to understand in front of it. Something tantalizing but offering the promise of deeper knowledge. The alternative is an opportunity for a lot of retired professors to bust out the champagne and feel smug, followed by a long, dark period of complete confusion.
So come on, Universe. Don’t give us a Higgs. You’re better than that.