Sunday, March 19, 2017

Believing in SUSY, with no evidence

Lawrence M. Krauss is out plugging a new book, and he nicely summarizes how physicists of the past 40 years got sucked into a grand unified theory ideology, and on supersymmetry as a tool toward that end. The theoretical progress made them all very happy, but the big problem was that supersymmetry has failed every experimental test. But the advocates were unfazed, as he explains:
The absence of clear experimental direction or confirmation of super-symmetry has thus far not bothered one group of theoretical physicists. ...

However, the theory requires a host of new spacetime dimensions to exist, none of which has been, as yet, observed. Also, the theory makes no other predictions that are yet testable with currently conceived experiments. And the theory has recently gotten a lot more complicated so that it now seems that strings themselves are probably not even the central dynamical variables in the theory.

None of this dampened the enthusiasm of a hard core of dedicated and highly talented physicists who have continued to work on superstring theory, now called M-theory, over the 30 years since its heyday in the mid-1980s. Great successes are periodically claimed, but so far M-theory lacks the key element that makes the Standard Model such a triumph of the scientific enterprise: the ability to make contact with the world we can measure, resolve otherwise inexplicable puzzles, and provide fundamental explanations of how our world has arisen as it has.
This is the sorry state of physics today. They just march ahead and ignore negative experiments, like astrologers.

This could continue for another 20 years. So could the search for quantum supremacy, as repeated failures are unlikely to deter the advocates.

Some physicists at least admit that experiments should be done to test strange ideas like supersymmetry (SUSY) and proton decay. There are other theories, such as multiverse and black hole theories, that have no hope of ever being tested.

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