Wednesday, January 23, 2019

No need for new collider

Bee Hossenfelder writes:
Since the late 1960s, when physicists hit on the “particle zoo” at nuclear energies, they always had a good reason to build a larger collider. That’s because their theories of elementary matter were incomplete. But now, with the Higgs-boson found in 2012, their theory – the “standard model of particle physics” – is complete. It’s done. There’s nothing missing. All Pokemon caught.

The Higgs was the last good prediction that particle physicists had. This prediction dates back to the 1960s and it was based on sound mathematics. In contrast to this, the current predictions for new particles at a larger collider – eg supersymmetric partner particles or dark matter particles – are not based on sound mathematics. These predictions are based on what is called an “argument from naturalness” and those arguments are little more than wishful thinking dressed in equations. ...

This situation is unprecedented in particle physics. The only reliable prediction we currently have for physics beyond the standard model is that we should eventually see effects of quantum gravity. But for that we would have to reach energies 13 orders of magnitude higher than what even the next collider would deliver. It’s way out of reach.
I agree with this. Bee is going to be an outcast, because high-energy physicists are not going to like someone throwing cold water on their $10B funding proposals.

If money were budgeted for a new collider and then canceled, would the money be spent on anything better? Maybe not.

I like Physics, and I like money being spent on it. But physicists need to tell the truth about what they are doing. A bigger new collider is unlikely to tell us much.

Update: Bee also has an op-ed in the NY Times:
I used to be a particle physicist. ...

The stories about new particles, dark matter and additional dimensions were repeated in countless media outlets from before the launch of the L.H.C. until a few years ago. What happened to those predictions? The simple answer is this: Those predictions were wrong — that much is now clear. ...

To date, particle physicists have no reliable prediction that there should be anything new to find until about 15 orders of magnitude above the currently accessible energies. And the only reliable prediction they had for the L.H.C. was that of the Higgs boson. Unfortunately, particle physicists have not been very forthcoming with this information.


  1. These people study rounding errors. It's a waste. The astrophysicists study light "dips" with $10 billion telescopes. Also a waste. Physics just didn't get defunded after the bomb. Self-perpetuating fraud. They can't even drive my car or automate my hamburger. Waste of talent.

  2. When more money and energy is spent on creating unsolvable problems to dither over that affect no one than solving existing problems that affect most of humanity, things go seriously wrong with the scientific method. Idle curiosity is a poor way to direct public funds. The reason War is historically so good for science is that idle bullshit is quickly set aside and serious priorities are set for tangible results with useful applicability.

    If a scientist wants to amuse himself with black hole onanism and the dancing habits of angels on pin heads, fine, he has the freedom to do so on his own dime.