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What will be the next discovery ? February 2, 2007

Posted by dorigo in games, physics, science.

330 graduate students at Fermilab were polled to see what they believed would be the next discovery in particle physics. The result is shown in the plot below.

Interesting to note how many do believe there is something out there that we can and will reach for, earlier than the Standard Model Higgs boson: about 64% of them think so.

Interesting also to note there is a certain amount of skeptics that believe nothing will be discovered at all… Even I -and I consider myself a skeptic- think that would be quite a discovery by itself.

I wonder what the readers of this blog think. How about telling me here what you think will be discovered next ? You know my vote already, it is the SM Higgs -and nothing else of course, but that is only my personal opinion, and that of this 1000$ bill.


1. Markk - February 2, 2007

I am in some kind of mixed state, I hope my wave function collapses soon…

Well based on history, whenever we have looked at new areas of energy, spectrum, time in the last 200 years we have found something new, not accounted for. So going that way, something new. I would think it will be something different than SUSY and such to some degree because of an inverse Landscape arguement: There are so many possible theories that our guessing one that actually matches reality without any confirmation, would be very unlikely.

On the other hand, are the new instruments probing areas that far away from what we have already seen? If not, than we ought to see nothing much. I don’t know where to put something like SM Higgs, I guess if we don’t find it, that would be considered new and exciting.

2. riqie arneberg - February 3, 2007

All of the experimental physicists* I know somewhat personally agree on the Higgs! All of the republicans I know believe the Iraq war is about something other than protecting corporate profits! I have little doubt that we will demonstrate the existence of the Higgs sometime soon, but I do recall seing an 1890 reprint from Scientific American arguing that physics was a dead science because we had nothing more to learn.

*(a compact group of one)

3. Bee - February 3, 2007

I think we’ll discover that our knowledge about classical GR is incomplete.

This is a very interesting pie btw, I am very happy to see that so many expect the unexpected 🙂

Have a nice weekend,


4. Kea - February 3, 2007

I go with New Strong Dynamics. I’m ignoring the fact that this is just a particle physics question, because I think cosmology will turn up some pretty exciting things before we get LHC data.

5. Chris Oakley - February 3, 2007

I would go with everything except SM Higgs and SUSY.

In both cases the motivation is based on renormalizability –

SM Higgs: theories with massive vector bosons are not renormalizable. Very few in the particle physics community have read and understood the papers, but ‘t Hooft and Veltman showed that gauge theories – which have massless vector bosons – are renormalizable. The Higgs mechanism is a trick of classical field theory (note – classical, not quantum) that enables one to endow vector bosons with mass at the cost of introducing as-yet-unobserved scalar bosons. Put the two together and we have, we believe, a renormalizable theory with massive vector particles, as required to account for the known massive vectors W+, W- and Z.

SUSY: Every particle has a partner with the same mass but spin differing by 1/2. As such, the theory is automatically dead: no two known particles form a supersymmetric pair. If we weaken this to approximate SUSY then we could, perhaps, have supersymmetric partners of known particles that are too heavy to have been observed by existing experiments. Why would we want to do this? Again – renormalizability. It is believed that there are cancellations between divergent Feynman graphs of supersymmetric partners.

The problem is that renormalizability is a somewhat arbitrary criterion. It says that we can allow our theories to be mathematically inconsistent, but only up to a point. Why should we expect Nature (the bitch, not the journal) to comply with human failure of understanding?

6. dorigo - February 3, 2007

Hi all,

so let’s see, so far we have six votes:

me – SM Higgs
Markk – not clear what he votes, maybe some linear combination of “unexpected” and “nothing”. I tentatively give the two a 0.5 weight.
Riqie – she seems to go with SM Higgs.
Bee – I guess I should put her under “unexpected”, but also “other” could fit. In the absence of more info, I will also give 0.5 weight to the two here.
Kea – interestingly she opts for “new strong dynamics”.
Chris – he opts for “everything except SM Higgs and Susy”. So I have to give these two a -0.5 weight.

More votes, please. Don’t be shy!

7. Chris Oakley - February 3, 2007

Alright – “Unexpected”, then. But this is based on commonsense rather than anything else. With so many experimental surprises in the past, why should the surprises not continue until our understanding of the subatomic world gets better?

8. Bee - February 3, 2007

Hi Tommaso,

well, yes, I guess I’m unexpected other.

I just stared at the pie, and now I’m kind of puzzled how to understand the answer ‘nothing’. I mean, the question isn’t what will LHC see, but what will be the ‘next’ discovery. Nothing? Not ever? Or is that meant to say the SM of particle physics is fine all the way to the Planck scale and above?



9. Helge - February 3, 2007

Hi Tom,

what are “Substructures” and “New Strong Dynamics”? I don’t have any idea, what that is. But I definetly go for “unexpected”, since I don’t have any expectation for discoveries in particle physics.


10. dorigo - February 3, 2007

Hi Helge, thank you for taking my poll.

A discovery of substructure is basically any evidence that quarks and leptons are not elementary objects. For instance, preons (hypothesized constituents of quarks) would make their first appearance as an increased cross section for proton-antiproton scattering at very, very high energy. It is exactly as when, by gently throwing a garbage bag at another, you seldom see anything strongly scattering off of the collision point, but if you throw the bag with high enough energy, you sometimes see some glass scattering out: a sign that the bag was not full of toilet paper, but it contained a bottle of wine. The bottle of wine is the “constituent”, making for garbage bag substructure.

As for strong dynamics, I am sure Kea can answer this better than I can…. She voted for it. Kea ?


11. David Heffernan - February 4, 2007

Not sure what the differerence is between “Unexpected” and “Other”. Put me down for unexpected I guess.

12. Kea - February 4, 2007

Oh! Well, I’m sure the people who set the poll must have had something in mind – I wonder what? Maybe pomeron exchange. Thinking like a theoretician, I’m hoping for a precise prediction for, say, glueball masses and production, and to me a quantitative prediction from a rigorous theory that comes true is a Discovery.

13. dorigo - February 4, 2007

Hi Kea,

I do not really know it for a fact, but I have the felling that the poll was ran automatically, by collecting different opinions without providing a set of choices… I will try to find out (but if anybody knows it, save me the pains here!)


14. Guess Who - February 4, 2007

If I have to choose only one, it has to be the SM Higgs. Substructure is a close contender, though I have yet to see a convincing preon model.

15. Jester - February 5, 2007

Hi Tomasso, my reason also votes for “the SM Higgs and nothing else” – that’s what all the data are telling us. But that would be the end. So my heart goes for the “unexpected”, since nothing that is currently available on the market seems to work. You can give my reason and my heart an equal weight 😉

16. dorigo - February 5, 2007

Ok, let me make a summary of what we have so far here. I count 10 votes if I am not mistaken, of which:

4 (40%) go to SM Higgs
1 (10%) go to New strong dynamics
0.5 (5%) go to Nothing
4.5 (45%) go to Unexpected.

Hmmm… we need more stats!


17. island - February 6, 2007

Nothing, per theory.

18. Arun - February 8, 2007

A particle like the SM Higgs, more or less, but with evidence of its compositeness.

My horoscope says that the predictions I make today will be uncannily accurate 😀 😀 😀 😀

19. dorigo - February 9, 2007

Ok, so we have so far:

4.0 (33%) go to SM Higgs
1.0 (8%) go to New strong dynamics
1.5 (12%) go to Nothing
1.0 (8%) go to Other (composite Higgs)
4.5 (38%) go to Unexpected.

I think I can already draw one conclusions: the readers of this blog are not significantly different from the FNAL grad students, judging by their gut feelings on the future of HEP.

Thanks to all who took the poll!

20. Short summary of graviton and gravitino searches « A Quantum Diaries Survivor - February 11, 2007

[…] Here is Helge’s question: Just a little off-topic question. I wonder, if anybody thinks of discovering “gravitons” at LHC,…. It didn’t show up at https://dorigo.wordpress.com/2007/02/02/what-will-be-the-next-discovery/. […]

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