Particle Physics – A Brief History of Wasting Time? | Letters

Sabine Husseinfelder (No one in physics would dare say it, but the race to invent new particles is pointless, Sept. 26) He missed a large part of particle physics, and indeed basic research as a whole. While we all desire to revolutionize our fields of specialization by discovering a new particle or otherwise, in fact, absolving the impossible – particles that don’t exist – is an equally important, if daunting, scientific job. Nature has an infinite capacity for surprise, and our scientific ancestors long ago learned not to take anything for granted. Each proven impossibility brings us closer to a deeper understanding of the real universe. It’s as important to know that traveling faster than the speed of light is impossible as it is to understand that light is made up of photons, for example.

It would of course be too tedious to rule out every last alien possibility (Hossenfelder’s octopus on Mars, for example), and so we need a set of principles to guide us where to look. There is general disagreement about what is best, but many of the virtual particles mentioned in the article are designed with useful functionality in mind – breaking principles cherished on Standard Form For example, or adding new features to it. What we experience are the principles themselves, not the particles; While some of them may already be there, others are just straw guys to help us craft useful tests.
Dr. Phil Paul
Reader in Cosmology, Jodrell Bank Center for Astrophysics

Sabine Hosenfelder argues that particle physicists are too eager to speculate on new particles, suggesting that this is done for reasons of career advancement, rather than a sincere desire to advance our understanding of the universe. In fact, we develop and propose new theories and molecules because there are real mysteries and open questions that our best current theory, the Standard Model, cannot address. This is how science is supposed to work.

The neutron was proposed in 1920 and discovered ten years later. Likewise, positrons, pions, neutrinos, quarks, etc. were all assumed by physicists long before they could be observed in any experiment. Most recently, the Higgs boson was discovered in 2012, after it had been proposed half a century earlier. I wonder how many of these discoveries would not have been made if physicists had taken Hossenfelder’s advice about their approach to science.

Hossenfelder’s claim that the Standard Model “works well as is” is simply incorrect. The Standard Model predicts that neutrinos should be massless (it’s not), that a neutron’s electric dipole moment should be large (it’s undetectablely small), and that there should be an equal abundance of matter and antimatter in our universe (there is no ) . Furthermore, most of the matter in our universe is made up of dark matter, which is not described by the Standard Model. These are not characteristics of a “working well as is” theory.

Of course, most of the particles my colleagues and I speculate wouldn’t be real, and that’s okay. No one expects every suspect in a criminal case to be eventually convicted. These investigations are not meant to be true all the time. Instead, one must rationally think about the possibilities, investigate their consequences, decide which experiences to construct and carry out, and ultimately learn as much as possible about our universe.
Dan Huber
Professor of Astronomy and Astrophysics, University of Chicago

Particle physics It is much more than just inventing and searching for new particles, or “hunting” as we call it. The Large Hadron Collider (LHC) was built with two main goals: to find the Higgs boson, predicted by the Standard Model of particle physics, and to search for new phenomena necessary to explain some of the fascinating details of our universe for which we presently have no explanation, like dark matter.

There is no good model that tells us where to look for experimental evidence, just a lot of theories, some of which predict new molecules. We are feeling the dark, looking for a guide to point us in a new direction. Part of this is burr hunting, and as Sabine Hosenfelder rightly points out, this method has not yielded new discoveries and is unlikely to do so now that many possibilities have been ruled out. But the unknown is still there, and the universe has once again proven to be subtle and mysterious. What we are doing now at Cern LHC is making more and more accurate measurements with the data we have, and looking for small deviations from the Standard Model to guide us where we should look for new phenomena.

There are many comparisons in the history of science to this process – Albert Einstein modified Isaac Newton about 250 years after Principia, and more recently the Cern LEP machine, a precursor to the Large Hadron Collider, finding anomalies that directed us where to look for the Higgs boson. Just because there is no hanging fruit, it does not mean that there are no fruits to be found.
Roger Russack
Professor of Physics at the University of Minnesota

As a professional astronomer, I fully share Sabine Hossenfelder’s view of physics. Unfortunately, the situation is no different in today’s astrophysics, which is full of pointless articles about the properties of dark matter and dark energy, on which countless fantastic functions are built.

As in the case of physicists, many astrophysicists may be particularly skeptical about the existence of these entities, even though they are not explicitly mentioned (let alone written in a paper). To say the least, the situation is absurd.

Any voices dissenting from prevailing astrophysics are shut down by the regime, ensuring that only conventional results appear in technical journals. The James Webb Space Telescope will likely provide enough evidence to change the status quo, with important consequences for fundamental physics.
Dr. Ricardo Scarpa
BreƱa Baja, La Palma, Spain

Sabine Hossenfelder provides insight into how the mechanical application of mathematics can be rigged, satisfying peer review and satisfying funding requirements. But its central point, that there are few points in theories that can be refuted but not testable, has broader lessons.

Thought banks and institutes have produced much socioeconomic theories, and as with particle physics, there is no shortage of well-researched, peer-reviewed, well-funded ideas to guide policy in government, business, and our private lives. Like dark matter and dark energy, inequality, poverty, and lack of opportunity can be measured, analyzed, and theorized from every angle. But does this intellectual production improve things in proportion to the effort expended? Not many believe.

More insight and less violent ideology is the calling. Economists and social theorists, please take note.
for him O’Leary
St Albans, Hertfordshire

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