Thursday, August 7, 2008

LHC Predictions

Sean Carroll discusses what the Large Hadron Collider (i.e. the big new accelerator at CERN) might find once it's turned on in about a month. I don't know how accessible his post is, but note a couple of highlights. 1. The LHC is unlikely to find anything particularly relevant to string theory. 2. The prospects for finding additional dimensions are less bleak. Contrary to popular belief, the extra dimensions are a feature and not a bug of string theory, because there are independent reasons to want them to exist; their existence might not tell us anything definitive about string theory. 3. His remark on why there are probably no more quarks out there -- because each generation of quarks is supposed to come with a neutrino, neutrinos are light and should have been observed -- is plausible and new to me. 4. Note the proliferation of borderline plausible ideas (unparticles, technicolor, baryogenesis), most of which must be wrong. This experiment is seriously overdue.

I don't know how invested I am professionally in the LHC's success. If particle physics takes off once again, other branches of physics will become relatively less fashionable and this might hurt hiring. On the other hand, there might be interesting condensed matter physics ideas that apply at the new scales. And if current trends in NSF funding continue we might all be screwed regardless.

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