Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Scoring LHC Predictions

This seems truly weird, and either tongue-in-cheek or dumb (see also here). [Summary: physicists get a free pass when they make vague, hard-to-score predictions about the future, but the poor economists are held to a more rigorous standard.] It isn't like we have any empirical reason to believe anything at all about what the LHC will see; the "predictions" are informed but still wild extrapolations. In fact, a good part of the rationale for building the LHC is that we don't know what it will create. If we were pretty confident of which model the LHC would validate, the LHC would be unnecessary. Given a particular model, there are usually inexpensive ($1 mil.) low-energy experiments that can be done to test its weirder low-energy predictions. However, there are hundreds of models out there that are consistent with all existing data, and roughly speaking each low-energy experiment is sensitive to just a couple of those models, so you'd need to do hundreds of experiments. Or alternatively you could just spend all the money at once, smash ultra-high-energy particles into each other, and see what happens.

PS A German computational group just determined that the mass of the proton as predicted by the quark model [ca. 1970] agrees with the mass of the proton as measured in the lab [ca. 1900]. We woz right once again. I think we deserve another free pass for this.

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