Thursday, April 19, 2007

Pop Quiz

Just poking around Cosmic Variance this morning (as if I have time, given my trip to Chicago this evening for a PHOBOS collaboration meeting...) and stumbled upon this: a cocktail party primer about string theory. Now, love it or hate it, string theory has captured most of the available mindshare for theoretical physics (kind of like the LHC in experimental physics), so it's great to see my people (i.e. RHIC) namechecked at the bottom:
Still, particle physics experiments being performed with collisions of very heavy ions at Brookhaven National Laboratory and with proton collisions at CERN could connect string theory with reality.
And we're already running. Now.

OK, so things aren't so easy when trying to connect experimental data with a theory that doesn't really predict anything yet. But as I've tried to point out where possible, people are clearly trying -- and it's interesting how even something which might be "wrong" (in the ontological sense) might nudge people intellectually in directions they hadn't considered, which may well lead us to something that is "right" (same sense). My money is that a similar story will play out at the LHC. No matter what will be observed, people will certainly try to say 1) it's nothing (e.g. DuRujula, below) 2) it's something out of the standard model so boring, or 3) it's exotic -- soit's proof of string theory! Of course there are worlds of exotica which people don't talk about anymore, and worlds to be discovered until the data is solidified (cf. LSND/MiniBoone).

All of this will prove (once again) that data rarely speaks by itself, and even if it tries, it tends to speak quite slowly...Ok, I really have to finish a few things now.

1 comment:

Corey said...

What do you mean they will say "it's nothing?" If they don't find the Higgs, no one is going to say "it's nothing." Everyone will be scrambling to figure out how it's possible. I think this scenario would be kind of fun. Not so kind for funding, however.

I am more interested to see what string theorists will do when (if) supersymmetric particles are not found at the LHC...