Wednesday, December 29, 2010

What Would Happen To Particle Physics If The LHC Finds Nothing?

Apparently Tommaso Dorigo, bet $1000 in 2006 that no physics will be found at the TeV scale (the energy scale the LHC is shooting for) before 2011 and even titled that post This 1000$ says there ain’t new physics at the TeV scale.  Back in 2006 that probably would have been seen as a pretty bold bet.  (Now less then a week away, not so much. :) )  It also appears he is still convinced there may not be much to look forward to in 2011 by way of new discoveries.

All this has got me thinking: what would happen to particle phsyics if the LHC finds no new physics beyond the standard model?  Or: what if the LHC finds nothing new except the standard model Higgs? :)

A few things come to mind:

First:  I wonder if that would spell the end of accelerator physics for some time to come do to a withdrawal of funding.  The US and UK already appear to have taken some steps to cut funding for future accelerator experiments even in the face of the potential discoveries of the LHC.  In fact, the UK may still cut some funds for the LHC itself.  How can this funding landscape do anything but get worse if the LHC finds nothing?

It will be difficult to appear before governments and argue "Funny thing HaHa... moving up in energy with the Tevetron yielded no new physics beyond the standard model despite claims that it might... Then moving up in energy even further with the LHC yielded no new physics beyond the standard model despite a barrage of theory papers arguing it should... But, interestingly enough it turns out that if we build an even more expensive/elaborate accelerator then we really believe this time we will find something. :) "

Second:  All the theory papers will be rewritten to demonstrate that the natural energy scale for new physics beyond the standard model is really just above the TeV scale. :)

Now don't get me wrong, I sincerely hope that the LHC (and perhaps still the Tevatron) finds new physics beyond the standard model.  The world would be too boring if the standard model is all us humans can ever uncover with accelerators.  Furthermore, I have a hard time thinking we can go up orders of magnitude in more energy and find nothing. (Although my personal opinions don't effect the reality of the universe.)

Nevertheless, I still wonder what will happen to particle physics if the LHC finds nothing beyond the same standard model that has been around for decades.

Any of you have a any thoughts/guesses?  More money for Cosmology? :)


  1. My prediction is that the LHC will find something that you particle people haven't thought of yet. Anywhere one looks nature is doing something interesting and often that something isn't what we were thinking. Whether the LHC finds the Higgs, super-partners, axions, or angels dancing on pinheads I'm willing to bet it will also find something that nobody has thought of yet.

  2. Nick,

    I really do hope we find something that nobody has ever considered. Honestly, I think theory really needs that because known possibilities like SUSY have been worked on for decades and therefore beaten to death. It would be nice to have some bold new theories to work on given some really unforeseen data.

  3. How big of a blow is it to string theory that they haven't seen any black holes yet?

  4. Stan, I think it is hard to say because you can get just about anything you want with String Theory. (Which is the biggest criticism with the theory.)

  5. If I had to put money down, I would say that we will not find the Higgs boson, which will necessitate a revision of the Weak force as well as our understanding of what mass is, and by extension, (maybe) gravity.

  6. Zen,

    Interesting theory. It is sad that we keep cutting away and cutting away the the possible Higgs parameter space and still don't see anything.

  7. Joseph, I can't help but note the similarity to ICF methods of fusion. LLNL built the Shiva, then the Nova, each one promising fusion. Each time the result was "need more energy." So they built NIF. Similarly, there are lots of published papers showing why NIF will work. But even when I was there, at LLNL, there were nuclear physicists who did not think it would work (and were very critical).

    IOW, I think ICF fusion is in the same predicament. If NIF fails, I suspect budget cuts for large scale mega-Joule lasers will be forthcoming. Fortunately for ICF advocates, NIF does appear to getting some results.


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