Most Surprising LHC Discovery?

By JoAnne Hewett | July 28, 2006 6:22 pm

The 2006 SLAC Summer Institute has shut its doors and the participants are wending their way back home. I’ve taken off early, am sprawled on the couch, and thought I’d report on the contest before I start my nap.

It’s a Summer Institute tradition to sponsor a contest; we pose a thought-provoking question on the first day, the students have the next two-weeks to ponder the question with deep thoughts and ultimately submit their best answer by the end of the school. We have a lot of fun with the event and it grows more popular each year. Here’s a CV report on last year’s contest. It’s a fun way to get the students to think out of the box.

This year’s question was simply:

What will be the most surprising discovery at the LHC?

in sync with this year’s Institute theme. The contestents were warned that a simple and obvious answer such as “Supersymmetry” would most likely not garner the prize. We had 35 rather diverse entries in the end, which were judged by a panel of distinguished experts.

Unfortunately the most distinguished member, clearly the camel (whose name is Michael Jackson, incidentally), was stuck in Rajasthan and not able to attend the panel meeting.

Some of the entries were quite imaginative! In one, a member of the SLAC theory group conjectured that the most surprising discovery would be the production of Little Green Men. Since this has already been the subject of a light, yet entertaining, novel called Einstein’s Bridge about the cancellation of the Superconducting SuperCollider, the panel thought this entry somewhat lacked in originality. But agreed it would be surprising, particularly if they came to eat us. Condoleezza Rice submitted an entry on her way to the Middle East. Recall that Condi has a long association with Stanford after being on the faculty and serving as Provost and no doubts keeps a keen eye on the SLAC Summer Institute. She proposed the discovery of stable black hole remnants with associated physics indicative of noncommutative spacetime. Now, that would indeed be surprising, but alas did not garner the enthusiasm of the panel. One can only hope she has more luck in the Middle East.

After much debate over a considerable quantity of South African Cabernet, the panel settled on two Honorable Mentions and a Winner. The first Honorable Mention:

An experimentalist will develop a way to test string theory.

Actually the panel was inclined to award this entry first place, but then discovered it was submitted by one of the lecturers. The second Honorable Mention described the production of quasi-stable black holes as a spectacular signature of quantum gravity. And the winning entry is (drum roll, please….)

From the WW scattering cross section, we know that the unitarity of the optical theory breaks down at 1.7 TeV. To prevent this breakdown of unitarity, either the Higgs boson or the Kaluza-Klein gauge bosons (that come from other theories) need to be discovered. The biggest surprise at the LHC (or one of the biggest surprises) would be if neither the Higgs boson nor the KK bosons (nor any of the other particles coming from the other theories) were discovered. The unitarity theorem would break down, thus signaling Quantum Mechanics needs to be overhauled! A more complete theory would need to evolve of which QM would just be an approximation! Maybe something like SuperQM?

The panel thoroughly enjoyed the idea of discovering a Super-Quantum Mechanics at the LHC. Kudos to Jo Ostra from the University of Notre Dame who recieved a bottle of California’s finest sparkling wine and the Institute’s autographed copy of QCD and Collider Physics, donated by James Stirling. I hope she enjoys the wine and the book, but perhaps not necessarily at the same time!

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Academia, Humor, Science
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  • hack

    The problem is that everyone is ready to expect the unexpected, therefore the most surprising discovery is, by duality, the same as the least surprising discovery.

  • Elliot

    Glad it was a bottle and not a box :)

  • Charlie

    It is shame that the camel could not attend the meeting as they are very clever beasts.

  • http://www.valdostamuseum.org/hamsmith/ Tony Smith

    JoAnne said “… This year’s … SLAC Summer Institute question was simply:

    What will be the most surprising discovery at the LHC?

    … Condoleezza Rice … proposed the discovery of stable black hole remnants with associated physics indicative of noncommutative spacetime. …”.

    It is fascinating that our Secretary of State follows high energy physics, and that she proposed something about a competitor to superstring theory,
    particularly since the question was
    “What will be” (i.e., request for prediction of what WILL be seen)
    as opposed to
    “What would be” (i.e., request for speculation about what MIGHT (or might not) be seen).

    Did Condi give any further details, such as the mass of such “stable black hole remnants”?

    Did she mention what “associated physics” might be?

    Is she a good friend of Alain Connes?

    Tony Smith
    http://www.valdostamuseum.org/hamsmith/

  • http://quasar9.blogspot.com/ Quasar9

    I can barely resist, only just, being tempted to make a crack about Condoleeza Rice and ‘stable blackholes’ since I had (note past tense) a soft spot for her. Dark energy would perhaps better describe the lady’s role in the Son of bin Bush administration.

    Look forward to Super QM in an evolving universe of physics(?), and dark ladies need to lighten up – pun intended.

  • Bob E.

    LHC
    Reliable electricity for California?

  • Thomas Dent

    Kind of a shame about Condi. So talented, so accomplished, she can do anything – except her job, which is somewhat important, because unlike playing the piano or taking part in physics games, thousands of people’s lives probably depend on it.

    (Mind you, most sufficiently talented people would also find it difficult to achieve anything with the current government.)

    Most surprising LHC discovery: Technicolor, because it’s supposed to be already ruled out – and Lenny gets the Nobel.

  • http://valatan.blogspot.com bittergradstudent

    Internal electron structure?

  • scerir

    Which of the ‘Drei Zinnen’ (see pic on the panel) did the distinguished expert climb?

  • http://backreaction.blogspot.com/ B

    well, Horst Stoecker is apparently holding a patent to use black hole remnants to convert mass into energy (hep-ph/0607165, section 6)… think about this: the LHC produces all these remants, you put one in the back of your car, and feed it with – say, your empty Coke cans. Then it evaporate at 200 GeV, and boom there flies your Chevy.

    Sorry, being silly here. You wouldn’t believe how many nasty comments I got on my paper about signatures of black hole remnants at the LHC.

    Anyway, I should add that I don’t find the scenario plausible. My prediction is also the no-Higgs case, but then that’s not surprising anymore.

    How about this: the LHC reaches a fundamental minimal scale (the higher dimensional Planck length?) below which absolutely nothing more can be resolved, thus ‘the end of short distance physics’.

    Best, B.

  • http://www.valdostamuseum.org/hamsmith/ Tony Smith

    B said “… How about this: the LHC reaches a fundamental minimal scale (the higher dimensional Planck length?) below which absolutely nothing more can be resolved, thus ‘the end of short distance physics’. …”.

    JoAnne said that Condi mentioned LHC results “… indicative of noncommutative spacetime …”.

    If the LHC were to see a “higher dimensional Planck length” would that mean that phenomena of “noncommutative spacetime” should show up if Connes’s model is correct ?
    What would be the experimental signatures of such “noncommutative spacetime” ?

    Tony Smith
    http://www.valdostamuseum.org/hamsmith/

    PS – Why would anybody write “nasty comments” about hep-ph/0507138 by Bee et al ?
    What is wrong with using LHC to look for unusual stuff, whether or not it is unlikely ?

  • Q

    Well JoAnne, seems most of the physicists are too busy jumping into the pool to ‘cool’ down or jumping onto planes to ‘teleport’ back to wherever they flew in from. Either that or they are at the races.

    You should have offered some odds:
    10-1 Condoleeza turns into a stable ‘singularity’
    10-2 Condoleeza turns into an unstable ‘singulrity’
    10-3 Condoleeza ‘evaporates’

    You might have got some more hard ‘particle’ physics.
    Bee can Hans Stoker guy really take out a patent on Back to the Future movies. it’s not a chevy – its a Delorean, and there weren’t that many made. But wow if they’d got it to really work, would have been worth a mint.

    Quote of the Day: Prediction is very difficult, especially if it’s about the future. Niels Bohr

  • http://quantumnonsense.blogspot.com/ Qubit

    Most Surprising LHC Discovery? I would say that; a new particle will be discovered, one that has so much mass, it leave a track through the muon chambers. It will indicate, by the track it will leave, that the particle has more energy, than the experiment should have produced. The particle will also, not come from the direct result of the collision, but will be a left over remnant of something that cannot collide using just a one loop collider.

    Qubit

  • http://backreaction.blogspot.com/ B

    Tony said: Why would anybody write “nasty comments” about hep-ph/0507138 by Bee et al ?

    coz there are one thousand reasons why black hole relics shouldn’t exist, and people kept throwing at my head how stupid I am (they still do). Most didn’t get that the point of the paper wasn’t to prove relics exist. I just said: if they do (and to be honest, we don’t know, do we?) then what would the signature look like.

    I doubt Horst took the patent out of the movie, but that was also my association… The more sophisticated version of the patent is to throw the nuclear waste into the black hole and convert it into ‘clean’ energy.

  • graviton383

    B: I see no reason based on existing data why such things can’t exist since we don’t know the threshold mass scale or the number of extra dimensions…..

  • http://countiblis.blogspot.com Count Iblis

    Some time ago, Hawking predicted that the Higgs will be unobservable due to the effects of virtual black holes, see here.

    One would expect spacetime to have a foam-like structure on the Planck scale with a very high topology. If spacetime is simply connected (which is assumed in this paper), the non-trivial homology occurs in dimension two, and spacetime can be regarded as being essentially the topological sum of $S^2times S^2$ and $K3$ bubbles. Comparison with the instantons for pair creation of black holes shows that the $S^2times S^2$ bubbles can be interpreted as closed loops of virtual black holes. It is shown that scattering in such topological fluctuations leads to loss of quantum coherence, or in other words, to a superscattering matrix $$ $ that does not factorise into an $S$ matrix and its adjoint. This loss of quantum coherence is very small at low energies for everything except scalar fields, leading to the prediction that we may never observe the Higgs particle. Another possible observational consequence may be that the $theta $ angle of QCD is zero without having to invoke the problematical existence of a light axion. The picture of virtual black holes given here also suggests that macroscopic black holes will evaporate down to the Planck size and then disappear in the sea of virtual black holes.

  • http://www.valdostamuseum.org/hamsmith/ Tony Smith

    B said “…The more sophisticated version of the … Horst … patent is to throw the nuclear waste into the black hole and convert it into ‘clean’ energy. …”.

    For prior art, see Misner, Thorne and Wheeler’s book Gravitation (Freeman 1973) at page 908, Figure 33.2,
    whose caption says in part:
    “… At the dump the garbage is … dropped toward the center of the black hole. … As the garbage flies down the hole … the shuttle vehicle recoils from the ejection and goes flying back out with more energy … than it took down. …”.

    However, given the horrible mess that is USA “intellectual property” law, Horst may get his patent .

    Tony Smith
    http://www.valdostamuseum.org/hamsmith/

  • http://backreaction.blogspot.com/ B

    Hi graviton,

    I see no reason based on existing data why such things can’t exist since we don’t know the threshold mass scale or the number of extra dimensions

    Yep I agree, there is a lot we don’t know, and we certainly don’t know for sure whether black hole relics can exist or not. Imo we know even much less about black hole evaporation than is commonly believed to be “true”. However, the question relics or not has not a priory anything to do with the threshold or the # of extra dims (unless you think of higher curvature corrections to GR, see e.g. work by Rizzo, there the # of extra dims is crucial).

    The most common arguments against relics (both of which I think don’t hold) are the necessity for an arbitrarily large information content (based on a misinterpretation of the black hole’s entropy) and an enormous phase space for the pair production (which follows from the first argument, and therefore is also a misconception).

    The reason why I don’t like black hole relics is that their existence breaks time-reversal symmetry. If a black hole can be formed in a collision of two particles, I expect it should be able to decay in the reverse process.

    Hi Tony,

    right. But that is not the patent Horst holds. He does not want to extract energy from the hole. He just wants to use it to convert energy. Like a very efficient fire place, with the extra virtue that it absolutely does not care what you throw in.

    Best,

    B.

  • graviton383

    Hi B:

    Thanks for you comments, I have heard these arguments
    but I don’t necessarity believe that microscopic BH physics is T invariant… Even macroscopic BH physics is not T invariant since Hawking radiation is a statistical process but stellar collapse is not. Thanks for the
    reference to the work of Rizzo..I am very familiar with it..I wrote it.

  • http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/cosmicvariance/mark/ Mark

    Can’t believe you gave yourself away Tom! We get to see the email address, but I would never have given you up, never I tell you!

  • http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/cosmicvariance/joanne/ JoAnne

    Indeed, I am still gonna believe that graviton383 is anonymous…..except for the fact that the very name graviton383 shows intimate and deep knowledge of the phenomenology of the Randall-Sundrum model.

    Hack, comment #1: The real problem is that almost nobody is expecting the unexpected. The majority think that not only will SUSY show up, but it will be our most studied benchmark point SUSY SPS1a! If SUSY shows up and it’s not the benchmark point in parameter space we have studied well (i.e., point SPS1a) we might be terribly confused.

  • graviton383

    Mark: thanks for your fierce loyalty!

  • Haelfix

    How about this one.. The existence of a myriad set of completely random scalars not covered by any existing model and with no apparent symmetry principle that governs them.

    That would be extraordinarily bad for a number of reasons.

    But yea the nondiscovery of the Higgs or alternatives (and im skeptical about some of those proposals) would be catastrophic. If for no other reason than they are more or less guarenteed to be there by no lose theorems. The electroweak sector would then be formally inconsistent and we would be stuck.

  • http://backreaction.blogspot.com/ B

    Hi “graviton”,

    well, I was about to give you the reference, but I guess you are familiar with it 😉

    I don’t necessarity believe that microscopic BH physics is T invariant… Even macroscopic BH physics is not T invariant since Hawking radiation is a statistical process but stellar collapse is not.

    Yep, that’s the same answer I give when someone comes up with that point. That’s what my brain says. However, my stomach expects the universe to be nice and pretty, such that it allows elementary process back as well as forth. So, I agree with you that relics aren’t excluded, but to be honest, I just don’t believe in it.

    Best, B.

    PS
    JoAnne: the fact that the very name graviton383 shows intimate and deep knowledge of the phenomenology of the Randall-Sundrum model
    I don’t get it, can you give me a hint?

  • JoAnne

    Hi B:

    The masses of the KK graviton excitations in the Randall-Sundrum model are proportional to the roots of the J_1 Bessel function. The first root, which sets the scale for the first excitation, has a value of 3.83. One of the main signatures for a warped extra dimension is that the KK states are not evenly spaced, but have spacings proportional to roots of Bessel functions. As I said, ‘Graviton383’ clearly knows his/her Randall-Sundrum phenomenology.

  • http://countiblis.blogspot.com Count Iblis

    Also interesting:

    Discovering mirror particles at the Large Hadron Collider and the implied cold universe

    The Mirror Matter or Exact Parity Model sees every standard particle, including the physical neutral Higgs boson, paired with a parity partner. The unbroken parity symmetry forces the mass eigenstate Higgs bosons to be maximal mixtures of the ordinary and mirror Higgs bosons. Each of these mass eigenstates will therefore decay 50% of the time into invisible mirror particles, providing a clear and interesting signature for the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) which could thus establish the existence of the mirror world. However, for this effect to be observable the mass difference between the two eigenstates must be sufficiently large. In this paper, we study cosmological constraints from Big Bang Nucleosynthesis on the mass difference parameter. We find that the temperature of the radiation dominated (RD) phase of the universe should never have exceeded a few 10’s of GeV if the mass difference is to be observable at the LHC. Chaotic inflation with very inefficient reheating provides an example of how such a cosmology could arise. We conclude that the LHC could thus discover the mirror world and simultaneously establish an upper bound on the temperature of the RD phase of the universe.

  • http://backreaction.blogspot.com/ B

    Hi JoAnne,

    Thanks, I see. Was thinking too complicatd :-) Have a nice weekend, B.

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