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!