Do You Think Inflation Probably Happened?

By Sean Carroll | February 7, 2011 8:40 am

I was at a meeting in Princeton a short while ago, a small and focused workshop for people who are working on fundamental questions in inflationary cosmology. I hope to talk more about the meeting once the website is up (talks were not recorded), but here’s a simple question: what is the likelihood you would attach to the idea that some form of cosmic inflation occurred in the early universe?

My answer was 75%, which I thought was generous. It’s very hard to give a high probability to a speculative theory about what happened at energy scales to which we currently have no experimental access. But I found myself on the low end of opinions at the meeting, where the median was about 90% confidence. Of course, these are people who work on inflation professionally, and have chosen to do so. When I came home to ask the same question of my lunch crowd at Caltech, the answers were more like 25%.

An interesting glimpse into the non-unanimity of scientific opinion when it comes to untested theories. So, just for fun, let’s ask what your personal likelihoods are for the following theoretical ideas.

  1. Inflation
  2. Supersymmetry
  3. String theory
  4. Some form of Higgs boson
  5. Large extra dimensions
  6. WIMP dark matter
  7. Any non-cosmological-constant explanation for cosmic acceleration

I’m not defining these very carefully, and let’s posit that we’re not interested in weaseling about what the definitions mean. We’re asking what you think the probability is that, if you were to ask an omniscient being who knew everything about the workings of Nature whether these ideas were part of how the world works, would they answer in the affirmative. What do you think? (It’s helpful if you say a bit about what kind of perspective you are coming from.)

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Science, Top Posts
  • http://myweb.fsu.edu/~cduston/ Chris Duston

    I guess I’ll start…

    1. 85%
    2. 15%
    3. 15%
    4. 75%
    5. 5%
    6. 25%
    7. 0%

    Looks pessimistic. Can I add 80% for LQG?

  • http://rampke.de matthiasr

    1. 70 %
    2. 50 %
    3. 15 %
    4. 80 %
    5. 10 %
    6. 95 %
    7. 5 %

  • http://blogs.plos.org/badphysics/ Sarah

    1. Inflation – 25%
    2. Supersymmetry – 45%
    3. String theory – 40%
    4. Some form of Higgs boson – 95%
    5. Large extra dimensions – 10%
    6. WIMP dark matter – 20%
    7. Any non-cosmological-constant explanation for cosmic acceleration – 10%

  • ossicle

    That’s interesting to me, as an ignorant layman. I thought cosmic inflation was much more widely accepted than that, to the point where it was practically considered settled. THAT’S WHY ONE READS BLOGS, though, I guess!

  • http://togroklife.com Greg

    1. Inflation – 90%
    2. Supersymmetry – 50%
    3. String theory – 1%
    4. Some form of Higgs boson – 95%
    5. Large extra dimensions – 1%
    6. WIMP dark matter – 85%
    7. Any non-cosmological-constant explanation for cosmic acceleration – 1%

    I can’t bring myself to say 0% chance.

    I guess for fair comparison, it helps to provide background. I’m 5 years removed from a bachelors degree in physics and don’t work in the field professionally.

  • Alex

    1. Inflation: 70%
    2. Supersymmetry: 40%
    3. String theory: 3%
    4. Higgs: 80%
    5. Large extra dimensions: 1%
    6. WIMP: 50%
    7. Complex Dark Energy: 30%

  • Lonely Flower

    Inflation 50%
    Supersymmetry 70%
    String theory 2%
    Some Form of Higgs bosons 80%

  • PSP

    HAH! I was digit-for-digit with Greg, except:

    7. Any non-cosmological-constant explanation for cosmic acceleration – 50%
    Jury is still out, IMHO.

  • Ian

    Sean,
    I’d be interested to see whether there’s a theorist/observer/experimentalist bias in the answers. My answers (trying hard to give snap answers so I don’t over-analyze)

    1. 70%
    2. 50%
    3. 30%
    4. 40%
    5. 10%
    6 90%
    7 20%

    Having thought about it for a second, I wonder why I’m so hesitant to put less than 10% odds on anything…

  • Tom

    1. 30%
    2. 50%
    3. 5%
    4. 70%
    5. 10%
    6. 50%
    7. 50%

  • MPS17

    Who do you eat lunch with? The correct answers are:

    1 (inflation): 95%
    2 (susy): 20% (I assume you mean low-energy)
    3 (string theory): 80%
    4 (Higgs): 80%
    5 (large extra dims): 5%
    6 (WIMP DM): 60%
    7 (non-CC DE): 15%

    (String theory percentage is not that it’s the ultimate theory of reality, but that it’s a “correct” theory in a sense extending “correct” theories like GR and SM.)

    And yes they are all consistent with total probabilities adding up to one. ;)

  • http://www.openfermentor.com Tim Beauchamp

    I wish this was done with a web based poll, to see the results graphically.

    1. Inflation – 50%
    2. Supersymmetry – 50%
    3. String theory –25%
    4. Some form of Higgs boson – 90%
    5. Large extra dimensions – 10%
    6. WIMP dark matter – 25%
    7. Any non-cosmological-constant explanation for cosmic acceleration – 1%

  • http://www.miskeptics.org Chris Lindsay

    From a layman’s perspective who can really only apply percentages based on the reasoning and tone of the arguments that I’ve read or heard….

    Inflation – 90%
    Supersymmetry – 50%
    String theory – 50%
    Some form of Higgs boson – 90%
    Large extra dimensions – 33%
    WIMP dark matter – 66%
    Any non-cosmological-constant explanation for cosmic acceleration – 25%

  • http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/cosmicvariance/sean/ Sean

    Interesting answers so far — it’s helpful if you give a bit of background on where you’re coming from (physicist or not, experimentalist/theorist, intelligent AI, etc.).

  • http://www.theeternaluniverse.com/ Joseph Smidt

    1. Inflation – 80-90% (People said 25% at Caltech! Come on, we have now several experimentally verified reasons to believe in inflation.)
    Supersymmetry – 30%
    String theory = 25% (Got this because I am ~90% sure it is correct if SUSY is.)
    Some form of Higgs boson – 70%
    Large extra dimensions – 20 %
    WIMP dark matter – 75%
    Any non-cosmological-constant explanation for cosmic acceleration. 20%

    I am a graduate student doing cosmology. (Cooray’s student for those who know him.)

  • Jeff

    Excellent question! As a young experimentalist who has worked on a couple of these (WIMP detection and B-modes)…

    1. Inflation
    50%. Inflation is a great idea to explain how our present universe could arise from our current idea of a generic initial condition. I’m not sure that I could convince a skeptical person that our idea of a generic initial condition is right, however, and I could easily imagine our ideas changing there.

    2. Supersymmetry
    40%. This idea has an enormous amount of theoretical beauty, but there just isn’t enough experimental evidence for me to be surprised if it turned out to be wrong.

    3. String theory
    20%. Again, a beautiful idea with even less experimental support. Then again, it’s not so much a single idea as an entire framework, so some aspect of current string-ish research could easily be part of the right answer.

    4. Some form of Higgs boson
    90%, especially for a sufficiently loose definition of “some form”. Something sure seems to break electroweak symmetry, so it’s reasonable to call whatever that degree of freedom is a Higgs boson…

    5. Large extra dimensions
    10%.

    6. WIMP dark matter
    This is a tough one, so I’ll answer it two ways:

    - Particle dark matter: 95%. I would be very surprised if dark matter didn’t turn out to be real “stuff” which is not part of the Standard Model.

    - WIMPs in particular: 55%. It’s a fantastic idea, but I’d be less fundamentally shocked if thermal production from weak-scale interactions turned out to be wrong.

    7. Any non-cosmological-constant explanation for cosmic acceleration
    - 60%.

  • Onchocerciasis

    1) Inflation 98% Perfectly reasonable given CMB and consistency of opposite parts of the visible universe that cannot possibly communicate. Consider an intensely chiral Big Bang with a pseudoscalar false vacuum that decayed to power inflation. It set the universe chiral in the massed sector at all scales. The trace dilute pseudoscalar vacuum background remnant is differentially detectable over 90 days’ observation in existing apparatus using opposite chirality probes: a vacuum left foot tested by left and right shoes (and inert to masseless photons and achiral massed processes).

    http://www.mazepath.com/uncleal/erotor1.jpg
    Two parity Eotvos experiments
    http://www.mazepath.com/uncleal/qz4.htm
    So easy a physicist could do it, with pictures.

    2) Supersymmetry 0% Already dead. Super-Kamiokande is 50 kilotonnes of water. Protons did not decay, SUSY recalculated a few more decimal places, and all was well. IceCube is a cubic kilometer of ice. That is

    [(1000 m)(100 cm/m)]^3(0.9 g/cm^3)(1 kilotonne/10^9 g) = 900,000 kilotonnes or 18,000 Super-Ks. SUSY is pookie pookie.

    3) String theory 0% Mathematically rigorous, physically sterile. Calabi-Yau manifolds are mirror symmetric while the universe is chiral at all scales. Socks – plus manually inserted symmetry breakings – are being used to describe shoes.

    4) Some form of Higgs boson 0% No Higgs. The Standard Model is defective. The Higgs is a curve fitting parameter amidst 25 more,

    http://math.ucr.edu/home/baez/constants.html

    5) Large extra dimensions 10% Unsupported by observation; curve fitting of elegant, rigorous, facile, defective theory.

    6) WIMP dark matter 20%

    http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/cosmicvariance/2011/02/03/guest-post-neal-weiner-on-the-era-of-dark-matter-direct-detection/
    Section 2 – nice sine wave!
    http://arxiv.org/abs/1004.1761
    Nice sine wave!

    If the two sine waves are correlated, we already have a strong candidate by observation – vacuum background (re arxiv:1004.1761; beta decay is chiral, alpha-decay is achiral). Test with three small solid balls gilded with superconductor, cooled then Meissner effect levitated in hard vacuum at 45 latitude, observed for a year. Amorphous fused silica ball; enantiomorphic space group P3(1)21 single crystal alpha-quartz ball; enantiomorphic space group P3(2)21 single crystal alpha-quartz ball. If there is an interactive vacuum background of any kind, the fused silica ball will be rotationally inert over time. The quartz balls will spontaneously rotate in opposite directions, stop, do it mirror-image, stop, do it mirror-mirror-image, over a year’s observation.

    http://www.igf.fuw.edu.pl/KB/HKM/PDF/HKM_027_s.pdf
    3.5 megabytes; pdf pp. 25-27, calculation of the chiral case.

    The Bullet Cluster! Concentrations of “dark matter” are separable and isolable from galaxies. Perhaps dark matter is not matter at all, but rather an extended finely knotted geometry of spacetime that coexists with black hole event horizon scavenging.

    7) Any non-cosmological-constant explanation for cosmic acceleration 50% Presence of a selective vacuum background is testable. There is room for multiple sources. Theory is always preferred to experiment because virtual mud always packs tighter than real gems.

  • John

    I’m a conservatibve physicist:

    1. Inflation 0%
    2. Supersymmetry 0%
    3. String theory 0%
    4. Some form of Higgs boson 0%
    5. Large extra dimensions 0%
    6. WIMP dark matter 0%
    7. Any non-cosmological-constant explanation for cosmic acceleration 0%

    And yes, I have other solutions for each problem that these answers imply.

  • Eric

    1. Inflation – 50%
    2. Supersymmetry – 75%
    3. String theory – 60%
    4. Some form of Higgs boson – 99%
    5. Large extra dimensions – 1%
    6. WIMP dark matter – 50%
    7. Any non-cosmological-constant explanation for cosmic acceleration – 50%

    I feel pretty certain that something like inflation occurred, in the sense that there was a short period in which the universe expanded at an incredible rate. I’m just not sure if any of the current models of what caused this incredible rate of expansion are correct. Supersymmetry is the most likely solution to the hierarchy problem, although the exact SUSY spectrum may be heavier than previously thought. There may be more to the issue of electroweak symmetry breaking than the simple Higgs mechanism, but the Higgs undoubtedly exists in some form. If there is TeV-scale SUSY, then the dark matter likely has at least some WIMPy component. The dark energy question is a complete mystery.

  • http://www.theeternaluniverse.com/ Joseph Smidt

    Wow… People putting string theory as *more* likely than inflation given inflation’s experimental successes and string theories… Just wow!

    Reminds me of the time someone criticized me for saying we have good evidence for dark matter and when I asked what he was researching said (and I kid you not) some D7-D3 brane something. I about died.

  • http://blogs.richmond.edu/physicsbunn Ted Bunn

    Inflation — 75%
    Supersymmetry — 10%
    String theory — 1%
    Some form of Higgs boson — 90%
    Large extra dimensions — 0.1%
    WIMP dark matter — 50%
    Any non-cosmological-constant explanation for cosmic acceleration — 70%

  • Newtonian Bias

    I see a lot of low numbers for the last item, which brings me another question:

    How sure are you that the expansion of the universe really is accelerating?

    Dare you write down any probabilities?

    I’m a mechanical engineer who loves astronomy, and kinda hope for the acceleration to just go away…

  • http://blogs.richmond.edu/physicsbunn Ted Bunn

    @John — Saying 0% is just as far from “conservative” as saying 100%. The truly conservative position is to acknowledge ignorance.

  • Oliver

    1) 50%
    2) 40%
    3) 85%
    4) 70%
    5) 15%
    6) 97%
    7) 50%

  • http://scienceblogs.com/startswithabang/ Ethan Siegel

    Sean,

    This is an excellent poll! My own speculations are:

    1) 90%
    2) 0.5%
    3) 0.01%
    4) 98%
    5) 0.000001%
    6) 10%
    7) 0.5%

    Clearly your readers are much more optimistic about many of these ideas than I am…

  • Casey

    Physics theory grad student at caltech…
    Inflation — 50% there are many possibilities to explain cmb homogeneity.
    Supersymmetry — 90% probably extended (4-fold) supersymmetry.
    String theory — 10% (of producing a falsifiable prediction in my lifetime…;) )
    Some form of Higgs boson — 60% some form is pretty broad. There may be a simpler theoretical interpretation for SSB in the future.
    Large extra dimensions — 0% or my shoe laces would untie
    WIMP dark matter — 100% even if we can never detect it and even if it’s not most of dark matter
    Any non-cosmological-constant explanation for cosmic acceleration — 100% non deterministic explanations for cosmological things in progress make no sense. There is a more complicated mechanism occurring here. My best guess is that gravity becomes repulsive under some condition, maybe from some dodgy global gauge symmetry violation. Maybe a hierarchy of force bosons.
    Just ideas.

  • valatan

    The people giving string theory as more likely than supersymmetry are the ones that confuse me.

  • psmith

    the median was about 90% confidence. Of course, these are people who work on inflation professionally, and have chosen to do so.

    This sounds a bit like self-selection bias

  • http://togroklife.com Greg

    I started putting together a chart of this since someone wanted a graph of the options (a poll really wouldn’t have covered it).

    You’re welcome to add yourself. The countif should cover about 50 or so entries, so you don’t need to edit the totals, but if you need a new value you can insert a row.

    https://spreadsheets.google.com/ccc?key=0AtHIstgQtFFidDN5bEdmem5iQlVMZGtGOXpud2pRaGc&hl=en&authkey=CNHV27YD

  • AnotherSean

    An amateur physicist, I come in about the same as MPS-17, with a higher probablility for TEV Susy of at least one particle (50%) and Higgs (90%). Somebody asked about the probability of LQG, which I put at 10^-n, as n grows infinite.

  • Josh_N

    Okay, what confuses me is all the people putting string theory below 40%. How can you be so confident it’s *wrong*? I suspect people don’t like it because it’s not testable or it’s ambiguous or whatever, but if that’s the case I would think you would want to be in the 40% to 60% range.

  • vel

    I’m curious, what does #7 really mean? I know the others but that one confounds me. Would that include “there’s just more regular old matter than we can see, no magic particle or dimensions needed”.

  • Matt

    1. Inflation – 75%
    2. Supersymmetry – 70%
    3. String theory –60%
    4. Some form of Higgs boson – 75%
    5. Large extra dimensions – 40%
    6. WIMP dark matter – 25%
    7. Any non-cosmological-constant explanation for cosmic acceleration – 1%

  • Matt B.

    I put string theory below 50%. I read The Elegant Universe and recognized a serious flaw in one part, and a lack of explanation for, as an example, how an electron can emit a photon and still be an electron afterward. The flaw was in the illustration of the worldsheet of two merging strings. It was stated that the curvature of the worldsheet at the merging preserves Heisenberg uncertainty, because in different reference frames the merging would take place at different locations in space-time. That’s unconvincing anyway (because the HUP is supposed to work within one reference frame), but what’s worse, having the merger take place at a smooth curve instead of a corner implies that the strings move at infinite speed at that moment.

    –Matt B., BS (Physics)

  • Kevin Peter Hickerson

    1. Inflation – 85%
    2. Supersymmetry – 80%
    3. String theory – 60%
    4. Some form of Higgs boson – 33%
    5. Large extra dimensions – 10%
    6. WIMP dark matter – 95%
    7. Non-cosmological-constant – 50%

  • Jason Dick

    1. Inflation: 90%
    2. Supersymmetry: 50%
    3. String Theory: 15%
    4. Higgs: 80%
    5. Large extra dimensions: 5%
    6. WIMP dark matter: 99%
    7. Non-cosmological constant: 20%

    Coming at this from the perspective of cosmological data analysis. So a lot of these things I have relatively little knowledge of. But that doesn’t mean I can’t pull numbers out of my keister, does it?

  • whoschad

    This is a great post. Commenters definitely need to put credentials though (thanks to those who did).

    Can we get this list emailed to a hundred (or so) respected physicists? I’d would LOVE to see the results.

  • Alex Lang

    1 Inflation – 25%
    2 Supersymmetry – 25%
    3 String theory – 10%
    4 Some form of Higgs boson – 95%
    5 Large extra dimensions – 10%
    6 WIMP dark matter -95%
    7 Any non-cosmological-constant explanation for cosmic acceleration – 10%

    Street cred: 1st year physics grad student. Highly biased towards hoping everything is wrong and there is lots for me to discover :)

  • http://outreach.astro.columbia.edu/ Joshua Schroeder

    Graduate student in astronomy here.

    1. Inflation: 75%. This is something of semantics because it depends on what you mean by inflation. The currently-favored slow-roll model makes a lot of sense in terms of the data, but the details are a bit murky to me. Constraints on the inflaton potential seem to me to be problematically based on the assumption that the only way to get the deSitter solution we seem to be after is through this kind of appeal. The question is, will we discover the inflaton in my lifetime? Perhaps, but looking back at past history of science lessons makes me think that something fundamental may be missing from the picture. I guess the best analog might be (in my mind) something like phlogiston and caloric theories of heat. The proper understanding of thermodynamics didn’t occur until we broke free of a certain conceptualization of the phenomena of temperature and heat. This is not something I think will necessarily happen for inflation, but I give it a 25% chance or so that such a paradigm shift will occur. However, I find it difficult to imagine an explanation from the FLRW perspective that would not have some sort of deSitter-like phase in the early universe at the time of inflation. Would it necessarily BE inflation though? That’s something of a semantics question. I would say “yes”, but, then, we could also argue that the fact that we still measure heat energy in “calories” means that the “caloric theory” wasn’t overthrown completely (and, indeed, it wasn’t… many of the conceptual understandings from heat flow are still used even though we understand there is no “caloric”).

    2. Supersymmetry: 75% I take my cues from the prediction that anti-matter existed. The parallels between the two are too uncanny for me to argue that supersymmetry is false. If supersymmetry is false then I think that we’ll have bigger problems with beyond-standard-model particle physics that will make this a bigger issue than simply lacking supersymmetry. Still viable alternatives seem to be around, so I’ll give it the same shake I gave inflation.

    3. String theory: 50% Not sure. On this one. I give it even odds for being correct or incorrect. As a unified theory, it seems to have made the most progress, but I’m not convinced that a fundamental flaw won’t be stumbled upon in the future. I give it a 50-50 shot of survival lacking so much information (since its observable implications are still being worked out).

    4. Some form of Higgs boson: 95%: The standard model of particle physics is just too successful for me to give this much chance of failure. I’m not even aware of alternative methods for doing what the Higgs does. I keep the 5% chance of “incorrect” just to hedge my bets. Some may note that the same argument I made about the possibility of inflation being incorrect could be made here, but I think the correct comparison here is not to thermodynamics but to the particle physics experiments of the 20th century where the entire zoo of fundamental particles was predicted and discovered from the fundamental physics of the standard model. There’s no instance of the standard model predicting a particle that doesn’t exist, so I propose that if the standard model predicts it, the particle is probably there. If the Higgs turns out to be the inflaton, I’ll be pretty impressed, but I think we’ve almost ruled that out even not having observed it. Am I correct in that?

    5. Large extra dimensions: 5% Too much work says “no” to this one. What’s left that hasn’t been ruled out is just too big of a leap for me. Still, I hedge the bet and give it a 5% chance.

    6. WIMP dark matter – 90% Slightly less certain of this one than the Higgs boson but still pretty much convinced that this stuff has to exist with the forms described in standard WIMP theory. However, I’m not sure I’d take a bet on when direct detection would take place. To some extent, WIMP dark matter suffers from the same critique as the inflaton above with the difference that WIMP dark matter has a ton of observational data and falsified alternatives upon whose shoulders it stands.

    7. Any non-cosmological-constant explanation for cosmic acceleration: 20% I think I know what you mean here: anything that does not have the rough form of w ~= -1. Quintessence, I suppose, counts too. Rocky Kolb has made a good case that we only have one really strong argument for dark energy and that’s supernovae Ia redshift-distance relations (the other piece of evidence being so-called “cosmic subtraction”). I don’t think he’s right, but his point is well-taken enough by me to give him a better chance of being correct than large extra dimensions, Higgs-alternatives, or dark matter alternatives. Incidentally, the fact that this percentage plus the percentage for 1) is 95% is somewhat comforting to me. I find the parallels between inflation and dark energy to be a bit too beguiling.

    Thanks for the fun survey, Sean.

  • http://commons.bcit.ca/mylife/author/dmcgilvery/ Darcy McGilvery

    1. Inflation: 65%
    2. Supersymmetry: 80%
    3. String theory: 50%
    4. Some form of Higgs boson: 90%
    5. Large extra dimensions: 80%
    6. WIMP dark matter: 45%
    7. Any non-cosmological-constant explanation for cosmic acceleration: 30%

    I’m a layman basing these percentages on what I’ve read.

  • King Cynic

    1) Inflation: 85%
    2) Supersymmetry: 85% at some scale, but only 50% that it’s at the weak scale
    3) String theory: 10%
    4) Higgs Boson of some sort: 99.9%. I’ll eat my hat otherwise.
    5) Large Extra Dimensions: <1%. Sure, it's exciting that string theorists developed a way to make a testable prediction, but that's not a good reason to think that strings aren't all at the Planck scale
    6) WIMPs: 45%. Axions are a very viable competitor
    7) non-cosmological constant dark energy: 75%. After all, it can't be a cosmological constant, because that wouldn't conserve energy—right, Sean? ;-)

  • Jens Ulrik

    1.Inflation – 85%
    2.Supersymmetry – 25%
    3.String theory – 40%
    4.Some form of Higgs boson- 80%
    5.Large extra dimensions – 10%
    6.WIMP dark matter – 25%
    7.Any non-cosmological-constant explanation for cosmic acceleration – 15%

    I’m an amateur astronomer with a M. Sc. in Electrical Engineering. My job is in the Biotech and Pharmaceutical industry, but I try to keep up on what’s happening in astronomy, cosmology and physics in general.

  • Mean and Anomalous

    1. 80%
    2. 1%
    3. 1%
    4. 55%
    5. 1%
    6. 30%
    7. ?

    Astrodynamicist with background in physics.

  • onymous

    Postdoc, on the hep-ph end of the spectrum….

    1. Inflation

    90%, although I’m not a cosmologist and have to admit some of this confidence might just be a matter of “well, I don’t have a better idea.”

    2. Supersymmetry

    MSSM at the TeV scale? 75%. Of that: 75% that it’s broken at the intermediate scale (some form of gravity mediation), 25% it’s low-scale breaking (gauge mediation).

    (Note: my sense of likely breaking scale has been pretty time-dependent lately. It’s on the move toward an increased belief in intermediate scale breaking, but I’m still too uncomfortable with sequestering to put a number over 75% right now. Could be very different in a month or two, almost certainly in the direction of increased belief in gravity mediation.)

    3. String theory

    90%+, if, for instance, M-theory compactifications are also included. Mostly, I have high confidence that any consistent theory of quantum gravity will look a lot like the ones we already have, and at least some people will call it “string theory” in the end….

    (Also, I think the AdS/CFT case that reasonable theories of quantum gravity look a lot like string theories is much stronger than most people tend to emphasize.)

    4. Some form of Higgs boson

    100%. If you require that WW scattering is unitarized dominantly by these bosons, and not, e.g., by something like a technirho, I’ll go with 90%.

    5. Large extra dimensions

    0.0001%, if you mean something visible at the TeV scale. Maybe 5% if you would count, say, large-volume string compactifications with the string scale at the intermediate scale, which would show up mostly as SUSY at the LHC. (Volume ~ 10^14 in string units, or something like that…)

    6. WIMP dark matter

    51.25%. That is: 50% given gravity mediation (see above), 5% given gauge mediation (see above), 50% if no SUSY at the TeV scale. (I initially wrote a much larger number given gravity mediation, then I stepped back and considered whether I was willing to bet on definitely more energy density in WIMPs than axions.)

    7. Any non-cosmological-constant explanation for cosmic acceleration

    Awkward. Any cosmological constant should be determined by some potential, in the sense that there are always scalar fields fluctuating around the vacuum. But: if you mean that what’s happening now is highly time-dependent, so that it doesn’t look like a c.c. to very good approximation, I’d go with 10%.

  • http://guidetoreality.blogspot.com Steve Esser

    Forgive my ignorance here, but I guess I’m not sure what you’re asking with #7.

    If I thought the likelihood was high that the acceleration will one day be explained in terms of some phenomenon or effect other than putting a constant in Einstein’s equation, shouldn’t I put a high percentage on #7?

    Why are so many putting a low % on it?
    Thanks.

  • http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/cosmicvariance/sean/ Sean

    Steve– because people have tried to do things other than putting a constant in Einstein’s equation, and they always make things worse rather than better. And, of course, because the constant is certainly there, the only question is what its value is (including zero).

  • http://guidetoreality.blogspot.com Steve Esser

    Thanks Sean.

  • Chris

    Hi Sean. I think I’ve heard you vehemently disagree with people who describe inflation as untested, pointing out that the theory was developed before we knew about slight deviations of n_s from 1, or that the universe was flat, etc. That, say, B-mode detection wouldn’t so much help verify inflation (because it has already passed stringent tests whose outcomes were not anticipated) as merely nail down the energy scale at which it occurred. If I’m not mischaracterizing your opinion, how can a theory be simultaneously well tested and speculative? Is it simply a question of access to the relevant energy scales in the laboratory? Because if so then we might as well all give up.

  • Rien

    Particle phenomenologist here (faculty).

    1. Inflation: 90%
    2. Supersymmetry: 55%
    3. String theory: 50% (Not that we’ll ever know.)
    4. Some form of Higgs boson: 99% (This includes composite and pseudo-Goldstones etc.)
    5. Large extra dimensions: < 1%
    6. WIMP dark matter: 95% (99.99% if axions are added.)
    7. Any non-cosmological-constant explanation for cosmic acceleration: no idea

  • Walt

    Graduate student: Particle cosmology.
    1. Inflation: 80%
    2. Supersymmetry: 75%
    3. String theory: 40%
    4. Some form of Higgs boson: 90 %
    5. Large extra dimensions: 20 %
    6. WIMP dark matter: 75 %
    7. Any non-cosmological-constant explanation for cosmic acceleration: 10%

  • http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/cosmicvariance/sean/ Sean

    Chris– maybe I said something like that, but it doesn’t sound like me. My usual line is that the predictions of inflation that have thus far been verified are either very vanilla things that could easily come out of alternative model (flatness, scale-free perturbations) or things that aren’t really nailed down yet (deviations from scale-free-ness). I think inflation probably happened, but I don’t think we’re anywhere near knowing on the basis of observations.

  • Felix

    “talks were not recorded”

    What’s that all about??!!

    What argument outweighs the fact that you can either present you idea to your peers or educate the wider public 1000 times more efficiently if you make videos?

  • Sili

    Informed (I hope) layman. Chemistry, maths, currents teaching HS. At the 95% confidence level:

    Inflation – 100% – pretty
    Supersymmetry – 0% – too pretty
    String theory – 0% – pretty messy
    Some form of Higgs boson – 100% – simple
    Large extra dimensions – 0% – fun, but nah
    WIMP dark matter – 100% – simple
    Any non-cosmological-constant explanation for cosmic acceleration – 0% – simple

  • Jens Ulrik

    Will you be making a chart showing the average affinities for each proposition, Sean? It would be interesting, even if not scientifically valid.

  • http://togroklife.com greg

    Jens – If you look at the bottom row of the spreadsheet I made, I’ve added a row of the average value people are giving. A few people I skipped because they had rather complex, conditional answers.

    Currently:
    Inflation: 70.30
    Supersymmetry: 42.50
    String theory: 26.67
    Higgs Boson: 79.06
    large extra dimensions: 10.47
    WIMPs: 60.06
    non-cosmological constant cosmic acceleration: 26.12

  • King Cynic

    I’m really surprised by all the high numbers for WIMPs. Why not axions? What about sterile neutrinos?

  • King Cynic

    I also have a semantic issue with the last question. I took it in the most restrictive sense, in that I would consider the various quintessence and other time-varying scenarios to be distinct from a cosmological constant (which has to be /constant/—duh!). The large numbers people are giving to a cosmlogical constant suggests to me that they may have a broader interpretation, such as “some energy density with negative pressure, as opposed to MOND or other dark energy alternatives.”

    Is anyone REALLY serious that there’s 100% certainty that Einstein’s cosmological constant is the final word on dark energy?

  • algernon

    Inflation: 90%
    Supersymmetry: 50%
    String theory: 35%
    Some form of Higgs boson: 80%
    Large extra dimensions: 5%
    WIMP dark matter: 60% (but “some form of dark matter” would be 90%)
    Any non-cosmological-constant explanation for cosmic acceleration: 10%

    Not a physicist, just an engineer who enjoys reading science-related blogs/forums and devotedly worships the almighty Dr. Sheldon Cooper :)

  • http://people.maths.ox.ac.uk/daviesr/ Rhys

    Post-doc, interested in BSM physics but also working a lot on Calabi-Yau ‘stuff’.

    Inflation: %75 (but really going on authority here, my knowledge of cosmology is rough)
    Supersymmetry: %80 (weak scale, 60%)
    String theory: %75
    Higgs boson: %98
    Large extra dimensions: .1%
    WIMP dark matter: %50
    Any non-Lambda accelerator: 5%

  • rescolo

    BSM phenomenology:

    1. Inflation – 90%
    2. Supersymmetry – 5%
    3. String theory – 5%
    4. Some form of Higgs boson – 99.9%
    5. Large extra dimensions – 10%
    6. WIMP dark matter – 70%
    7. Any non-cosmological-constant explanation for cosmic acceleration – 10%

  • anon.

    What argument outweighs the fact that you can either present you idea to your peers or educate the wider public 1000 times more efficiently if you make videos?

    Not only that, they didn’t even allow most of the physicists who live in the same town to come in, even quite distinguished ones….

  • http://garrettlisi.com Garrett

    Nice poll. I’d be even happier to see a betting market for these.

    1. Inflation – 70%
    2. Supersymmetry – 20%
    3. String theory – 20%
    4. Some form of Higgs boson – 90%
    5. Large extra dimensions – 5%
    6. WIMP dark matter – 70%
    7. Any non-cosmological-constant explanation for cosmic acceleration – 60%

    (The last question is ambiguous, as described by King Cynic. What if the cosmological constant is related to the Higgs vev?)

    8. E8 theory – 60%
    (I guess that says who I am.)

    Looking over peoples’ estimates, the variance in the responses is impressive. We live in interesting times.

  • algernon

    greg, that spreadsheet you made is really disturbing.

    Not because of the results themselves of course, just because you’re giving my humble layman gues…ehm opinions the same weight of those from the likes of Ethan Siegel – as well as other respectable people from the field.

    Wow, I’m kinda flattened… ;)

  • http://www.reciprocalspace.net Michael S. Pierce

    1. Inflation – 90%
    2. Supersymmetry – 10%
    3. String theory – 10%
    4. Some form of Higgs boson 99%
    5. Large extra dimensions 10%
    6. WIMP dark matter 75%
    7. Any non-cosmological-constant explanation for cosmic acceleration 33%

    I’m a condensed matter experimentalist, so consider me an outsider. Basic graduate physics education, a pedestrian’s interest in particle physics, and a willingness to read enough to occasionally tease my high-energy friends.

    I made these guesses (and that’s a generous description) without looking those posted by others. My bias seems evident, though not too far from what it looks like others are posting. Things get worse if you were to ask for, “true and will this ever be observed by humans?” instead of just your query on the god hotline.

  • Fermi-Walker Public Transport

    1. Inflation – 80%
    2. Supersymmetry – 50%
    3. String theory – 70% that it is reasonable approximation on some energy scale, not that it is a “final theory”.
    4. Some form of Higgs boson – 99%
    5. Large extra dimensions – 1%
    6. WIMP dark matter – 60%
    7. Any non-cosmological-constant explanation for cosmic acceleration – 1%

    Me ? Observational extragalactic astronomer

  • Solomon

    1. Inflation – 90% (Very successfully converts a bunch of big cosmological problems into a couple of microphysics ones.)

    2. SUSY – 25% (I’ll up this if anyone can give me a better argument than the stabilization of the weak scale. For coupling unification to be convincing, one first has to believe in the necessity of grand unification. Unification would be nice; but, it’s by no means a given a priori. And, arguments from mathematical beauty fail far to often to be convincing.)

    3. String Theory – 10% as a predictive theory of everything, 60% as a tool in the manner of QFT

    4. Some form of Higgs boson – 95% (Something has to unitarize WW scattering and provide the longitudinal polarization for the W and Z.)

    5. Large extra dimensions – .0001% if this means macroscopic or nearly so, 5% if it includes anything significantly above Planck scale.

    6. WIMP dark matter – 90%

    7. Any non-cosmological-constant explanation for cosmic acceleration – 15% taking the narrowest definition of cosmological constant explanation

    Grad student in particle phenomenology.

  • Kevin Lim

    1. Inflation – 80%
    2. Supersymmetry – 70%
    3. String theory – 70%
    4. Some form of Higgs boson – 90%
    5. Large extra dimensions -80%
    6. WIMP dark matter – 50%
    7. Any non-cosmological-constant explanation for cosmic acceleration – 40%

    I’m a grad student in GR, particularly higher dimensional black holes, so I’m highly in favour of 5.)

  • http://stac82.com/ Jeremy “Tech”

    1. Inflation – 60%
    2. Supersymmetry – 30%
    3. String Theory – 30%
    4. Some form of Higgs boson – 75%
    5. Large extra dimensions – 10%
    6. WIMP dark matter – 60%
    7. Any non-cosmological-constant explanation… – 10%

    I have vocational education in electronics (didn’t have the money for more education). I have always had a deep seeded fascination with any scientific endeavours but most especially in quantum physics. I have read the typical list of layman’s books on physics and theoretical physics. These are my uneducated guesses based on what I have read and what seems rational to me.

  • Doug

    GR / QFT in curved space grad student.

    1. Inflation – 90%
    As instructed, this is just for the general paradigm. Plenty of room for devils in the details.
    2. Supersymmetry – 30%
    3. String theory – 25%
    I do think anyone giving susy lower odds than ST should be disqualified.
    4. Some form of Higgs boson – 90%
    If including composites and so on. I suppose my bet is on the Higgs mechanism rather than the Higgs boson. The restriction to a single boson leaves me a pure agnostic; I’ve never heard a single compelling argument for that apart from parsimony of particles,.
    5. Large extra dimensions – 5%
    They’re not even pretty enough to want to believe in them, nevermind suggested by experiment.
    6. WIMP dark matter – 60%
    This question is much more specific than “inflationary paradigm” and “some form of higgs.” I’d be more enthusiastic if it were just “particulate dark matter,” as someone else also suggested.
    7. Any non-cosmological-constant explanation for cosmic acceleration – 10%
    Never explain with 2 parameters what you can explain with 1.

  • Garbage

    What does it mean to give %’s? How many multiverses in the landscape? wait,
    if ST is not 100%right, how likely it is there’s a landscape and a universe where we can actually ask the question? ;p

    Honestly, the hush-hush part of that meeting was really lame, I’m curious what was it discussed that wasn’t allowed to be heard by *outsiders*…

  • réalta fuar

    Observational stellar astronomer here:

    1.Inflation—20%
    2.Supersymmetry–20%
    3.String theory==0%
    4.Some form of Higgs boson-90%
    5.Large extra dimensions-5%
    6.WIMP dark matter–90%
    7.Any non-cosmological-constant explanation for cosmic acceleration–10%

  • Steuard

    I’m a string theorist (liberal arts college faculty), trying not to overthink this:

    1. Inflation: 70%
    2. Supersymmetry: 40%
    3. String theory: 25%
    4. Some form of Higgs boson: 95%
    5. Large extra dimensions: 0.1% (rounded up from 10^-16).
    6. WIMP dark matter: 50%
    7. Any non-cosmological-constant explanation for cosmic acceleration: 20%

    You’re going to post some sort of summary (with histograms or at least standard deviations) eventually, right? :)

  • jesterjester

    I’m a cosmologist.
    1.Inflation – 90%
    2.Supersymmetry – 25%
    3.String theory – 10%
    4.Some form of Higgs boson – 95%
    5.Large extra dimensions – 25%
    6.WIMP dark matter – 25%
    7.Any non-cosmological-constant explanation for cosmic acceleration – 90%

  • Brian137

    Can anybody play?
    OK, that’s me.
    1. 85%
    2. 75%
    3. Don’t know
    4. 85 %
    5. Do not know
    6. Some kind of cold or tepid dark matter – 85%. WIMP dark matter – don’t know.
    7. 15%

  • michael pierce

    Just as an aside, I’ve usually found “Physics by Democracy” to have a better than 50% chance of giving an incorrect answer when used in classes. ;)

  • Brian137

    In post #4, ossicle Says:

    That’s interesting to me, as an ignorant layman. I thought cosmic inflation was much more widely accepted than that, to the point where it was practically considered settled. THAT’S WHY ONE READS BLOGS, though, I guess!

    Hi ossicle,
    I think the press tends to overstate the degree of consensus among scientists in many areas.

  • http://sievemaria.com sievemaria lucianus

    inflation 100%
    supersymmetry 100%
    string theory 0%
    higgs 100%
    large extra dimensions 10%
    WIMP dark matter 100%

  • Markk

    Inflation 33%
    Supersymmetry 10%
    String theory – what is it? – since it could be anything 100% or 0%. Use of transforms in later model? 60%
    Some form of Higgs boson 80%
    Large extra dimensions 0.1%
    WIMP dark matter 60%
    Any non-cosmological-constant explanation for cosmic acceleration – Don’t know what this means. 0% All explanation of acceleration will relate to CC somehow right?

  • Mark

    I have a Ph.D. in hep-th, currently a postdoc.
    1.Inflation 50%
    2.Supersymmetry 99.9% (gravity mediation 90%, gauge mediation 9%, something else 0.9%)
    3.String theory 99.9% (if M-theory is included)
    4.Some form of Higgs boson 99.9%
    5.Large extra dimensions 0.0000000000000001%
    6.WIMP dark matter 50% (I think that DM is multicomponent, axions 100% are a fraction of it)
    7.Any non-cosmological-constant explanation for cosmic acceleration 0%

  • http://home.earthlink.net/~dolascetta Dick

    1. 100%
    2. 0%
    3. 0%
    4. Exists 100%. Detected at LHC 1%
    5. 0%
    6. 10%
    7. 0%
    I am yet another retired electrical engineer with a theory of everything.

  • Will

    inflation 60
    supersymmetry 95
    string theory 95 (Surely correct at its core)
    higgs 95
    large extra dimensions 10
    WIMP dark matter 30

  • Brian Mingus

    Inflation – > 0%
    Supersymmetry – 0%
    String theory – 0%
    Some form of Higgs boson – > 0%
    Large extra dimensions – 0%
    WIMP dark matter – > 0%

  • James

    Given that omniscient beings don’t exist, what does it even mean for something to be X% true? Is Newtonian gravity true? It would be nice to promote these questions to something you can wager on.

  • Alexander

    1. Inflation: 75%
    2. Supersymmetry: 25%
    3. String theory: 50%
    4. Some form of Higgs boson: 95%
    5. Large extra dimensions: 1%
    6. WIMP dark matter: 80%
    7. Any non-cosmological-constant explanation for cosmic acceleration: 25%

    Physicist, made my thesis 1993 on WIMP-detection. but I’m no longer working in this field.

  • Ralph

    That cosmic acceleration is driven by something other that a pure CC (e.g., a field which can vary over relative small regions of space/time and a local conservation law, or a field that is quantised and has particles): 80%.

    That in my lifetime(*) we will find a more or less correct theory of that which will widely recognised as compelling but untested: 10%

    That we will have good experimental evidence for that in the next 200 years: 1%

    * Footnote: Estimate of duration of “in my lifetime” can be derived from that fact that I can still call myself young and just about keep a straight face.

  • http://tispaquin.blogspot.com Douglas Watts

    I’d like to know how Edwin Hubble would score it.

    Also, Proton Decay should be #8.

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

    I think it’s disingenuous to encourage rating scientific models by a single number while at the same time scientists are trying to teach policy makers that more often than not there’s not one simple answer, but various levels of uncertainty that shouldn’t just be discarded but acknowledged in their full complexity. There was an excellent article in a recent issue of Nature on this, see http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v468/n7327/full/4681029a.html

  • http://blog.vixra.org/ Philip Gibbs

    1. Inflation: 40%
    2. Supersymmetry (~TeV scale): 75%
    3. String theory: 90%
    4. Some form of Higgs boson: 95%
    5. Large extra dimensions: 2% .
    6. WIMP dark matter: 70%
    7. Any non-cosmological-constant explanation for cosmic acceleration: 1%

  • JKG

    I’m rather optimistic and I think that there are many surprising results to discover in a near future, hopefully. Therefore I would say

    1. Inflation – 90% (if this means de Sitter phase in early universe)
    2. Supersymmetry – 25%
    3. String theory – 0% as a unified theory of all interaction and theory of quantum gravity; 50% for string inspired theoretical tools like AdS/CFT, twistors, etc.
    4. Some form of Higgs boson – 10%
    5. Large extra dimensions – 0%
    6. WIMP dark matter – 80%
    7. Any non-cosmological-constant explanation for cosmic acceleration – 30%

  • nobody

    1. Inflation………………………………………………………………………………… 5%
    2. Supersymmetry……………………………………………………………………….10%
    3. String theory…………………………………………………………………………..0%
    4. Some form of Higgs boson…………………………………………………………75%
    5. Large extra dimensions……………………………………………………………..30%
    6. WIMP dark matter…………………………………………………………………..25%
    7. Any non-cosmological-constant explanation for cosmic acceleration….95%

  • AngryPhysicsFan

    I think it’s funny asking people what they think the odds are. It’d be like asking people in Ptolemy’s time if they thought the Earth was the center of the universe or not. We don’t know things until we know em. That being said:

    1: 0% we’re gonna need a legitimate GUT before we try to describe what happened so soon after the big bang. assuming there was a big bang.
    2: 0% you can’t solve all your problems by throwing more particles at them. just way too convenient to be plausible
    3. -100% show me an experiment that can test this! stands out from other stuff on the list because it’s unscientific until there are real predictions that can be tested against reality
    4: 0% a particle that makes a field that gives things mass? Isn’t that the ether all over again?
    5: -1000000% (see response for #3)
    6: 50%
    7: 100% I’m still holding my breath for a solution that doesn’t involve antigravity

  • Christian

    1. Inflation: 60%
    2. Supersymmetry: 70% (though not necessarily low energy)
    3. String theory: 30%
    4. Some form of Higgs boson: 90%
    5. Large extra dimensions: 10%
    6. WIMP dark matter: 80%
    7. Any non-cosmological-constant explanation for cosmic acceleration: 10%

    PhD in hep-ex, strong theoretical background, left physics recently.

  • Certainty

    1.Inflation – likely to be non-dynamic explanation-0%
    2.Supersymmetry – go gluino – 100%
    3.String theory – Interpretational – It is more of a mathematical framework- 100%
    3a. quantum harmonic oscillators – Interpretational – It is more of a mathematical framework – 100%
    4.Some form of Higgs boson – If it isn’t there, I’m taking my money back 8) – 100%
    5.Large extra dimensions – Yeah, right – 0%
    5a. Extra dimensions – Absolutely – 100%
    6.WIMP dark matter – If it waves, it’s a particle – 100%
    7.Any non-cosmological-constant explanation for cosmic acceleration – Its driven by quantum noise, and cosmological constant is not a natural feature, only a parameter in a model – 0%

  • Nex

    1. Inflation 3%
    2. Supersymmetry 1%
    3. String theory 0.1%
    4. Some form of Higgs boson 5%
    5. Large extra dimensions <0.1%
    6. WIMP dark matter 5%
    7. Any non-cosmological-constant explanation for cosmic acceleration 85%

    All those theories can only flourish because of lack of experimental data, but their explanatory power is way too small when compared with the amount of novel abstract constructs they require – a sure sign of delusion.

    Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.

  • anbar

    1.Cosmic inflation 95%
    2.Supersymmetry 80%
    3.String theory 80%
    4.Higgs boson of any type 99.999%
    5.Large extra dimensions <1%
    6.WIMP dark matter 95%
    7.Explanations of accelerated expansion not based on the cosmological constant 50%

  • Jim Cross

    In which of the multiverses, are we talking about? :)

  • Neil

    As a non-physicist, the only sensible answers I can give are 50% (don’t know), >50% (more likely) and 50%
    Supersymmetry >50%
    String theory 50%
    Large extra dimensions 50%

  • JK

    1.Cosmic inflation 75%
    2.Supersymmetry 50%
    3.String theory 75%
    4.Higgs boson of any type 70%
    5.Large extra dimensions 1%
    6.WIMP dark matter 15%
    7.Explanations of accelerated expansion not based on the cosmological constant 75%

  • the clayton peacock

    2nd year in hep-ph graduate degree

    95% – Inflation
    45% – Supersymmetry
    25% – String theory
    99% – Some form of Higgs boson
    15% – Large extra dimensions
    99% – WIMP dark matter
    65% – Any non-cosmological-constant explanation for cosmic acceleration
    – hope of distinguishing this explanation from a cosmological-constant explanation, 1%

  • http://people.maths.ox.ac.uk/daviesr/ Rhys

    It’s a strange phenomenon that so many people with little-to-no training in physics and maths have really strong opinions about cutting-edge high-energy physics (or indeed, their very own “theory of everything”, about which they are utterly convinced). I’m not talking about the many commenters here who have offered honest, humble opinions, but people like #89. I think it’s an unfortunate side-effect of trying to bring fundamental physics to the masses (get it?) via pop-sci books etc.

  • JollyJoker

    @Rhys: I think it’s an effect of physics being an interesting subject to many but requiring quite a bit of effort to actually understand in detail. Laymen have no real way of judging which theories seem likely and which don’t, so we’re reduced to appeal to authority or random emotionally motivated “I don’t believe it”-style statements. (Some variation of argument from ignorance?)

    I’ve been reading physics blogs for some time now and worry a bit that there’s no way for me to judge how likely the writings are to be correct (beyond checking a variety of sources etc.), but there’s no way I’m spending years on studying physics just because I’m interested in the current developments.

  • PSP

    Rhys: I suspect that most of the followers of this blog are (like me) just interested amateurs – particle physics and cosmology isn’t what puts bread on our tables and gas in our cars. Having invested in and been flummoxed by e.g., The Road to Reality, what are we to do? So we read Elegant Universe, Eternity to Here, et al, and see what we can glean. So, this poll perhaps has no intrinsic value, it’s just a lot of fun.

    But that doesn’t mean that the topics themselves are valueless – quite the contrary of course. The more that people like Sean can “bring fundamental physics to the masses” the better we all will be, especially in contrast to the floggers of religion and other superstitions.

  • http://home.uchicago.edu/~sgralla Sam Gralla

    You should ask the same people how their percentage changes if B-mode polization is detected. That would be really interesting, given how many polarization experiments there are.

  • R squared

    1. Inflation – 80% ( but exact mechanism may never be known )
    2. Supersymmerty – 70% ( by Dirac’s aesthetic criteria alone )
    3. String theory – 1% ( recent papers by Bert Schroer – arXiv.org – are devastating )
    4. Higgs boson – 95% ( electroweak symmetry breaking is almost a certainty )
    5. Large extra dimensions – 1% ( same as small extra dimensions )
    6. WIMP dark matter – 40% ( dark matter just as likely to be shadow matter – no weak
    just gravitational interactions )
    7. non-cosmological-constant – 5% ( ‘if it walks like a duck …’ )

    Former physicist.

  • JollyJoker

    A question to those having SUSY much lower than WIMPs: Is your thinking on this mostly that the observations point to WIMPs but SUSY doesn’t make that much sense, or is the difference made up by a theory you consider very likely that includes non-SUSY WIMPs? I’ll go ahead and assume Garrett in #60 is of the latter persuasion, but what about the rest of you?

    Edit: I’m asking because I thought WIMPs were one of the main motivations for SUSY, while other theories don’t give you WIMPs that easily.

  • AJKamper

    Okay, just because it’s hilarious that my opinion could be included:

    1) 40%
    2) 75%
    3) 50%
    4) 20%
    5) 1%
    6) 75%
    7) If “experimental and theoretical error” counts, then 60%

    Background: I’m a law student and mediator with a good layman’s grasp of physics. I’d love to see this broken out into insider v/ outsider, to see what exactly popular science books and blogs are teaching people.

  • onymous

    I’m honestly surprised by the amount of confidence in WIMP dark matter coming from people who say they’re particle physicists of one sort or another. Axions are pretty compelling, and neutralinos decay in an awfully big subset of the SUSY models in the literature. Neither axion DM or WIMP DM (or some sort of hidden-sector DM) would surprise me in the least.

  • http://www.spacemika.com MM

    1. Inflation 80%
    2. Supersymmetry 60%
    3. String theory 40%
    4. Some form of Higgs boson 80%
    5. Large extra dimensions 1%
    6. WIMP dark matter 80%
    7. Any non-cosmological-constant explanation for cosmic acceleration 1%

    As a physics undergraduate, I worked in a cosmology lab, but graduate research was on more down-to-earth topics (geophysics:disasters). I stay on top of the literature for entertainment purposes (researcher for scifi), and want as many conflicting theories as possible to provide plausibility for the next insane plot.

  • HelderVelez

    There is no need for Inflation Era (nor DE, nor DM, nor cosmological-constant) as one can find a new model with only one parameter (Hubble constant) at:

    A relativistic time variation of matter/space fits both local and cosmic data (arxiv astro-ph 0208365)
    http://arxiv.org/abs/astro-ph/0208365

    undiscussed, so what?

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  • http://www.scientopia.org/blogs/galacticinteractions Rob Knop

    My answer is long: http://scientopia.org/blogs/galacticinteractions/2011/02/08/how-likely-do-you-think-it-is-that-theory-is-right/

    Summary:
    1. Inflation : 80%
    2. Supersymmetry : 50%
    3. String Theory : 15%
    4. Higgs : 75%
    5. Large Extra dimensions : 10%
    6. WIMP Dark Matter : 60% (but Nonbaryonic Dark Matter is 98%)
    7. Non-Λ Cosmic Acceleration : 25%

  • DiegoFarka

    1. Inflation – 43%
    2. Supersymmetry – 50%
    3. String theory – 40%
    4. Some form of Higgs boson – 95%
    5. Large extra dimensions – 10%
    6. WIMP dark matter – 40%
    7. Any non-cosmological-constant explanation for cosmic acceleration – 30%

    I’m not expert in none of these topics. I’m theorist working on string Pheno… “pheno” ;-)

  • Chris

    Inflation – 90% I always thought this question was settled and I never heard any other explanation
    Supersymmetry – 10% It sounds nice on paper, but since we haven’t found anything yet I’m not too hopeful
    String theory – 20% Sounds really interesting, but I doubt we’ll be able to really test it in our lifetimes.
    Some form of Higgs boson – 90% any other explanations why we have mass?
    Large extra dimensions 1% depends by what you mean by large?
    WIMP dark matter 90% The dark matter has to be something
    Any non-cosmological-constant explanation for cosmic acceleration 2% If they didn’t cancel Stargate Universe we might have found out :-)

    A suggestion, make a histogram of all the responses, it’d be interesting to see how everyone feels. Also you could ask if there is a graviton.

  • ShannonFrance

    Warning : I am not a physicist but Physics are my only readings… I just love the subject.
    So here are my answers :
    1 – 95%
    2 – 90%
    3 – 90%
    4 – 99%
    5 – 80%
    6 – 85%
    7 – 5 %
    Best regards,
    Shannon

  • Drew

    Credentials : Smart guy that reads books :)

    1. Inflation – 80%
    2. Supersymmetry – 65%
    3. String theory – 50%
    4. Some form of Higgs boson – 98%
    5. Large extra dimensions – 20%
    6. WIMP dark matter – 40%
    7. Any non-cosmological-constant explanation for cosmic acceleration – 5%

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  • SteveB

    Based on the things we know we know, not to mention the things we know we don’t know, and ignoring the things we don’t know we don’t know, and assuming an unknown % error, in the spirit of Rummy I say…

    1. Inflation (or something like it): 70%
    2. Supersymmetry: 60%
    3. String theory: 10%, but if SUSY, 40%
    4. Some form of Higgs boson: 95% – as ‘t Hooft observes, we’ve already seen 3/4 of it.
    5. Large extra dimensions: 5% – very cute idea, but seems contrived
    6. WIMP dark matter: 65% (~ same as SUSY but with the chance of axions)
    7. Any non-cosmological-constant explanation for cosmic acceleration: 2% (but if there are large extra dimensions, 50%)

    Once a physicist, still one in spirit.

  • KWK

    1. Inflation: 85% (I’ve thought of cosmology in terms of inflation for so long that giving it this high of a probability may be mostly due to lack of imagination on my part)
    2: Supersymmetry: 15% (though I’d also give this probability my largest error bars)
    3: String Theory: 5%
    4: Higgs: 97% (The aesthetic value of the theory probably influences my willingness to claim that it’s true, at least a little bit. Plus, we find new particles all the time–what’s one more?)
    5: Large extra dimensions: 1%
    6: WIMP dark matter: 92% (see 4.)
    7: non-cosmological-constant: 15%
    I’m almost disappointed in the low probability I assign for (7), since that would be most interesting to me professionally. I’m currently working in observational cosmology and astroparticle physics.

  • Joe Shobe

    Not even an educated guess, but sensibilities lead me to guess
    1. Inflation – 55% Only slightly more likely than Penrose’s latest story, which I like.
    2. Supersymmetry – 75% Seems so likely
    3. String theory – 80% Almost certain that quarks are only higher organizations of energy
    4. Some form of Higgs boson – 05% Give it to hidden dimensions of #3 and #5
    5. Large extra dimensions – 70% Assuming, of course, we’re not the most intelligent creatures at the center of the universe.
    6. WIMP dark matter – 90%
    7. Any non-cosmological-constant explanation for cosmic acceleration – ??% you mean ANY? Sure, then, make it 100%

  • metal

    Inflation — don’t know
    Supersymmetry — 95%
    String theory — String theory in current state: 0%, Some evolution of string theory: 80%
    Some form of Higgs boson — 98% (inclusive of composite models etc)
    Large extra dimensions — 2%
    WIMP dark matter — don’t know
    Any non-cosmological-constant explanation for cosmic acceleration — 2%

  • spyder

    How many of you will still be alive when many of these probabilities are finally realized?

  • http://www.damtp.cam.ac.uk/people/e.lim/ Eugene

    Oh oh oh! I love polls like this, gets me away from doing actual science!

    Since I subscribe to the Colbert “if you don’t know the answer to a mystery, it must be 50-50″, I vote 50% to all of the above.

    My background : I was Sean’s student! So it was all his fault if you don’t like my answer.

  • http://www.spacemika.com MM

    @111. Chris

    You referenced Stargate: Universe as your “Appeal to Authority.” That makes me your authority. Thank you! I’ll count this as yet more proof that credible science in entertainment serves a purpose.

    The remainder of this season does give hints as to a few of the Stargate scientists’ views on some of these topics. The actors were pretty adamant about what their characters would think! Watch the backgrounds carefully, since it’s non-explicit in the scripts.

  • slw

    Inflation – 95% There is pretty compelling evidence for some sort of an inflation to have happened.
    Supersymmetry – 65% I want this to be true more than I actually think it might be.
    String Theory – 50% (Composed of 100% as in, there is nothing really wrong with it, and 0% as it will never be a “useful” theory)
    Higgs – 75% As much as I dislike the idea, I can’t think of many viable alternatives.
    Large extra dimensions – 0% No, just no.
    WIMP dark matter – 95% We should know this one for sure soon. I don’t think WIMPs will make up all of the dark matter though.
    Any non-cosmological-constant explanation for cosmic acceleration – 100% A number is not an explanation ;) 1% for the actual meaning of the question :)

  • AngryPhysicsFan

    You can have a strong opinion that something’s a B.S. explanation without having an alternative in mind, and you can have strong opinions about things you don’t spend your whole life studying. For example:

    String theory sucks.

    QED

    I just think scientists have this underlying notion that physics is constantly on the brink of “understanding everything” (if we could just find that next boson!), and I don’t think that’s justified.

  • TRM

    1. Inflation 35%
    2. Supersymmetry 85%
    3. String theory 45%
    4. Some form of Higgs boson 95%
    5. Large extra dimensions 65%
    6. WIMP dark matter 0%
    7. Any non-cosmological-constant explanation for cosmic acceleration 10%

    Just a layman with a studied interest in Cosmology. I think the whole Dark Matter/Dark Engergy thing is completely wrong. Any of you read Reinventing Gravity, by physicist John W. Moffat?

  • Torbjörn Larsson, OM

    1. Inflation – At least 95 % certain, since IIRC WMAP later data releases has tested inflation on its lonesome to something like 2.6 sigma.
    2. Supersymmetry – Symmetries works, when not broken: ~ 10 %?
    3. String theory – Dunno, not my scene.
    4. Some form of Higgs boson – Standard Model stuff, have been correct earlier, so simplest explanation for particle mass: ~ 70 % (“1 sigma”, LOL).
    5. Large extra dimensions – Dunno, not my scene.
    6. WIMP dark matter – Simplest DM IIRC, again ~ 70 %.
    7. Any non-cosmological-constant explanation for cosmic acceleration – What would an alternative be: ~ 0 %.

  • Ben

    Galactic dynamics background

    1. Inflation: 70%
    2. Supersymmetry: 40%
    3. String theory: 5%
    4. Some form of Higgs boson: 99% (“some form” is important here)
    5. Large extra dimensions: 5%
    6. WIMP dark matter: 30%
    7. Any non-cosmological-constant explanation for cosmic acceleration: 75%

  • http://www.tevong.com/adlib.php Tevong

    first year grad student in particle physics:

    1. Inflation: :-/
    2. Supersymmetry: :-)
    3. String theory: :-|
    4. Some form of Higgs boson: :-D
    5. Large extra dimensions: :-(
    6. WIMP dark matter: :-P
    7. Non-cosmological constant explanation: :-0

  • Mitchell Porter

    1. Inflation: 95%
    2. Supersymmetry: 75%
    3. String theory: 90+%
    4. Some form of Higgs boson: 50+%
    5. Large extra dimensions: 50+%
    6. WIMP dark matter: 90%
    7. Any non-cosmological-constant explanation for cosmic acceleration: 50%

    String theory has such organic links to the physics we know about, that it would be very surprising for it to be unrelated to the truth. However, it seems very possible that even M-theory is just the supersymmetric phase of a deeper theory, which is why I rated strings above supersymmetry.

    My relative skepticism about the Higgs and enthusiasm for (genuinely) large extra dimensions predate any serious study of string theory and particle physics. Heavily favoring a Higgs boson, when there are Higgsless ways of breaking electroweak symmetry, seemed like bias in favor of the first and simplest idea that anyone had; while having all the extra dimensions stably small seemed unnatural and due to lack of imagination. I preferred the idea that extra dimensions would be genuinely large (infinite or at least cosmological in scale) even before the ADD and RS models came along. It’s possible that these are legacy opinions that I will revise as I understand the theoretical options better; or maybe not.

    I gave WIMPs such a high rating because I was thinking dark matter was overwhelmingly likely to be composed of superparticles, but clearly that 90% is inconsistent with giving susy itself odds of just 75%. So that figure should be renormalized to about 70%. On reflection, I’d also want to revise #7 down to maybe 25%.

  • Steve C

    Retired physicist who is reading cosmology for relaxation….

    1. Inflation – 60% (more thoroughly worked through than, for instance, Penrose’s story
    2. Supersymmetry – 50% – as with most ideas yet to be tested
    3. String theory – 0% (or 100% says God, if it can never be tested)
    4. Some form of Higgs boson – 70% (but declining as its phase space shrinks)
    5. Large Extra Dimensions – o% (God says four is magic enough)
    6. WIMP dark matter – 50% (but it outranks the others)
    7. non-CC – 20% (God likes things simple, if very small)

  • Justin

    Particle phenomenologist here.

    1. Inflation- 80%. Inflation’s virtue is its ability to resolve many different problems simultaneously, not that any one resolution is overwhelming convincing. That being said, I tend to take economical explanations as very suggestive.
    2. Supersymmetry- 20%. This is a very biased answer- life is a lot harder if supersymmetry is correct.
    3. String theory- 5%. I am 90% confident some aspects of string theory (extra dimensions, ADS/CFT) will turn out to be correct, bot not the theory as a whole. (not that it’s a whole theory!)
    4. Some form of Higgs boson- 85%. My guess is that a vanilla Higgs will show up at the LHC.
    5. Large extra dimensions- 1%
    6. WIMP dark matter- 75% I think the answer IS just going to be a new particle. Just like neutrinos don’t seem so mysterious anymore (even though there’s still a lot we don’t know about them), I think we’ll look back and see dark matter as just another particle
    7. Any non-cosmological-constant explanation for cosmic acceleration- 10%

  • daninthai

    1. 80%
    2. 15%
    3. 10%
    4. 60%
    5. 75%
    6. 75%
    7. 20%

  • max

    1. Inflation: 95%. Inflation seems pretty general and plausible. I think the chances of anybody having come up with anything close to the correct inflationary model are pretty low though.
    2. Supersymmetry: 5%. It just seems way too messy, what with the huge parameter space for symmetry breaking and the doubling of the number of particles and all. That, and I never thought gauge coupling unification was that compelling a reason to believe in it.
    3. String theory: 1%. I really don’t know much about it, so this is almost pure bias.
    4. Some form of the Higgs: 15%. At least for the Higgs as a fundamental scalar. The fact that we’ve never seen a fundamental scalar before really makes me doubt that we’ll see one in the future. Since a big part of the reason for supersymmetry is solving the hierarchy problem, my low answer for this helps keep #2 low too.
    5. Large extra dimensions: ?. I know very little about this, but it sure would be neat.
    6. WIMP dark matter: 33%. But 99% for any form of particle dark matter, 33% for axions, and 33% for some other unthought of particle.
    7. Non-CC explanation for cosmic acceleration: 95%. I’m not sure why everyone else has this so low. Is the alternative that the CC is just a God-given parameter set in the theory? There has to be something a little deeper than that, although again I doubt anyone has got the right idea yet.

    I’m a 3rd year grad student in particle/astroparticle theory. I’m at the point in my grad career where skepticism and doubt are running high, which kind of explains my low scores for #2–4.

  • thomas

    angryphysics, you don’t really sound like much of a fan. Go back to watching tedtalks.

    fortunately, your answers are such outliers that i knew to ignore them immediately.

    The only reason I read these posts was to get a sense of what effects people were basing their answers on. Thanks, guys :D

    –math overgrad

  • Cosmonut

    I’m a mathematician.
    I follow physics and astronomy primarily through popular books and blogs, though I keep trying to go through the “real science” when possible.

    My ratings:

    1. Inflation: 90%.
    From what I’ve read, it has a lot of observational support.
    Was rather surprised that Caltech physicists rated it so low. Maybe they were speaking of a particular model – like Eternal Inflation ?

    2. Supersymmetry: 30%.
    My impression is, this is like a working fusion reactor – always on the verge of being discovered, but never quite there….

    3. String theory: Sqrt( -1) %.
    My problem is, I’m not even sure what string theory IS, anymore !!
    Is it a coherent theory like General Relativity ? Or a framework for building theories ?
    Does it involve strings, or membranes, or something else altogether ?
    Does it predict a multiverse ?
    Or is a multiverse conveniently introduced to explain why it has made no testable predictions so far ?

    My position: “First tell me clearly what you mean by String Theory, and I’ll tell you why I don’t believe in it”. :)

    4. Some form of Higgs boson: 95%. The Standard Model seems really powerful.
    It would be strange if it suddenly breaks at this point.

    5. Large extra dimensions: 0.1%
    I may be mistaken, but it seems to be one branch of stringy nonsense.

    6. WIMP dark matter: 75%
    I understand that dark matter is pretty much in the bag.
    Don’t know what the alternatives to WIMPs are. Making some allowances for that.

    7. Any non-cosmological-constant explanation for cosmic acceleration: 50%
    I know the evidence points otherwise, but a cosmological constant is just dead boring.
    So here’s hoping. :)

    I’d really be interested to see how the answers differ between physicists and non-physicists.
    Would give a good idea of how popular science books are shaping opinions.

  • Peer Stritzinger

    Theoretical Physicist working in software development:

    1. Inflation 80%
    2. Supersymmetry 70%
    3. String theory 10% — other than by that many parameters you can fit anything ;-)
    4. Some form of Higgs boson 25%
    5. Large extra dimensions 5%
    6. WIMP dark matter 70%
    7. Any non-cosmological-constant explanation for cosmic acceleration 50%

  • TomC

    Research scientist in observational cosmology (with an embarrassing lack of fundamental understanding of hep-th / field theory stuff).

    1. Inflation – 75%. Goes up if you generalize to “period of very rapid expansion in the early universe plus nearly gaussian initial conditions.” That is very well observationally established (in my opinion), but I don’t think it’s out of the realm of possibility that a non-scalar-field-driven mechanism could be responsible.

    2. Supersymmetry – 50%.

    3. String theory – 10%. As many others have pointed out, this depends on one’s definition of “string theory”. However, I take issue with the claim that if we have no idea, we should say “50%” (I’m looking at you, Dr. “Colbert Fan” Lim). With a flat prior on the modelverse, the probability that any theory with no observational evidence is right is vanishingly small.

    4. Some form of Higgs boson – 95%. My particle friends tell me that this “Standard Model” they’ve come up with has been quite successful so far.

    5. Large extra dimensions – 5%. Weight this answer as you would if you had asked a fortune teller or a chimpanzee.

    6. WIMP dark matter – 80%. I may have been to too many DM detection talks and journal clubs lately, but it seems to me like we’re in the “several interesting 1-2 sigma results” era that often precedes a slam-dunk detection. Blame Dan Hooper.

    7. Any non-cosmological-constant explanation for cosmic acceleration – 5%. And I think most of that probability space is occupied by modified gravity, not quintessence.

  • http://togroklife.com Greg

    I’d really be interested to see how the answers differ between physicists and non-physicists.
    Would give a good idea of how popular science books are shaping opinions.

    based on the comments so far (with pretty graphs too!)

    Average & Standard Deviation of predictions by all vs. by physics backgrounds

    Inflation: 69.60, 26.57 || 74.21, 18.45 (+7, -9) – physicists think it’s more likely

    SuSy: 43.76, 29.02 || 44.73, 23.99 (+1, -6) – just as likely

    Strings: 30.94, 30.22 || 24.82, 24.92 (-6, -5) – less likely

    Higgs: 78.22, 27.41 || 86.26, 19.69 (+8, -8) – more likely

    Large xD: 11.41, 19.76 || 8.42, 14.38 (-3, -5) – a little less likely

    WIMPs: 61.09, 27.95 || 66.21, 21.54 (+5, -6) – more likely

    non-CC exp: 27.16, 28.33 || 24.94, 26.18 (-2, -2) – a little less likely

  • http://www.astro.multivax.de:8000/helbig/helbig.html Phillip Helbig

    Inflation — 25%
    Supersymmetry — 10%
    String theory — 10%
    Some form of Higgs boson — 50%
    Large extra dimensions — 0.2%
    WIMP dark matter — 50%
    Any non-cosmological-constant explanation for cosmic acceleration — 0%

    The real question, of course, is how many people believe in inflation because Rocky Kolb believes in inflation and they are scared of Rocky Kolb. :-)

  • Shantanu

    Here are my answers
    Inflation — 25%
    Supersymmetry — 0% (would have seen it by now)
    String theory — 100% (any observation is consistent with string theory)
    Some form of Higgs boson — 50%
    Large extra dimensions — 0 % (we would have seen it by now)
    WIMP dark matter — 0 % (else we would have seen it by now)
    Any non-cosmological-constant explanation for cosmic acceleration — 0%

  • http://nuweb.neu.edu/ialtunkaynak/ Baris

    I am a senior PhD student working in hep-ph. Here are my answers…

    1. Inflation – 80%
    2. Supersymmetry – 99%
    3. String theory – 70%
    4. Some form of Higgs boson – 99%
    5. Large extra dimensions – 10%
    6. WIMP dark matter – 99%
    7. Any non-cosmological-constant explanation for cosmic acceleration – 20%

    I am pretty surprised how SUSY gets a low average. I think it’s too beautiful not to be true.

  • ned black

    1. to 7. – 0%
    most theories end up being wrong

  • valatan

    @Shantanu:

    You need supersymmetry to make string theory work.

  • Roman

    I’m a layman so all I can do is to have some fun with the poll. Which I will do. So how I would justify my choices based on what I know I don’t know:

    Inflation — 10% – why do we care? If happened, happened once in the distant past and will not happen again (maybe some “reverse” inflation just before Big Crunch). If happened, there is something fishy about invoking exotic, one time phenomenon just to make data seam less puzzling.
    Supersymmetry — 70% – everything with “super” in the name sounds cool and has to be true.
    String theory — 10% – another step down on the ladder of reductionism. I’m quite sure that string theory will be successful in predicting that strings are composed of 0-dimensional fibers that clap their small hands and each particular clapping sequence corresponds to vibrational mode of the string, that corresponds to …….
    Some form of Higgs boson — 80% – everything with somebody’s’ last name in the name has to be legitimate. Also, we’ve just spent couple billions dollars to find out what is going on.
    Large extra dimensions — 0.2% I firmly believe in extra dimensions of moderate size though.
    WIMP dark matter — 65% but only if “weakly” in the name means weakly interacting through all four forces. If it means “only interacting trough weak force” let’s give it 0.4%.
    Any non-cosmological-constant explanation for cosmic acceleration — 60%. It will be big.

  • Marc

    Frenchman answer:

    1. Inflation: 10%
    2. Supersymmetry: 95%
    3. String theory: 10%
    4. Some form of Higgs boson: 80%
    5. Large extra dimensions: 80%
    6. WIMP dark matter: 10%
    7. Any non-cosmological-constant explanation for cosmic acceleration: 20%

  • Matt Hickman

    1. Inflation: 40%
    2. Supersymmetry : 60%
    3. String theory: 10%
    4. Some form of Higgs boson: 75%
    5. Large extra dimensions: 15%
    6. WIMP dark matter: 50%
    7. Any non-cosmological-constant explanation for cosmic acceleration: 50%

  • Brian

    I’m a PhD mathematician with casual (not professional) interests in astronomy, cosmology, and particle physics. Not sure which camp that puts me in, but “layman” seems more appropriate to me because I’m not an expert in these specific areas.

    1. Inflation – 99%
    2. Supersymmetry – 80%
    3. String theory – 50%
    4. Some form of Higgs boson – 99%
    5. Large extra dimensions – 1%
    6. WIMP dark matter – 90%
    7. Any non-cosmological-constant explanation for cosmic acceleration – 10%

    Inflation and Higgs seem to be the simplest explanation of genuine physical observations, so they’re almost certainly true. I think the chance of having supersymmetry without WIMP-based dark matter is close to zero. In other words, if supersymmetry is a symmetry of nature, then I think the lightest supersymmetric particle is almost surely a correct explanation of dark matter. So WIMP > SUSY, and as others have pointed out, SUSY > Strings. There could be other explanations of WIMP dark matter, of course. No opinion on cosmic acceleration. I give “Large extra dimensions” 1% because the idea seems patently absurd to me, but this might just reflect my lack of knowledge.

  • YL

    Astrophysicist
    1. Inflation 98%
    2. SUSY 85%
    3. ST 85%
    4. “Higgs” mechanism 99%
    5. Large extra d 0.1%
    6. WIMP 30%
    7. Non-Lambda 20%

  • Adam

    5th-year grad student in theoretical cosmology.

    1. Inflation: 60%
    There’s good observational evidence in its favor, but it’s pretty generic stuff that you can reproduce with other theories. It has passed every test we’ve thrown at it, though, so that’s something.
    2. SUSY: 40%
    I’m out of my element here, but the fact that nobody’s ever seen a proton decay seems fishy. On the other hand, it’s a compelling idea.
    3. String Theory: 25%
    Out of my element again, but it has to be strictly lower than the SUSY odds. I’d give it (slightly) better than 50-50 odds if SUSY is true, hence 25%.
    4. Higgs: 95%
    The Standard Model predicts it, and the SM seems to work *very* well, so I’d be surprised — but not totally floored — if we don’t find it.
    5. Large extra dimensions: ???
    I have no idea. This is so far outside my area of expertise that it’s not even funny.
    6. WIMP dark matter: Depends. If you just mean “particle dark matter as the primary explanation for excessively deep potential wells on galactic and super-galactic scales,” then I’m going to go with something like 90%. But if you make the stronger claim of “WIMPs, specifically, (and not, say, sterile neutrinos or some other particle) are the sole cause of the excess potential wells,” then I’d have to lower it to something more like 50%.
    7. Non-CC explanation for cosmic acceleration: 30%.
    Lambda is our best bet, but it’s hardly our only one.

  • mike

    10% 1. Inflation
    10% 2. Supersymmetry
    1% 3. String theory
    80% 4. Some form of Higgs boson
    1% 5. Large extra dimensions
    5% 6. WIMP dark matter
    30% 7. Any non-cosmological-constant explanation for cosmic acceleration

    undergrad in physics masters computational finance

  • Eric

    Adam,

    I think you are confusing supersymmetry with grand unified theories. Supersymmtry by itself has nothing to do with proton decay, although this is a generic feature of GUTs. Of course, there can be SUSY GUTs, where supersymmetry can play a role in the proton lifetime.

  • Cosmonut

    @Greg: Good job, thanks !

    Looks like “popular opinion” is pretty much in synch with practitioners’ – though I guess readers of this blog would be much better informed than the “average layman”.

    Inflation is very much top of the charts – which is great. In my (unqualified) opinion, its the only real advance in the cosmology & hep domain in the last 30 years.

    Its interesting to see the huge standard deviation on string theory.
    Looks like a case of “anybody’s guess” !

  • Mike Brown (not the astronomer)

    Honours Bsc physics student (final year)

    1. Inflation – 80% for the general concept, much lower scores for any particular model
    2. Supersymmetry – 60%, not necessarily low energy
    3. String theory – 0% (rounded down from exp(-mass of the sun/planck mass)) as a final theory of everything (what does it even mean to say that, anyway?), 90% as a useful mathematical tool
    4. Some form of Higgs boson – 99% if by some form you mean anything that does the Higgs’ job; whether its a single field with the mass and quantum numbers of the standard model Higgs I give more like 40%
    5. Large extra dimensions – 2%, just because RS models are neat
    6. WIMP dark matter – 33% (+33% axions + 33% sterile neutrinos + 1% modified gravity)
    7. Any non-cosmological-constant explanation for cosmic acceleration – 5% – show me a model that is less pathological than a cosmological constant

  • Baby Bones

    1. Inflation 65%
    2. Supersymmetry 0%
    3. String theory 30%
    4. Some form of Higgs boson 55%
    5. Large extra dimensions 5%
    6. WIMP dark matter 90%
    7. Any non-cosmological-constant explanation for cosmic acceleration 90%

    I’d rather a theory getting something from nothing or maintaining nothing for awhile from virtual somethings, than admitting things like singularities and the concept of infinity. Why? I know of somethings and absences of things but I have no experience of the infinite in any form. I am for emergent things and varieties and quite against infinite things or varieties. This is in the context of a physical theory, so I treat any sort of conclusion reached by taking limits or carrying out procedures ‘forever’ as being at best an approximation to a fact. I believe in space and time but not infinite space infinite time or infinitely divisible space and time. There is no such thing as the cardinality of the continuum in the real world, but there seems to be something like but, not exactly, the axiom of choice.

    In the above light, inflation at least acknowledges the problem of something starting from a point of infinite density, and seems to be more of an emergent, i.e., familiar, explanation.

    Supersymmetry. Borges said that the people of Uqbar abhorred mirrors for they multiplied the numbers of man. I think ultimate answers are way more subtle.

    String Theory. I have no idea about it except that it seems to show a lot of possible ways to get around problems with infinities and singularities. Way more subtle than anything I can think of.

    Higgs Boson. Yeah it’s out there in some form, but its discovery will do for particle physics what the arrival of the Phantom Menace did for Star Wars fans.

    Large extra dimensions. Would be cool but cool’s not much of a criterion. Experiments so far negative on support for these rabbit holes, right?

    WIMPS. These make some sort of sense since there are a lot of precedents.

    Regarding 7, I think that once stars formed after the decoupling era, they generated plasmas of which not all constituents recombine. That is, more and more electrons escape into the intergalactic medium and more and more protons and heavier ions get stuck to electrically polarizable neutral matter in galaxies. The consequence is that galaxies are net positive charges that are repelled by each other through weakly screened Coloumb potentials, and this repulsive force grows so long stars burn in galaxies. So at present, the universe is in an electromagnetically dominant phase, and this phase began sometime after the formation of stars and not before their formation. This idea does not challenge General Relativity or nix the possibility of dark matter.

  • KineticKid

    Inflation: 80%
    Supersymmetry: 0%
    String theory: 0%
    Some form of Higgs boson: 20%
    Large extra dimensions: 50%
    WIMP dark matter: 20%
    Any non-cosmological-constant explanation for cosmic acceleration: 50%

  • KineticKid

    Inflation: 80%
    Supersymmetry: 0%
    String theory: 0%
    Some form of Higgs boson: 20%
    Large extra dimensions: 50%
    WIMP dark matter: 20%
    Any non-cosmological-constant explanation for cosmic acceleration: 50%

    I’m a physics grad student.

  • Instantonia

    Inflation: 20%
    Supersymmetry: 1%
    String theory: 1%
    Some form of Higgs boson: 80%
    Large extra dimensions: 1%
    WIMP dark matter: 10%
    Any non-cosmological-constant explanation for cosmic acceleration: 20%

    I’m a physicist but not a cosmology or particle specialist. Working now in publishing, so with a broad rather than deep view – my answers are very much “intuitions”.

    Great question Sean – maybe someone can do some “data visualization” on the replies! ;-)

  • Peter

    hep-ex postdoc.

    Inflation: 90%.
    Supersymmetry: low-scale, 40%. Some scale, 80%.
    String theory: 70%.
    Some form of Higgs boson: Some additional fields that trigger electroweak symmetry breaking, 100%. A remnant detectable scalar, 80%. A non-composite scalar, 75%.
    Large extra dimensions: 2%.
    WIMP dark matter: 40%.
    Any non-cosmological-constant explanation for cosmic acceleration: 10%.

  • http://www.damtp.cam.ac.uk/people/e.lim/ Eugene

    @TomC #138

    Ha! How is the snow at chicago treating you and family?

    Honestly though, I do think that rating “belief” by % is kinda hard, since I think a lot of stuff is a lot more nuanced that putting a hard and fast number on things. However, I totally do believe in putting a number in “Would you write a paper on these topics”, and the answer will be 100% for all!

    (I blame Dan too.)

  • PrimusVonQuack

    Inflation: 60%
    Supersymmetry: 75%
    String theory: 25%
    Some form of Higgs boson: 80%
    Large extra dimensions: 35%
    WIMP dark matter: 75%
    Any non-cosmological-constant explanation for cosmic acceleration: 50%

  • MP

    So who’s going to sum these all up?

    I’m a layman who reads a fair amount of science “popularization” books and science blogs, and also forms my own opinions. (justified or not)

    1. Inflation 35%
    2. Supersymmetry 25%
    3. String theory 5%
    4. Some form of Higgs boson 35%
    5. Large extra dimensions 10%
    6. WIMP dark matter 50%
    7. Any non-cosmological-constant explanation for cosmic acceleration 50%

    The large extra dimensions seemed too vague to really answer. I mean the Standard Model has extra dimensions, right? And how large is “large”? I think it’s a certainty that any final theory will involve higher dimensional spaces – but whether or not they can be detected at scales larger than say, a hydrogen atom – that’s what I’m basing my 10% on.

  • http://somewhatabnormal.blogspot.com/ Robert Oerter

    Recovering elementary particle theorist here. The correct answers are:

    1. Inflation – 75%
    2. Supersymmetry – 10%
    3. String theory – 0.01%
    4. Some form of Higgs boson – 99.9%
    5. Large extra dimensions – 0.0001%
    6. WIMP dark matter – 80%
    7. Any non-cosmological-constant explanation for cosmic acceleration – ??

    Explanation at my website.

  • http://www.paulbelfrage.se Paul

    Physics teacher

    Inflation – 80%
    Supersymmetry – 90%
    String theory – 50%
    Some form of Higgs boson – 90%
    Large extra dimensions – 1%
    WIMP dark matter – 80%
    Any non-cosmological-constant explanation for cosmic acceleration – 5%

  • Omar

    Observational astronomer

    Inflation – 20%
    Supersymmetry – 20%
    String theory – 1%
    Some form of Higgs boson – 70%
    Large extra dimensions – 1%
    WIMP dark matter – 50%
    Any non-cosmological-constant explanation for cosmic acceleration – 10%

  • http://togroklife.com Greg
  • Doddy

    PhD hep-ph student

    universal truth is not measured in mass appeal

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Igt-jW4e8ts

  • physics1

    Graduate student: Theory group @ University of Texas
    Also not sure why people have more confidence in String theory than in SUSY.

  • http://VisualPhysics.org The Stand-Up Physicist

    Each of these proposals confront real problems with current models. If any of them were really right, I think the horse would be in the barn by now. Since I am a member of the ultra-conservative fringe, I will give them all Easter eggs:

    1.Cosmic inflation 0% – A new constant velocity solution for gravity perhaps
    2.Supersymmetry 0% – Watch Olympic diving, easy to have multiple types of spin in one body
    3.String theory 0% – Not a theory, an area of study that is not relevant to 3D space + scalar time
    4.Higgs boson of any type 0% – find out in a few years, http://bit.ly/GEMtshirt says no stinkin Higgs
    5.Large extra dimensions 0% – 3D space + time is MUCH richer than it is given credit
    6.WIMP dark matter 0% – see 1, same solution would apply
    7.Explanations of accelerated expansion not based on the cosmological constant 0% – GR is good, and will be replaced by something better, a variation on the only field theory better than GR, that of Maxwell.

  • Albert Moomjy

    I’m a layman with a lifelong interest in science and physics.

    1. Inflation – 66%
    2. Supersymmetry – 60%
    3. String theory – 33%
    4. Some form of Higgs boson – 55%
    5. Large extra dimensions – 5%
    6. WIMP dark matter – 5% I hate the idea of dark matter of all types
    7. Any non-cosmological-constant explanation for cosmic acceleration – 15%

    Question – are not inflation and string theory (in the form of M Theory and the hypothesis of an ekpyrotic universe) mutually exclusive?

  • Luis Ivan

    I want to study Physics, I’m finishing high school and starting college this year :D
    1. Inflation 30%
    2. Supersymmetry 10%
    3. String theory 10%
    4. Some form of Higgs boson 40%
    5. Large extra dimensions 0%
    6. WIMP dark matter 10%
    7. Any non-cosmological-constant explanation for cosmic acceleration 0%

  • CareyB

    I am a lowly lay person with a math degree and an long time interest in physics.

    To TRM (item 126), I wonder if John (item18) is John Moffat (and John’s book was interesting)

    1. Inflation – 30%
    2. Supersymmetry – 50%
    3. String theory – 10%
    4. Some form of Higgs boson – 80%
    5. Large extra dimensions – 0%
    6. WIMP dark matter – 50%
    7. Any non-cosmological-constant explanation for cosmic acceleration – 0%

  • John Peacock

    Nice poll, but the devil may be in the detail of definition. I know people who say inflation means the production of superhorizon perturbations, by which definition it is observed to be true beyond reasonable doubt. But did the universe go through a phase of vacuum domination, the physics for which requires no quantum treatment of gravity? That seems much more questionable, and certainly has little observational support. If we see significant tensor fluctuations in the CMB, consistent with the tilt of the scalar spectrum, that would be impressive – but the best-fit tensor fraction seems stuck at zero, so I think the probability of inflation must struggle to get to 50%. String theory seems a flexible enough theory that it too may end up true by definition (didn’t Schwarz say that any alternative theory would get called “string theory”?). But Bayes tells you you should adopt 50:50 odds in cases of ignorance, and that covers my knowledge of the maths of string theory.

    1. Inflation – 30%
    2. Supersymmetry – 60%
    3. String theory – 50%
    4. Some form of Higgs boson – 80%
    5. Large extra dimensions – 1%
    6. WIMP dark matter – 60%
    7. Any non-cosmological-constant explanation for cosmic acceleration – 5%

    Professor of cosmology, and textbook author.

  • http://www.qwertyous.blogspot.com/ John R Ramsden

    1. Inflation – 95% (explains a lot, and just the kind of thing the universe would do at start)

    2. Supersymmetry – 70% (in some form)

    3. String theory – 80% (even if strings/branes are not “fundamental” but resonances of swarms of dissipating/regenerating “4-atoms” a la Anastassov & Petkov [see "What is the Electron?", V Simulik ed, 2005] )

    4. Some form of Higgs boson – 1% (hope not, or I lose a $500 bet with a well-known string theorist ;-) )

    5. Large extra dimensions – 1% (their effects would have been observed by now)

    6. WIMP dark matter – 1%

    7. Non-CC explanation for cosmic acceleration –90% (in that a number on its own is not a satisfactory explanation, as others above have pointed out)

  • http://3roundstones.com/ David Wood

    I’m not qualified to judge the likelihoods. I’m a multidisciplinary engineer. However, it seems to me that sufficient evidence exists to seriously doubt everything on the list.

    Let’s start small and with impending evidence: I doubt the LHC will find evidence of the Higgs, and will thus set off a golden age of theoretical physics as the Standard Model is ripped to shreds.

    Don’t take me for a creationist, though. The very fact that the Standard Model exists proves that humans can conceptualize beginnings without mysticism. Rock on, physicists who are smarter than me.

  • Jason

    a speculation from a postdoc studying condensed matter physcis:

    1 Inflation – 80% (observation support, although it is not the only solution)
    2 Supersymmetry – 8% (little evidence until now)
    3 String theory – 1% (no evidence, hard to be tested)
    4 Some form of Higgs boson – 80% (“some form” is broad)
    5 Large extra dimensions – 5% (no evidence)
    6 WIMP dark matter -90% (observation supports that they may exist in some form)
    7 Any non-cosmological-constant explanation for cosmic acceleration – 50% (maybe yes,maybe no)

  • Pingback: Four Reasons Why I like String Theory « viXra log

  • flippiefanus

    Sorry for the late reply. I’m way behind on my reading…

    1 Inflation: 50% (other possibilities)

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Cosmic Variance

Random samplings from a universe of ideas.

About Sean Carroll

Sean Carroll is a Senior Research Associate in the Department of Physics at the California Institute of Technology. His research interests include theoretical aspects of cosmology, field theory, and gravitation. His most recent book is The Particle at the End of the Universe, about the Large Hadron Collider and the search for the Higgs boson. Here are some of his favorite blog posts, home page, and email: carroll [at] cosmicvariance.com .

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