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  • richardmitnick 12:32 pm on April 18, 2019 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: "When Beauty Gets in the Way of Science", , , , Higgs boson, , , , , , ,   

    From Nautilus: “When Beauty Gets in the Way of Science” 

    Nautilus

    From Nautilus

    April 18, 2019
    Sabine Hossenfelder

    Insisting that new ideas must be beautiful blocks progress in particle physics.

    When Beauty Gets in the Way of Science. Nautilus

    The biggest news in particle physics is no news. In March, one of the most important conferences in the field, Rencontres de Moriond, took place. It is an annual meeting at which experimental collaborations present preliminary results. But the recent data from the Large Hadron Collider (LHC), currently the world’s largest particle collider, has not revealed anything new.

    LHC

    CERN map


    CERN LHC Tunnel

    CERN LHC particles

    Forty years ago, particle physicists thought themselves close to a final theory for the structure of matter. At that time, they formulated the Standard Model of particle physics to describe the elementary constituents of matter and their interactions.

    Standard Model of Particle Physics (LATHAM BOYLE AND MARDUS OF WIKIMEDIA COMMONS)

    After that, they searched for the predicted, but still missing, particles of the Standard Model. In 2012, they confirmed the last missing particle, the Higgs boson.

    CERN CMS Higgs Event

    CERN ATLAS Higgs Event

    The Higgs boson is necessary to make sense of the rest of the Standard Model. Without it, the other particles would not have masses, and probabilities would not properly add up to one. Now, with the Higgs in the bag, the Standard Model is complete; all Pokémon caught.

    1
    HIGGS HANGOVER: After the Large Hadron Collider (above) confirmed the Higgs boson, which validated the Standard Model, it’s produced nothing newsworthy, and is unlikely to, says physicist Sabine Hossenfelder.Shutterstock

    The Standard Model may be physicists’ best shot at the structure of fundamental matter, but it leaves them wanting. Many particle physicists think it is simply too ugly to be nature’s last word. The 25 particles of the Standard Model can be classified by three types of symmetries that correspond to three fundamental forces: The electromagnetic force, and the strong and weak nuclear forces. Physicists, however, would rather there was only one unified force. They would also like to see an entirely new type of symmetry, the so-called “supersymmetry,” because that would be more appealing.

    2
    Supersymmetry builds on the Standard Model, with many new supersymmetric particles, represented here with a tilde (~) on them. ( From the movie “Particle fever” reproduced by Mark Levinson)

    Oh, and additional dimensions of space would be pretty. And maybe also parallel universes. Their wish list is long.

    It has become common practice among particle physicists to use arguments from beauty to select the theories they deem worthy of further study. These criteria of beauty are subjective and not evidence-based, but they are widely believed to be good guides to theory development. The most often used criteria of beauty in the foundations of physics are presently simplicity and naturalness.

    By “simplicity,” I don’t mean relative simplicity, the idea that the simplest theory is the best (a.k.a. “Occam’s razor”). Relying on relative simplicity is good scientific practice. The desire that a theory be simple in absolute terms, in contrast, is a criterion from beauty: There is no deep reason that the laws of nature should be simple. In the foundations of physics, this desire for absolute simplicity presently shows in physicists’ hope for unification or, if you push it one level further, in the quest for a “Theory of Everything” that would merge the three forces of the Standard Model with gravity.

    The other criterion of beauty, naturalness, requires that pure numbers that appear in a theory (i.e., those without units) should neither be very large nor very small; instead, these numbers should be close to one. Exactly how close these numbers should be to one is debatable, which is already an indicator of the non-scientific nature of this argument. Indeed, the inability of particle physicists to quantify just when a lack of naturalness becomes problematic highlights that the fact that an unnatural theory is utterly unproblematic. It is just not beautiful.

    Anyone who has a look at the literature of the foundations of physics will see that relying on such arguments from beauty has been a major current in the field for decades. It has been propagated by big players in the field, including Steven Weinberg, Frank Wilczek, Edward Witten, Murray Gell-Mann, and Sheldon Glashow. Countless books popularized the idea that the laws of nature should be beautiful, written, among others, by Brian Greene, Dan Hooper, Gordon Kane, and Anthony Zee. Indeed, this talk about beauty has been going on for so long that at this point it seems likely most people presently in the field were attracted by it in the first place. Little surprise, then, they can’t seem to let go of it.

    Trouble is, relying on beauty as a guide to new laws of nature is not working.

    Since the 1980s, dozens of experiments looked for evidence of unified forces and supersymmetric particles, and other particles invented to beautify the Standard Model. Physicists have conjectured hundreds of hypothetical particles, from “gluinos” and “wimps” to “branons” and “cuscutons,” each of which they invented to remedy a perceived lack of beauty in the existing theories. These particles are supposed to aid beauty, for example, by increasing the amount of symmetries, by unifying forces, or by explaining why certain numbers are small. Unfortunately, not a single one of those particles has ever been seen. Measurements have merely confirmed the Standard Model over and over again. And a theory of everything, if it exists, is as elusive today as it was in the 1970s. The Large Hadron Collider is only the most recent in a long series of searches that failed to confirm those beauty-based predictions.

    These decades of failure show that postulating new laws of nature just because they are beautiful according to human standards is not a good way to put forward scientific hypotheses. It’s not the first time this has happened. Historical precedents are not difficult to find. Relying on beauty did not work for Kepler’s Platonic solids, it did not work for Einstein’s idea of an eternally unchanging universe, and it did not work for the oh-so-pretty idea, popular at the end of the 19th century, that atoms are knots in an invisible ether. All of these theories were once considered beautiful, but are today known to be wrong. Physicists have repeatedly told me about beautiful ideas that didn’t turn out to be beautiful at all. Such hindsight is not evidence that arguments from beauty work, but rather that our perception of beauty changes over time.

    That beauty is subjective is hardly a breakthrough insight, but physicists are slow to learn the lesson—and that has consequences. Experiments that test ill-motivated hypotheses are at high risk to only find null results; i.e., to confirm the existing theories and not see evidence of new effects. This is what has happened in the foundations of physics for 40 years now. And with the new LHC results, it happened once again.

    The data analyzed so far shows no evidence for supersymmetric particles, extra dimensions, or any other physics that would not be compatible with the Standard Model. In the past two years, particle physicists were excited about an anomaly in the interaction rates of different leptons. The Standard Model predicts these rates should be identical, but the data demonstrates a slight difference. This “lepton anomaly” has persisted in the new data, but—against particle physicists’ hopes—it did not increase in significance, is hence not a sign for new particles. The LHC collaborations succeeded in measuring the violation of symmetry in the decay of composite particles called “D-mesons,” but the measured effect is, once again, consistent with the Standard Model. The data stubbornly repeat: Nothing new to see here.

    Of course it’s possible there is something to find in the data yet to be analyzed. But at this point we already know that all previously made predictions for new physics were wrong, meaning that there is now no reason to expect anything new to appear.

    Yes, null results—like the recent LHC measurements—are also results. They rule out some hypotheses. But null results are not very useful results if you want to develop a new theory. A null-result says: “Let’s not go this way.” A result says: “Let’s go that way.” If there are many ways to go, discarding some of them does not help much.

    To find the way forward in the foundations of physics, we need results, not null-results. When testing new hypotheses takes decades of construction time and billions of dollars, we have to be careful what to invest in. Experiments have become too costly to rely on serendipitous discoveries. Beauty-based methods have historically not worked. They still don’t work. It’s time that physicists take note.

    And it’s not like the lack of beauty is the only problem with the current theories in the foundations of physics. There are good reasons to think physics is not done. The Standard Model cannot be the last word, notably because it does not contain gravity and fails to account for the masses of neutrinos. It also describes neither dark matter nor dark energy, which are necessary to explain galactic structures.

    So, clearly, the foundations of physics have problems that require answers. Physicists should focus on those. And we currently have no reason to think that colliding particles at the next higher energies will help solve any of the existing problems. New effects may not appear until energies are a billion times higher than what even the next larger collider could probe. To make progress, then, physicists must, first and foremost, learn from their failed predictions.

    So far, they have not. In 2016, the particle physicists Howard Baer, Vernon Barger, and Jenny List wrote an essay for Scientific American arguing that we need a larger particle collider to “save physics.” The reason? A theory the authors had proposed themselves, that is natural (beautiful!) in a specific way, predicts such a larger collider should see new particles. This March, Kane, a particle physicist, used similar beauty-based arguments in an essay for Physics Today. And a recent comment in Nature Reviews Physics about a big, new particle collider planned in Japan once again drew on the same motivations from naturalness that have already not worked for the LHC. Even the particle physicists who have admitted their predictions failed do not want to give up beauty-based hypotheses. Instead, they have argued we need more experiments to test just how wrong they are.

    Will this latest round of null-results finally convince particle physicists that they need new methods of theory-development? I certainly hope so.

    As an ex-particle physicist myself, I understand very well the desire to have an all-encompassing theory for the structure of matter. I can also relate to the appeal of theories such a supersymmetry or string theory. And, yes, I quite like the idea that we live in one of infinitely many universes that together make up the “multiverse.” But, as the latest LHC results drive home once again, the laws of nature care heartily little about what humans find beautiful.

    See the full article here .

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    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

    Welcome to Nautilus. We are delighted you joined us. We are here to tell you about science and its endless connections to our lives. Each month we choose a single topic. And each Thursday we publish a new chapter on that topic online. Each issue combines the sciences, culture and philosophy into a single story told by the world’s leading thinkers and writers. We follow the story wherever it leads us. Read our essays, investigative reports, and blogs. Fiction, too. Take in our games, videos, and graphic stories. Stop in for a minute, or an hour. Nautilus lets science spill over its usual borders. We are science, connected.

     
  • richardmitnick 3:00 pm on September 4, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , , , Higgs boson, , , ,   

    From University at Buffalo: “UB physicists awarded $1.45 million to study inner workings of the universe” 

    U Buffalo bloc.

    From University at Buffalo

    September 4, 2018
    Charlotte Hsu

    1
    Photo illustration: Left to right: University at Buffalo physicists Avto Kharchilava, Ia Iashvili and Salvatore Rappoccio. Credit: Douglas Levere / University at Buffalo / CERN

    Funding comes as the field marks its latest big discovery — the observation of the Higgs boson’s most common mode of decay.

    University at Buffalo scientists have received $1.45 million from the National Science Foundation (NSF) for research in high-energy physics, a field that uses particle accelerators to smash beams of protons into one another at near-light speeds, generating data that illuminates the fundamental laws of nature.

    The grant was awarded to Salvatore Rappoccio, PhD, associate professor of physics in the UB College of Arts and Sciences, and UB physics professors Ia Iashvili, PhD, and Avto Kharchilava, PhD.

    The funding began Sept. 1, just days after the latest big discovery in high-energy physics.

    On Aug. 28, an international team of thousands of researchers — including Iashvili, Kharchilava and Rappoccio — announced that they had observed the Higgs boson, a subatomic particle, decaying into a pair of lighter particles called a bottom quark and antibottom quark.

    The sighting took place at the world’s most powerful particle accelerator, the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) at the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN).

    LHC

    CERN map


    CERN LHC Tunnel

    CERN LHC particles

    The finding deepens our understanding of why objects have mass. It also validates the Standard Model, a set of equations that physicists use to describe elementary particles and the way they behave (in essence, the way the universe works).

    The Standard Model of elementary particles (more schematic depiction), with the three generations of matter, gauge bosons in the fourth column, and the Higgs boson in the fifth.


    Standard Model of Particle Physics from Symmetry Magazine

    For Kharchilava, the discovery was over a decade in the making. He and his UB students had been searching for evidence of the Higgs boson transforming into bottom quarks since around 2005.

    “I was looking for this decay for almost 15 years, when we began the search at Fermilab, which operated the Tevatron collider,” he says. “We did not succeed back then because we did not have enough data and precision, so now we have more data and better precision and we have finally made the discovery.”


    FNAL/Tevatron map



    FNAL/Tevatron CDF detector


    FNAL/Tevatron DZero detector

    The new NSF funding will enable the UB scientists to continue their work on the Higgs boson, the Standard Model and the hunt for new phenomena in physics.

    The finding deepens our understanding of why objects have mass. It also validates the Standard Model, a set of equations that physicists use to describe elementary particles and the way they behave (in essence, the way the universe works).

    For Kharchilava, the discovery was over a decade in the making. He and his UB students had been searching for evidence of the Higgs boson transforming into bottom quarks since around 2005.

    “I was looking for this decay for almost 15 years, when we began the search at Fermilab, which operated the Tevatron collider,” he says. “We did not succeed back then because we did not have enough data and precision, so now we have more data and better precision and we have finally made the discovery.”

    See the full article here .

    five-ways-keep-your-child-safe-school-shootings

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

    U Buffalo Campus

    UB is a premier, research-intensive public university and a member of the Association of American Universities. As the largest, most comprehensive institution in the 64-campus State University of New York system, our research, creative activity and people positively impact the world.

     
  • richardmitnick 12:47 pm on September 4, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , CISE-NSF's Office of Advanced Cyberinfrastructure in the Directorate for Computer and Information Science and Engineering, Higgs boson, IRIS-HEP-Institute for Research and Innovation in Software for High-Energy Physics, Molecular Sciences Software Institute and the Science Gateways Community Institute, MPS-NSF Division of Physics in the Directorate for Mathematical and Physical Sciences, , SCAILFIN-Scalable Cyberinfrastructure for Artificial Intelligence and Likelihood-Free Inference   

    From University of Illinois Physics: “University of Illinois part of $25 million software institute to enable discoveries in high-energy physics” 

    U Illinois bloc

    From University of Illinois Physics

    U Illinois Physics bloc

    9/4/2018
    Siv Schwink

    1
    A data visualization from a simulation of collision between two protons that will occur at the High-Luminosity Large Hadron Collider (HL-LHC). On average, up to 200 collisions will be visible in the collider’s detectors at the same time. Shown here is a design for the Inner Tracker of the ATLAS detector, one of the hardware upgrades planned for the HL-LHC. Image courtesy of the ATLAS Experiment © 2018 CERN

    CERN/ATLAS detector

    Today, the National Science Foundation (NSF) announced its launch of the Institute for Research and Innovation in Software for High-Energy Physics (IRIS-HEP).

    The $25 million software-focused institute will tackle the unprecedented torrent of data that will come from the high-luminosity running of the Large Hadron Collider (LHC), the world’s most powerful particle accelerator located at CERN near Geneva, Switzerland.

    LHC

    CERN map


    CERN LHC Tunnel

    CERN LHC particles

    The High-Luminosity LHC (HL-LHC) will provide scientists with a unique window into the subatomic world to search for new phenomena and to study the properties of the Higgs boson in great detail.

    CERN CMS Higgs Event


    CERN ATLAS Higgs Event

    The 2012 discovery at the LHC of the Higgs boson—a particle central to our fundamental theory of nature—led to the Nobel Prize in physics a year later and has provided scientists with a new tool for further discovery.

    The HL-LHC will begin operations around 2026, continuing into the 2030s. It will produce more than 1 billion particle collisions every second, from which only a tiny fraction will reveal new science, because the phenomena that physicists want to study have a very low probability per collision of occurring. The HL-LHC’s tenfold increase in luminosity—a measure of the number of particle collisions occurring in a given amount of time—will enable physicists to study familiar processes at an unprecedented level of detail and observe rare new phenomena present in nature.

    But the increased luminosity also leads to more complex collision data. A tenfold increase in the required data processing and storage can not be achieved without new software tools for intelligent data filtering that record only the most interesting collision events, to enable scientists to analyze the data more efficiently.

    Over the next five years, IRIS-HEP will focus on developing innovative software for use in particle physics research with the HL-LHC as the key science driver. It will also create opportunities for training and education in related areas of computational and data science and outreach to the general public. The institute will also work to increase participation from women and minorities who are underrepresented in high-energy physics research.

    IRIS-HEP brings together multidisciplinary teams of researchers and educators from 17 universities, including Mark Neubauer, a professor of physics at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and a faculty affiliate with the National Center for Supercomputing Applications (NCSA) in Urbana.

    2

    Neubauer is a member of the ATLAS Experiment, which generates and analyzes data from particle collisions at the LHC. Neubauer will serve on the IRIS-HEP Executive Committee and coordinate the institute’s activities to develop and evolve the strategic vision of the institute.

    Neubauer, along with colleagues Peter Elmer (Princeton) and Michael Sokoloff (Cincinnati), led a community-wide effort to conceptualize the institute with funding from the NSF and was a key member of the group that developed the IRIS-HEP proposal. Through a process to conceptualize the institute involving 18 workshops over the last two years, key national and international partners from high-energy physics, computer science, industry, and data-science communities were brought together to generate more than eight community position papers, most notably a strategic plan for the institute and a roadmap for HEP software and computing R&D over the next decade. They reviewed two decades of approaches to LHC data processing and analysis and developed strategies to address the challenges and opportunities that lay ahead. IRIS-HEP emerged from that effort.

    “IRIS-HEP will serve as a new intellectual hub of software development for the international high-energy physics community,” comments Neubauer. “The founding of this Institute will do much more than fund software development to support the HL-LHC science; it will provide fertile ground for new ideas and innovation, empower early-career researchers interested in software and computing aspects of data-enabled science through mentoring and training to support their professional development, and will redefine the traditional boundaries of the high-energy physics community.”

    Neubauer will receive NSF funding through IRIS-HEP to contribute to the institute’s efforts in software research and innovation. He plans to collaborate with Daniel S. Katz, NCSA’s assistant director for scientific software and applications, to put together a team to research new approaches and systems for data analysis and innovative algorithms that apply machine learning and other approaches to accelerate computation on modern computing architectures.

    In related research also beginning in the current Fall semester, Neubauer and Katz through a separate NSF award with Kyle Cranmer (NYU), Heiko Mueller (NYU) and Michael Hildreth (Notre Dame) will be collaborating on the Scalable Cyberinfrastructure for Artificial Intelligence and Likelihood-Free Inference (SCAILFIN) Project. SCAILFIN aims to maximize the potential of artificial intelligence and machine learning to improve new physics searches at the LHC, while addressing current issues in software and data sustainability by making data analyses more reusable and reproducible.

    Katz says he is looking forward to delving into these projects: “How to build tools that make more sense of the data, how to make the software more sustainable so there is less rewriting, how to write software that is portable across different systems and compatible with future hardware changes—these are tremendous challenges. And these questions really are timely. They fit into the greater dialogue that is ongoing in both the computer science and the information science communities. I’m excited for this opportunity to meld the most recent work from these complementary fields together with work in physics.”

    Neubauer concludes, “The quest to understand the fundamental building blocks of nature and their interactions is one of the oldest and most ambitious of human scientific endeavors. The HL-LHC will represent a big step forward in this quest and is a top priority for the US particle physics community. As is common in frontier-science experiments pushing at the boundaries of knowledge, it comes with daunting challenges. The LHC experiments are making large investments to upgrade their detectors to be able to operate in the challenging HL-LHC environment.

    “A significant investment in R&D for software used to acquire, manage, process and analyze the huge volume of data that will be generated during the HL-LHC era will be critical to maximize the scientific return on investment in the accelerator and detectors. This is not a problem that could be solved by gains from hardware technology evolution or computing resources alone. The institute will support early-career scientists to develop innovative software over the next five to ten years, to get us where we need to be to do our science during the HL-LHC era. I am elated to see such a large investment by the NSF in this area for high-energy physics.”

    IRIS-HEP is co-funded by NSF’s Office of Advanced Cyberinfrastructure in the Directorate for Computer and Information Science and Engineering (CISE) and the NSF Division of Physics in the Directorate for Mathematical and Physical Sciences (MPS). IRIS-HEP is the latest NSF contribution to the 40-nation LHC effort. It is the third OAC software institute, following the Molecular Sciences Software Institute and the Science Gateways Community Institute.

    See the full University of Illinois article on this subject here .
    See the full Cornell University article on the subject here.
    See the full Princeton University article on this subject here.

    five-ways-keep-your-child-safe-school-shootings

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

    U Illinois campus

    The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign community of students, scholars, and alumni is changing the world.

    With our land-grant heritage as a foundation, we pioneer innovative research that tackles global problems and expands the human experience. Our transformative learning experiences, in and out of the classroom, are designed to produce alumni who desire to make a significant, societal impact.

     
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