Tag Archives: future

Credit: Pexels/pixabay

Lightning storm

A lightning storm rages outside. The large window panes going from floor to ceiling in the living room rattle as the wind whips around, gathering dust off the ground right outside my building, spinning it up into little, but no less terrifying, tornadoes (maybe it’s the tornado-like action of the wind that’s terrifying; you never know what’s going to happen next) that reach up five or six stories high, lit up by dispassionate sodium-vapour lamps. I can see the eagle that usually leisurely stalks the skies at this hour struggling to find a current it can cruise in, instead being forced to glide along what guiderails of wind it can find.

The muffled sound of rain like white noise floats in from all sides, percolating through the walls, rising one minute and falling the next. The incessant flashes of lightning portend the next rumbling roll of thunder, lighting up the sky in ultra-bright flares of white before the heavens return to their dark pink-red, a horizon-spanning wound preparing to be cauterised once more.

It’s so wonderfully easy to sit inside during these moments and marvel at the casual but preconceived display of power all around. What must it have been like four billion years ago, when the first microbes were taking shape and suddenly the world around them was ablaze with electric discharges, the air itself on fire? What must it have been like when the first creatures with ears were assailed by thunder, when the first creatures with eyes were blinded by the light? When the first humans felt as if the sky was exploding and crashing down around them?

It wasn’t until the eighteenth century that we figured out lightning was electricity – but the moment we did, we cast our now-knowing eye back into the recesses of time, looked at the first sensing lifeforms of Earth and wondered what fantasies they conjured in their laughable ignorance. Just the way after some lightning storm of the future, some slouch will look back to this night and wonder what fantasies we were mulling in the middle of a lightning storm.

Will we be going around in circles?

Featured image credit: Pexels/pixabay.

Signs of a slowdown

The way ahead for particle physics seems dully lit after CERN’s fourth-of-July firecracker. The Higgs announcement got everyone in the physics community excited – and spurred a frenzied submission of pre-prints all rushing to explain the particle’s properties. However, that excitement quickly died out after ICHEP ’12 was presented with nothing significant, even with anything a fraction as significant as the ATLAS/CMS results.

Even so, I suppose we must wait at least another 3 months before a a conclusive Higgs-centric theory emerges that completely integrates the Higgs mechanism with the extant Standard Model.

The spotting of the elusive boson – or an impostor – closes a decades-old chapter in particle physics, but does almost nothing in pointing the way ahead apart from verifying the process of mass-formation. Even theoretically, the presence of SM quadratic divergences in the mass of the Higgs boson prove a resilient barrier to correct. How the Higgs field will be used as a tool in detecting other particles and the properties of other entities is altogether unclear.

The tricky part lies in working out the intricacies of the hypotheses that promise to point the way ahead. The most dominant amongst them is supersymmetry (SUSY). In fact, hints of existence of supersymmetric partners were recorded when the LHCb detector at the LHC spotted evidence of CP-violation in muon-decay events (the latter at 3.9σ). At the same time, the physicists I’m in touch with at IMS point out that rigid restrictions have been instituted on the discovery of sfermions and bosinos.

The energies at which these partners could be found are beyond those achievable by the LHC, let alone the luminosity. More, any favourable-looking ATLAS/CMS SUSY-results – which are simply interpretations of strange events – are definitely applicable only in narrow and very special scenarios. Such a condition is inadmissible when we’re actually in the hunt for frameworks that could explain grander phenomena. Like the link itself says,

“The searches leave little room for SUSY inside the reach of the existing data.”

Despite this bleak outlook, there is still a possibility that SUSY may stand verified in the future. Right now: “Could SUSY be masked behind general gauge mediation, R-parity violation or gauge-mediated SUSY-breaking” is the question (gauge-mediated SUSY-breaking (GMSB) is when some hidden sector breaks SUSY and communicates the products to the SM via messenger fields). Also, ZEUS/DESY results (generated by e-p DIS studies) are currently being interpreted.

However, everyone knows that between now and a future that contains a verified-SUSY, hundreds of financial appeals stand in the way. 😀 This is a typical time of slowdown – a time we must use for open-minded hypothesizing, discussion, careful verification, and, importantly, honest correction.