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Deepening crisis in particle physics — Rob Sheldon responds

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At least it is being discussed frankly. Always a start:

The crisis became undeniable in 2016, when, despite a major upgrade, the Large Hadron Collider in Geneva still hadn’t conjured up any of the new elementary particles that theorists had been expecting for decades. The swarm of additional particles would have solved a major puzzle about an already known one, the famed Higgs boson. The hierarchy problem, as the puzzle is called, asks why the Higgs boson is so lightweight — a hundred million billion times less massive than the highest energy scales that exist in nature. The Higgs mass seems unnaturally dialed down relative to these higher energies, as if huge numbers in the underlying equation that determines its value all miraculously cancel out.

Natalie Wolchover, “A Deepening Crisis Forces Physicists to Rethink Structure of Nature’s Laws” at Quanta (March 1, 2022)

When science writers (and scientists) start using words like “miraculously,” it’s a clue that they are really stumped.

Some of those who remained set to work scrutinizing decades-old assumptions. They started thinking anew about the striking features of nature that seem unnaturally fine-tuned — both the Higgs boson’s small mass, and a seemingly unrelated case, one that concerns the unnaturally low energy of space itself. “The really fundamental problems are problems of naturalness,” Garcia Garcia said.

Their introspection is bearing fruit. Researchers are increasingly zeroing in on what they see as a weakness in the conventional reasoning about naturalness. It rests on a seemingly benign assumption, one that has been baked into scientific outlooks since ancient Greece: Big stuff consists of smaller, more fundamental stuff — an idea known as reductionism. “The reductionist paradigm … is hard-wired into the naturalness problems,” said Nima Arkani-Hamed, a theorist at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, New Jersey.

Natalie Wolchover, “A Deepening Crisis Forces Physicists to Rethink Structure of Nature’s Laws” at Quanta (March 1, 2022)

But when theoretical physicists start messing with reductionism, they are messing with the core assumptions of the meaningless universe. Many attempts are in progress to revalidate those assumptions, of course but…

Our physics color commentator Rob Sheldon weighs in:


This is an excellent paper. Wolchover does a great job with distilling physics ideas. Permit me to comment on the article.

This UV-IR mixing that destroys reductionism, “naturalness” (Sabine Hossenfelder’s nemesis) and Effective Field Theories (EFT) is another face to “fractals” that remain the same despite changes of scale. They are saying that big scales and little scales are connected. Like biology, chemistry and physics.

Here’s few more examples: the Coulomb force of electricity decreases with 1/r^2 but never goes to zero. The sun emits charged particles called the solar wind and therefore generates a potential or Coulomb force stretching out to infinity. Changes in the heliopause–where the solar wind encounters the extra-solar or interplanetary medium and suddenly brakes out past the orbit of Pluto–sets up a change in the Coulomb force that regulates how the surface of the sun emits solar-wind. A potato, crammed into a car exhaust pipe, will keep the car from running. This feedback operates from 100 AU astronomical units down to 0.01 AU, or over four orders of magnitude in scale.

Magnetic fields, constrain and direct charge particle flows, so that a NdFeB kitchen magnet placed in a Bell Jar and pumped down to 100mTorr can produce jets. A neutron star, with a field 10,000 stronger than my kitchen magnet produces astrophysical jets the size of the solar system. A galaxy with a field not even 100 times stronger than my kitchen magnet, produces jets that are Megaparsecs long. The same magnetic field scales plasma over 21 orders of magnitude from my bell jar to active galactic nuclei.

The distribution of neurons in my brain is fractal, with density increasing as a power of D^2.decimal, much like Natalie’s description of Area^.75 power. It turns out that this is the optimal density to maintain connectivity between brain cells. Galaxies are spread out in the universe with a fractal density D^2.decimal. No one knows why. But over 30 orders of magnitude separate those observations of nearly identical density distributions.

As Natalie points out, these observations suggest that there is a law connecting UV-IR, connecting big and little scales; there is a fractal that describes the information content of the universe, proving that we do not live in a random universe. Rather than backing into this discovery like Garcia-Garcia, we need to embrace it. Because we know the Designer, and therefore we already have a leg up on the competition. ID is not handicapped in this race, it is the scent of the roses.


Rob Sheldon is the author of Genesis: The Long Ascent and The Long Ascent, Volume II .

You may also wish to read: What becomes of science when the evidence does not matter?

One Reply to “Deepening crisis in particle physics — Rob Sheldon responds

  1. 1
    polistra says:

    There wouldn’t be a “crisis” if theorists weren’t able to waste trillions in government money to generate new “expectations” that waste trillions in government money to generate new “expe……

    Abandon all theories. Just observe Nature.

    None of this shit is natural. None of these “particles” are found in Nature. It’s all cascading layers of exponentially more abstract nonsense.

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