From CERN researcher Pauline Gagnon at Aeon:
Physics is on the verge of an Earth-shattering discovery
The Higgs boson filled in the last missing piece of the Standard Model, but this model is itself clearly incomplete. None of its particles has the properties of dark matter, a mysterious entity that is five times as prevalent as all the ordinary matter (everything made of atoms, which in turn are built from quarks and electrons) visible in the stars and galaxies. The Standard Model also does not explain the wide range of masses of the fundamental particles, nor why antimatter seems to have nearly completely disappeared, leaving the Universe filled almost exclusively with matter.
That is why, after spending nearly 60 years building the Standard Model, particle physicists are now terribly excited at the prospect of finally breaking it. The flaws of the model were well known, but no one knows what the right model might be. Theorists have been stuck for decades, exploring a vast array of ideas but lacking the data to tell them if they were on the right path. Only an experimental breakthrough can help them move forward, and the LHC might have already made it.
The mere announcement of what might be the first signs of a new particle, delivered at the end-of-the-year LHC seminar on 15 December 2015, sent theorists into a frenzy. Expectations are so high that there are already 338 scientific papers on the possible nature of this new particle. But without experimental clues, there is no way to determine which of the 338 models – if any – is correct. As Alessandro Strumia, a theorist from CERN, recently put it in a review of the possibilities: ‘It could be anything or nothing!’ When the properties of the new particle become known, he anticipates a ‘massacre’ of theories as many ideas will be ruled out. More.
The long and short of it is, we are still where we were on 15 December 2015.
Rob Sheldon writes to advise us not to hold our breath, thinking we wouldn’t have done so anyway.
Some of us think that the term “earth-shattering” should be saved for discoveries that have actually been made—and then usually in retrospect.
It’s curious the way high science today participates in an apocalyptic mindset that was at one time associated with religious fringes.
See also: In search of a road to reality
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