More than three decades later, particle physics once again finds itself at a crossroads. A decision looms about which big particle-collider experiment to build next — if indeed one is built at all. While CERN’s Large Hadron Collider (LHC) has performed flawlessly, its collisions have yielded no signs of new particles beyond the expected 17, whose properties and interactions are described by the Standard Model of particle physics. This model makes incredibly accurate predictions about those particles’ behavior, yet it’s also understood to be an incomplete description of our world. It fails to include the gravitational force or dark matter — the mysterious substance that astronomers consider to be about five times more abundant than normal matter — or account for the universe’s matter-antimatter imbalance. Moreover, many theorists feel uneasy about the Standard Model’s inability to explain its own basic truths, such as why there are three families of quarks and leptons, and what determines the particles’ masses.
Rubbia, who at 85 remains at the forefront of the field, isn’t fazed by the absence of “new physics” in the LHC data. He urges his peers to press on in search of more and better data and to trust that answers will come. The Higgs boson — the 17th piece in the Standard Model puzzle — materialized at the LHC in 2012, and now Rubbia wants to explore its characteristics in depth with a state-of-the-art “Higgs factory.”Thomas Lewton, “A Call for Courage as Physicists Confront Collider Dilemma” at Quanta
In the interview with Lewton that follows the article, Rubia says, “I’m a bit concerned that the future of particle physics at CERN does not involve, so far, any new alternative after the termination of the LHC program. When I was responsible for the activities at CERN, whenever we had one machine, we had the next one coming. We need to have more courage, and collectively agree on alternatives.”
Just a thought: Could the great age of particle physics be coming to an end? That is, not so much a crisis as the beginning of a long, slow decline? That happened to science in many former civilizations. There were high points and then somehow things slowed down. How would we know?
That might be the explanation for the way speculation on, say, the multiverse substitutes in many people’s minds for science.
See also: Sabine Hossenfelder: Has The Large Hadron Collider “Broken Physics”?
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