Cosmology Physics

Theoretical physicist: Contrary to hype, a larger collider will probably not answer the Big Questions

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This image represents the evolution of the Universe, starting with the Big Bang. The red arrow marks the flow of time.
Big Bang/NASA

Sabine Hossenfelder, author of Lost in Math: How Beauty Leads Physics Astray, is not enthusiastic about a new video promoting a new, larger collider for CERN. She believes that current, serious problems are being smoothed over for politicians and the public, by general soothing noises that a bigger collider might answer many questions about our universe. Her summaries are worth reading in detail, for example,

Why is there no more antimatter?

Because if there was, you wouldn’t be here to ask the question. Presumably this item refers to the baryon asymmetry. This is a fine-tuning problem which simply may not have an answer. And even if it has, the FCC may not answer it.

In general, she thinks,

That particle physicists can fumble together models that predict all and everything is why I no longer trust their predictions. Again, it’s not impossible the FCC would find something, but there is no good reason for why that should happen.

I am not opposed to building a larger collider. Particle colliders that reach higher energies than we probed before are the cleanest and most reliable way to search for new physics. But I am strongly opposed to misleading the public about the prospects of such costly experiments. We presently have no reliable prediction for new physics at any energy below the Planck energy. A next larger collider may find nothing new. That may be depressing, but it’s true. Sabine Hossenfelder, “CERN produces marketing video for new collider and it’s full of lies” at BackRe(Action)

Here’s the vid:

Some may wince at Hossenfelder referring to the PR as “full of lies.” but the fact is, many of these science marketers are probably desperate. Terms like “crisis,” “stagnation,” and “post-empirical” have become commonplace in describing the current state of theoretical physics. One response is to just keep the hype going.

Hype analysis is hairsplitting. Eventually, silence must fall, one supposes, and perhaps it will be possible to talk honestly about the underlying assumptions.

See also: Rob Sheldon on the physics wars: Stagnation or no?

Theoretical physicist: My field is not going to the dogs

Theoretical physicist: Present phase of physics “not normal” – stagnation, not crisis

Is cosmology in crisis over how to measure the universe?

and

“Perhaps physics has slipped into a post-empirical era

3 Replies to “Theoretical physicist: Contrary to hype, a larger collider will probably not answer the Big Questions

  1. 1
    turell says:

    Based on the news reports from China, let them do it.

  2. 2
  3. 3
    aarceng says:

    Go ahead and build a larger collider; just don’t ask the rest of us to pay for it.

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