Philosophising physics

3 September 2011 | By

Infographic showing the mass reach of ATLAS searches, detailing the current status of the limits ATLAS are able to set on a large range of physics models and final states, for a representative selection of ATLAS results. (Image: ATLAS Collaboration/CERN).

Last Monday (August 22), within a tight 35-minute allocation, ATLAS’ Henri Bachacou presented the entirety of the results from ‘Beyond the Standard Model’ searches for BOTH the ATLAS and CMS experiments, to the Lepton Photon conference in Mumbai, India. This included results of studies on Supersymmetry, strong gravity, heavy resonances and long-lived particles, and was a staggering amount of information to convey in an extremely limited amount of time. Henri did a great job, firing through slides, and guiding the audience through the most up-to-date results from the wide range of exotic topics. He did have one thing on his side, however… from each search, from each physics topic and from each experiment, the results came back the same: Has the LHC seen anything beyond the standard model yet? Nope.

As of the consequences of the lack of evidence for new physics, combined with the exotic locale, what we received instead was a monsoon of limits. The table below summarizes these quite colorfully. As impressive as this table looks, these are just the limits set by ATLAS, so the full salvo delivered is roughly twice this amount, when CMS limits are included.

As we’ve all heard for the last few years, these are exciting times in particle physics, it’s just that nature is not making it easy for us. Perhaps there was some deeper wisdom and appropriateness in holding this year’s Lepton Photon conference in India. In the ten yamas, or the controls and restraints every ideal Hindu should follow, the fifth restraint stresses kshama, or patience. It teaches the restraining of intolerance toward circumstances. At the present time we are at the edges of our seats in the LHC’s theater. However, I think we shouldn’t be impatient towards the physics and results coming out of the LHC. We are not owed anything from the machine and detectors; we have to earn it.

The staggering amount of results presented by Henri and all of the speakers at this conference took an unimaginable amount of dedicated work from not only from physicists conducting these analyses, but also from the collective efforts of everyone involved in making the LHC reality over the last 15-20 years. Furthermore, a large part of the limits being produced, and shown above, are the current ‘world best’, edging beyond the horizon set by our predecessors after only one year of data taking. So as the fifth restraint in the tenth yama suggests, let’s have ksharma, enjoy the abundance of results appearing now, and allow nature to reveal itself at it’s own time, as I’m sure we will not be disappointed.