26 December 2012

2013 - what direction will TOE researchers take?

The Higgs found at CERN seems to be a standard model Higgs. If that is true, many researchers are in trouble. The Higgs answers no fundamental question of particle physics, as Ervin points out in his comments. None of the big issues is resolved. The theory of everything is as far as it ever was. Experiments did not provide a guide to where researchers for a theory of everything should look. Are we entering a dark age?

Supersymmetry is moribond, but not dead yet. Supersymmetry and string theorists can and will continue to claim, against all evidence, that supersymmetry and strings are a part of nature. Loop quantum gravity people will continue to work unimpressed anyway. Researchers in fringe fields will not change direction. Newcomers will not dare to propose new ideas, as the old ones still determine funding and science politics. Spaghetti seem to be dead; Schiller has given up and nobody else discusses his model. Wen and his "topological order" will continue not to address antiparticles and the nuclear interactions.

Never will I understand how men think. How can this happen? The standard model is full of unanswered questions. The 20 open parameters must be understood. And yet, almost nobody seem to have a clue. Theorists, be courageous! Dare to advance!

The spaghetti model, one of the few theories that promised progress, is not producing anything.  Spaghetti, sorry, strands, are pretty. They are not compelling, but they are pretty. Schiller makes a decent job at explaining them. But for my taste they are not yet compelling. Please make strands more compelling. Is there really no alternative to strands? How can we be convinced? Nevertheless: Schiller, go on! You predicted that the Higgs does not exist - but in your last edition you explain that the prediction might have been mistaken. We all understand that you are unhappy about a mistaken prediction. Everybody makes mistakes! Please go on! Your model still is the only one that predicts the four interactions. That should give you enough motivation to continue. Mistakes are allowed! This is science. Research is not straightforward.

I also think about the average researcher. There are thousands of them. What are they doing? Where are their new proposals? Where are the new ideas? If men cannot help, let the women come forward. We are more courageous than men. We can teach them. We women take many more risks in life than men. If men took as many risks as we women do, we would have a TOE since a long time.

We take risks about life and death. We do so when we choose a husband, when we get pregnant. And we suffer even if we have no fault. That is our life, and we are proud of it. Men would not dare to do that. Women, let us take this issue into our hand. Let us show them, let us produce new ideas that are better than those around. Or at least, let us encourage our husbands to go on.


  1. Clara,

    I wish more people would join this conversation and buy into the idea that the establishment of theoretical high-energy physics has badly failed expectations for the last 35 + years or so. No day is passing by without pompous and grandiose speculations showing up in Arxiv and physics blogs. The vast majority of these ideas cannot be falsified. They are baroque but "empty" mathematical constructions with little to no contact with physical reality. Firewalls, landscape, Black Hole entropy, anthropic principles, multiverses, large extra-dimensions, loop quantum gravity, M-theory, holography, GUT models, twistors, E(8), scattering amplitudes, entropic gravity, octonions, quaternions, Clifford algebras, deformed Special Relativity and on and on...What a troubling hodge-podge of dead-end attempts to go beyond the Standard Model!

    Shifman was right in saying that what we are seeing is a lost generation of theorists in denial and fighting for their careers...



    1. You call "scattering amplitudes" baroque but empty mathematical constructions??? This kind of lets down your post, scattering amplitudes are regularly measured, and have been for a long time, in many different contexts. They have proven a very good experimental tests for theories, such as the standard model. Read and old book on QM (or classical physics for that matter).

    2. Dear Male Anonymous,

      we understood what you wrote: You are very smart, Ervin is not. But your comment is useless, as we do not know who you are. So please just go to some other place to play your stupid "I am smarter than you" games.

      No woman would ever write such a comment. But your attitude has a side-effect: you will never achieve anything in the search for a theory of everything with your attitude. (See the example of Lubos Motl, who fell into the same trap.) Find another field for you.

    3. Anonymous, let me clarify my statement:

      I am talking here about scattering amplitudes as applied to N=4 Super Yang-Mills theories, see for example:


      Nobody doubts that scattering amplitudes are useful computational tools in general. But the context I referred to remains completely speculative, whether you like it or not.


  2. Ervin,

    who should join the conversation? It is not essential. It is sufficient that the facts are spelled out. "Baroque" is a good term. Also "decadent" is appropriate. For satire the times are excellent though. The times when serious research was essential to become and stay professor are long gone...

  3. It's a golden age of satire, isn't it? But doing real physics is better than talking about it. Doing physics is a lot of fun.

    Happy Holidays and Best Wishes for 2013!

    May 2013 be the year of happiness and professional successes and achievements.

    Enjoy the festivities, the food, the gifts and the drinks.

    Special thanks to Clara for her interesting blog!

    Happy Holidays to everyone!

  4. Same wishes from me for a healthy and happy New Year!


  5. TOE implies correct physics. How can we construct TOE if we still count on renormalizations? We still make mathematical errors that are later corrected with coefficient renormalizations. We still have no idea how to construct correct equations without invoking never observed "bare" particles.


  6. Maybe the spaghetti model makes a statement about this problem?

  7. Clara,

    Speaking about TOE, today Matt Strasler did a well balanced presentation worth reviewing:


    It shows how little we know now and how many surprises on BSM physics may surface in the next three or four years.

  8. Ervin, I disagree with Strassler; see my next post.