[Update: I found the time to add a few links to the post below, which I had previously omitted for lack of time (hey I'm on vacation!), and I also updated it to add some commentary of Sabine Hossenfelder's latest post on "the end of particle physics".]
In this age of short-term reward strategies (in politics, in society, and in individual behaviour) planning huge endeavours 20 years ahead is harder than it used to be. In the late eighties, when the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) was conceived and argued to be doable by a few visionaries, it immediately looked like a great idea to all.
As useless as this post may be, I wish to write here a few impressions from my trip to the island of Bali, Indonesia. Why, this is my blog, not a newsletter. So it makes perfect sense to use it as a receptacle of my free-wandering thoughts and experiences, every now and then.
I took a British flight on December 23, which brought me from Venice to Heathrow, and from there to Doha and finally Denpasar, the largest city in Bali, located in its southern tip. About the trip I can report the following bits:
Supersymmetry (SUSY) is a possible extension of the Standard Model (SM), the currently accepted theory of subnuclear physics. SUSY has the potential to "explain away" some of the problematic features of the SM, by introducing a new symmetry between fermions (the stuff that matter is made of) and bosons (the vectors of the forces that hold matter together). Introduced in the seventies, SUSY was tested with increasingly stringent tests in higher- and higher-energy collisions at particle accelerators, but all searches for its particles have returned empty-handed. In particular, many physicists thought that the turn-on of the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) eight years ago would result in heaps of new discoveries of SUSY particles, which unfortunately weren't.
I don't remember who said it, but there's a quote I like a lot: "If you torture them long enough, the data will confess to anything". What the author meant is of course that the manipulation of experimental data and the a posteriori use of hand-picked methods, approximations, and other ad-hoc choices allows you to demonstrate anything with them, from one hypothesis to the opposite one. Statistics, in other words, is a subtle science, which must be handled with care. It is a powerful tool in the hands of people with an agenda.
It's been a while since I last discussed something personal in this column. The reason is not that I changed my mind with respect to being open and freely share my ideas, experiences, and personal life things here - I have long argued that if a blog is not personal, it is not interesting, and I stand by that assessment.
Rather, the reason of my not talking much about myself and my personal / work life is the good old one: lack of time. If I have time to write an article, I try to do it on a subject which I suppose will be more interesting to the readers of this site. Hence physics, rather than life and work, takes the precedence. But it needs not be so all the time, so today I will try to go in the other direction.
My CMS colleague Didar Dobur, who chairs the "Top Properties" working group in the experiment, presented today the first observation of the process whereby a top quark is produced in association to a Z boson. I could follow the presentation by videoconference, so I am blogging about this result in close to real time, for a change.