Through the Desert on a Force with No Name
By Wendy Wippel
The word “desert” used in an geographical context means, “a region largely devoid of rain and therefore also largely devoid of vegetation, or life”. According to astrophysicists, however (Who knew!), there is also a desert in space. A “particle desert”. Which shocked them, for two reasons. First, because it shouldn’t be there. Second, because if it wasn’t there, we wouldn’t be here either.
It’s a story a hundred years in the making.
The first particle accelerators (machines that use electromagnetic fields to make charged particles accelerate to nearly light speed) were in use in about 1920. These sophisticated machines speed particles to these crazy speeds in order to see, sort of like a microscope, what small bits they are really made up of. As the particles accelerate, they separate out at different points.
The most famous particle accelerator is the one owned by the European Organization for Nuclear Research (abbreviated from the French, CERN), in Switzerland. The main U.S accelerator is located at FermiLab in Chicago.
There are about 30,000 others across the world.
And they have been useful. Using the Hadron Collider, scientists have been able to figure out that matter is much more complex than we all learned in school. (i.e., made up of protons and electrons). With a neutron thrown in here and there for effect.
Using the Large Hadron Collider, they’ve discovered that there are lots more particles than our science teachers ever realized. Altogether a total of 25, actually, at this point.:
Quarks: 6 “flavors” which serve as the starting point for all matter.
Gauge bosons: (12) which carry force and 3 other bosons, as well as Leptons (6) which help make up atoms.
All identified by use of particle accelerators. And one more… last but not least, the particle long predicted but not identified until 2012—the Higgs Boson Particle.
The Higgs-Boson Particle was a big deal, because it seemed to be the “sorting hat” (if you’ll forgive the application) for all matter. In the words of one scientist, the Higgs- Boson could be described as, “a field of energy which other particles travel through to acquire mass”. Which earned it the famous nickname: The God particle.
The thing is that ever since particle colliders have collided the invisible things of which the universe is created (Colossians 1:16), they have regularly identified new particles. And the identification of these fundamental particles –and what they do– builds our understanding of the world that God gave us. He told us in Genesis to subdue it. And that necessarily involves understanding it.
Scientists across the world have had at it. The 70s gave us quarks. It was ordinary bosons in the 80s. More exotic bosons in the 90s. The Tau Neutrino in the 2000s. There’s been a steady stream of progress right up to the discovery of the long- hypothesized and finally identified Higgs-Boson particle in 2012. As physicist, Lisa Randall put it, science was, “Knocking on heaven’s door”.
Today? In 2017? It would seem that God locked the door. And disabled His doorbell.
The prevailing theory says that each of the particles identified should have doppelgangers; partners with the same basic make-up but with lots more mass. The scientists involved believe that these supermassive particles (partners to the ones already detected), could have energies above 1,000 GeV.
(GeV is an abbreviation for a trillion electrovolts.)
The particles already identified, (the smaller versions), have all had energies less than 200 GeV.
But here’s what’s keeping the scientists that study these things up nights. There is no reason, according to their understanding of the physics, for there to be that no man’s land in between 200 GeVs and 1 trillion electrovolts.
But five years and seven quadrillion proton collisions after the discovery of the Higgs-Boson, there’s been nada. nothing. Absolutely no sign of anything new on the horizon. A “Particle desert” once they passsd the frequencies at which all the quarks and neutrinos and bosons had discovered.
For no apparent reason.
And those that accelerate all those particles are starting worry about their jobs.
“Many of my colleagues are desperate,” said Hermann Nicolai of the Max Planck Institute for Gravitational Physics in Potsdam, Germany. “It’s striking that we’ve thought about these things for 30 years and we have not made one correct prediction that they have seen,” said Professor Nima Arkani-Hamed.
One scientist, in 2015, hedged his fairly hopeful view that the particles sought would still be found:
“So the bottom line is that if, in 2015, the LHC discovers so much as one new particle, all will be well, and there will be huge parties around the world celebrating the new physics of supersymmetry. Legions of theoreticians will be able to return to working on supersymmetry and string theory with new data to think about.
But if no new particle is found, life will be much worse. There will continue to be no simple explanation for the existence of dark matter. Although nature favors simple theories, it will have decisively vetoed the simplest known theory that goes beyond the standard model. The LHC will have discovered that the energy range between 200 GeV and 15,000 GeV is devoid of new particles, and that the initial dune field of the energy desert has been traversed. But unlike the Sahara Desert, there are apparently no easily reachable oases of new particles to which physicists can target new generations of expensive colliders.”
It remains to be seen whether the results from LHC after 2015 will confirm our greatest hopes or validate our worst fears. Either way, stay tuned for some exciting news headlines! ~Dr. Sten Odenwald
More than a little drama going on there. And, ultimately, his worst fears were realized.
By their own analogy, God “slammed the door”. And, actually, He had a very good reason to. The Creator of everything they sought to understand had already given them an answer as to why there were no particles in those frequencies, but they didn’t like the answer.
Physicists had already determined that if any particles had existed within the range of frequencies called the “energy desert”, any protons that existed would decay very, very rapidly and as a consequence there would be no protons in our universe today.
Which is kind of a problem, since the proton is a standard component of every atom that exists. And atoms make up everything else we see.
So no you. No me. No stars or planets. No salted caramel truffle ice cream.
Life would stink if there was life. But that’s out too, because any protons created would immediately decay.
And that’s all she wrote.
Dr. Odenwald’s worst fears had been realized.
In 2015, and again this year. No new particles, including those in the proton-destroying range.
Here’s a secret: the lack of these new particles, particularly the mysteriously missing dopplegangers, is more than Mensa mind games to those who have dedicated their lives to the search. Their Holy Grail is confirmation of a theory called supersymmetry, (nicknamed SUSY), which was introduced in a 1901 paper, specifically to propose a solution to the “fine-tuning problem”, a problem particular to scientists with an atheistic bent, and consisting of the fact that every discovery seems to confirm that the universe had been specifically designed for human habitation. That every parameter studied proves to be extremely fine-tuned for well, us!
Brian Greene explains the issue in his book The Elegant Universe, The Standard Model works, “only if parameters … are fine tuned to better than one part in a million billion. Such precision is on a par with adjusting the launch angle of a bullet fired from an enormously powerful rifle, so it hits a specific target on the moon with a margin of error no greater than the thickness of an ameba.”
By adding in the other, imaginary, spurious particles, however, “substantial cancellations occur from the outset” and the troublesome “fine tuning” is no longer a problem. SUSY solves the problem all by itself.
So now we know.
Humor columnist, Dave Barry once wrote a column about physicists detecting subatomic particles. He attributed their discovery to three-martini lunches and Friday afternoons with said physicists sitting around the lab shrieking “there goes another one”!
Unfortunately, it’s far more nefarious than that.
And there is no true science when possible solutions to a scientific question are ruled out before the science begins.