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Conference Wrap-Up: Waiting for Godot Particles

Panel from “Wondermark” by David Malki!, illustrating (kind of) how new particles are created in high-energy collisions. Click for the whole comic.

I wish I could finish writing up all my notes from Pheno 2012, but I’m out of time: I leave tomorrow for a tour of various scientific sites in the Midwest. However, if all goes as planned, a summary article covering some of the major conference themes will be appearing elsewhere soon, so when it goes live, I’ll link it here. (Part 1 on the Higgs boson and Part 2 on neutrino physics cover two of the major themes of the conference.)

I apologize to those who were waiting for a post about supersymmetry; I may yet get to that once I’m back home. It serves me right for being long-winded in my first two posts! However, I leave you with the comic at right, and a few more brief thoughts about the conference.

The Phenomenology 2012 Symposium in general seemed to me like a crossroads of sorts. There were no major new results announced, and much of the community is looking forward to the next LHC run, which should settle whether the Higgs boson sighting from last fall is true or not. Also, the hunt for dark matter is waiting for upgrades at several facilities (the Cryogenic Dark Matter Search in and the XENON10 experiment, which is being expanded to XENON100, were both mentioned multiple times).

The tone was a mixture of hopeful and a little desperate. The supersymmetry (SUSY) researchers in particular are coping with the fact that the simplest version of SUSY, known as the minimally supersymmetric standard model (MSSM), is dead—wiped out for lack of evidence. There are a lot of versions of SUSY, so the theory as a whole isn’t gone, but I didn’t sense as much optimism about a definitive result. Perhaps I’m projecting my own feelings onto others, but a number of people I spoke to (admittedly who were non-SUSY researchers) were more willing publicly to dismiss SUSY. In any case, the next LHC run should help clarify where things stand.

In other words, we are all waiting for Godot particles, which may or may not show up. As I am not a particle physicist, I don’t have a specific stake in most of these experiments, though of course I hope a definite dark matter candidate shows up soon—if for no other reason than to help me degrump over the dark matter deniers. While we wait, I have a book to write.

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