What if the world of particle physics made more sense to the mass public? What if scientists themselves could understand it more, and develop a general theory to unite the main concepts? Scientists at The Large Hadron Collider are on their way to doing this.
The Large Hadron Collider (LHC) is a particle accelerator and collider that physicists use to find new particles that explain important theories within particle physics. Currently, LHC physicists are researching an emerging concept called supersymmetry (1). The supersymmetry theory is the idea that there is an important relationship between Bosons and Fermions, two classes of basic particles. The theory states that each particle in one group has a “superpartner” in the other group. For example, an electron (a Fermion particle) would have a superpartner in the Boson class with its same mass and quantum number called a selectron (2). This theory has been proposed to support the Standard Model of particle physics which classifies the fundamental forces in the universe (excluding gravity) and all the elementary particles (protons, neutrons, electrons, etc.) (1).
Years ago, the Standard Model seemed incorrect; it made all particles seem massless (1). To prove this wrong, scientists at the LHC discovered the Higgs boson particle, known as the “god-particle”, which explained why particles had mass in context of the Standard Model (3). Though, when physicists added the Higgs boson particle to the Standard Model, it seemed that the Higgs boson should be light in mass. This did not add up; when the Higgs boson interacted with other particles in the LHC, it seemed to be heavy (1). This means that currently, the Standard Model of particle physics is not entirely correct. The new particles proposed in supersymmetry would make it correct. Since the new boson particles, or superpartners, theoretically have the same mass as the fermion particles, they could cancel out the Standard Model particles that appear to make the Higgs heavy. If the superpartners canceled their partners out, the Higgs could assume a light mass. This means that if supersymmetry is proven, the existence of a light Higgs boson could be possible. This light Higgs boson could prove Standard Model to be correct.
If the Standard Model is proven correct by the existence of Supersymmetry, physicists will know how more particles and forces interact with each other. This means that physicists could begin to find a Grand Unified Theory that brings all forces together mathematically (1). This would not only influence great leaps in the physics field, it could help physicists finally be able to understand how all particles and forces in the universe work together.
This could change an abundance of information in physics classes from high school to college; professors could be able to link together the concepts they teach and provide students with a better understanding of how the universe actually works. This could, in turn, make some areas of science such as how electrons interact with protons or how the Big Bang might have occurred easier to understand. If basic areas of science were a bit easier to understand to students, more of them might pursue scientific fields, and if higher-level scientists could finally understand major concepts, those concepts could become inherently more understandable to students and society. This sounds great, but it’s also extremely difficult. Physicists at the LHC have been working for years to detect supersymmetry. Detecting new particles can take years, as proven by the original purpose of the LHC: discovering the Higgs boson. The LHC took from September 10, 2008 to July 4, 2012 to detect the boson (4), and workers are still striving to improve ways to measure it (5). Supersymmetry also has opponent theories in the ring. The Multiverse Theory is just one of the emerging theories that contradict supersymmetry’s ability to prove the Standard Model (6).
Regardless of these aspects, supersymmetry is still pushing through as a prominent theory right now; physicists like it enough to spend many years researching it at the LHC. Maybe someday, in the distant future, we’ll undoubtedly know if our laws of physics are correct or not. It could all start with supersymmetry.
(1) Supersymmetry.” CERN, 20 Jan. 2012, https://home.cern/about/physics/supersymmetry
(2) Kane, Gordon L. “Supersymmetry. What? Why? When?” Semantic Scholar, https://pdfs.semanticscholar.org/4f62/dea4ae58ae8b61f6fd2a0d58ce8dbb5f86ca.pdf
(3) “The Higgs boson.” CERN, 21 Jan. 2014, https://home.cern/topics/higgs-boson
(4) Landau, Elizabeth. “Inside CERN’s $10 billion collider.” CNN, http://www.cnn.com/2013/12/08/tech/innovation/lhc-cern-higgs-cms/index.html
(5) Coldewey, Devin. “5 years after the Higgs boson, the Large Hadron Collider is just getting started.” TechCrunch, https://techcrunch.com/2017/07/05/5-years-after-the-higgs-boson-the-large-hadron-collider-is-just-getting-started/
(6) Kershner, Kate. “Can supersymmetry and the multiverse both be true simultaneously?” How Stuff Works, https://science.howstuffworks.com/can-supersymmetry-and-multiverse-both-be-true-simultaneously.htm