- Testing Planck-Scale Gravity with Accelerators
By Vahagn Gharibyan
Phys. Rev. Lett. 109, 141103 (2012)
The author himself mentions the current astrophysical constraints, in the PRL version at least, not in the arxiv version - peer review isn't entirely useless. But he omits to draw the obvious conclusion: The test he proposes will not test anything new. He vaguely writes that
"The limits, however, are based on assumptions about the origin, spatial or temporal distribution of the initial photons, and their possible interactions during the travel. Another critical assumption is a uniformly distributed birefringence over cosmological distances... In contrast to the astrophysical methods, an accelerator Compton experiment is sensitive to the local properties of space at the laser-electron interaction point and along the scattered photon direction."He leaves the reader to wonder then what model he wants to test. One in which the vacuum birefringence just so happens to be 15 orders of magnitude larger at the collision point than anywhere else in space where particles from astrophysical sources might have passed through? Sorry, but that's a poor way of claiming to test a "new" regime. At the very least, I would like to hear a reason why we should expect an effect so much larger. Space-time here on Earth as well as in interstellar space is, for what quantum gravitational effects are concerned, essentially flat. Why should the results be so dramatically different?
I usually finish with a sentence saying that it's always good to test a new parameter regime, no matter how implausible the effect. In this case, I can't even say that, because it's just not testing a new parameter regime. The only good thing about the paper is that it drives home the point that we can test Planck scale effects. In fact, we have already done so, and Lorentz-invariance violation is the oldest example of this.
Here's one of the publication criteria that PRL lists on the journal website:
"Importance.[x] Fails by a large amount.
Important results are those that substantially advance a field, open a significant new area of research or solve–or take a crucial step toward solving – a critical outstanding problem, and thus facilitate notable progress in an existing field."
Thanks to Elangel for the pointer.