Thursday, December 06, 2018

CERN produces marketing video for new collider and it’s full of lies

The Large Hadron Collider (LHC) just completed its second run. Besides a few anomalies, there’s nothing new in the data. After the discovery of the Higgs-boson, there is also no good reason for why there should be something else to find, neither at the LHC nor at higher energies, not up until 15 orders of magnitude higher than what we can reach now.

But of course there may be something, whether there’s a good reason or not. You never know before you look. And so, particle physicists are lobbying for the next larger collider.

Illustration of FCC tunnel. Screenshot from this video.

Proposals have been floating around for some while.

The Japanese, for example, like the idea of a linear collider of 20-30 miles length that would collide electrons and positrons, tentatively dubbed the International Linear Collider (ILC). The committee tasked with formulating the proposal seems to expect that the Japanese Ministry of Science and Technology will “take a pessimistic view of the project.”

Some years ago, the Chinese expressed interest in building a circular electron-positron collider (CEPC) of 50 miles circumference. Nima Arkani-Hamed was so supportive of this option that I heard it being nicknamed the Nimatron. The Chinese work in 5-year plans, but CEPC evidently did not make it on the 2016 plan.

CERN meanwhile has its own plan, which is a machine called the Future Circular Collider (FCC). Three different variants are presently under discussion, depending on whether the collisions are between hadrons (FCC-hh), electron-positions (FCC-ee), or a mixture of both (FCC-he). The plan for the FCC-hh is now subject of a study carried out in a €4 million EU-project.

This project comes with a promotional video:



The video advertises the FCC as “the world’s biggest scientific instrument” that will address the following questions:

What is 96% of the universe made of?

This presumably refers to the 96% that are dark matter and dark energy combined. While it is conceivably possible that dark matter is made of heavy particles that the FCC can produce, this is not the case for dark energy. Particle colliders don’t probe dark energy. Dark energy is a low-energy, long-distance phenomenon, the entire opposite from high-energy physics. What the FCC will reliably probe are the other 4%, the same 4% that we have probed for the past 50 years.

What is dark matter?

We have done dozens of experiments that search for dark matter particles, and none has seen anything. It is not impossible that we get lucky and the FCC will produce a particle that fits the bill, but there is no knowing it will be the case.

Why is there no more antimatter?

Because if there was, you wouldn’t be here to ask the question. Presumably this item refers to the baryon asymmetry. This is a fine-tuning problem which simply may not have an answer. And even if it has, the FCC may not answer it.

How did the universe begin?

The FCC would not tell us how the universe began. Collisions of large ions produce little blobs of quark gluon plasma, and this plasma almost certainly was also present in the early universe. But what the FCC can produce has a density some 70 orders of magnitude below the density at the beginning of the universe. And even that blob of plasma finds itself in a very different situation at the FCC than it would encounter in the early universe, because in a collider it expands into empty space, whereas in the early universe the plasma filled the whole universe while space expanded.

On the accompanying website, I further learned that the FCC “is a bold leap into completely uncharted territory that would probe… the puzzling masses of neutrinos.”

The neutrino-masses are a problem in the Standard Model because either you need right-handed neutrinos which have never been seen, or because the neutrinos are different from the other fermions, by being “Majorana-particles” (I explained this here).

In the latter case, you’re not going to find out with a particle collider; there are other experiments for that (quick summary here). In the former case, the simplest model has the masses of the right-handed neutrinos at the Planck scale, so the FCC would never see them. You can of course formulate models in which the masses are at lower energies and happen to fall into the FCC range. I am sure you can. That particle physicists can fumble together models that predict all and everything is why I no longer trust their predictions. Again, it’s not impossible the FCC would find something, but there is no good reason for why that should happen.

I am not opposed to building a larger collider. Particle colliders that reach higher energies than we probed before are the cleanest and most reliable way to search for new physics. But I am strongly opposed to misleading the public about the prospects of such costly experiments. We presently have no reliable prediction for new physics at any energy below the Planck energy. A next larger collider may find nothing new. That may be depressing, but it’s true.

Correction: The video in question was produced by the FCC study group at CERN and is hosted on the CERN website, but was not produced by CERN.

101 comments:

David Bailey said...

Sabine,

Thanks for that frank assessment - it is great to encounter a high energy physicist admitting that to sell yet another collider project to the politicians, you basically have to tell lies! We haven't had our mini black holes (possibly just as well) or a particle that can justifiably be called the 'God Particle', from the current LHC!

On a more technical point, I understand that the LHC has detectors tuned to look for particular particles - such as the Higgs. Does that mean that the LHC could be generating sorts of other particles that end up simply ignored?

JeanTate said...

There is a small something between the lies and “no reliable prediction of new physics below the Planck energy”: stronger tests of the Standard Model. Of course, an FCC may be an exceedingly expensive, inefficient way to do those tests, compared with more focused devices (what do you need to bring down the uncertainties on the various g-2 anomalies, by two orders of magnitude, for example? Probably not an FCC).

Sabine Hossenfelder said...

Jean,

Higher precision measurements of standard model are not new physics, not unless you want to re-define "new physics" for political reasons.

Sabine Hossenfelder said...

David,

The LHC groups do a lot of general-purpose checks that look for all kinds of particles, though certain kinds of models are being used to figure out if their algorithms are good at identifying certain signals. They are also now broadening their search with machine learning algorithms.

Generally, if you were to produce heavy particles in copious amounts you'd notice even if you don't measure them because you'd be missing energy, not to mention that such particles would screw up the predictions for the standard model. There are of course types of particles that the LHC just isn't sensitive to. Low-energy, weakly-interacting things, eg (think: axions and similar stuff). You do other experiments for those. High-energy physics is not an answer to everything.

akidbelle said...

Hi Sabine,

marketing is a nickname for lies.. I am sure you know.

Naively, I still believe there was a time when seeking truth led to success...
Now of course you physicists all know what to search... Particles... then this is necessarily true.

Best :)
J.

JeanTate said...

Sabine,

When you put it like that, indeed there’s no new physics. Especially when you add in the fact that, AFAIK, there are no established alternatives (“new physics”) in theory-land which claim to predict at least some of the g-2 anomalies, say. This is in contrast to, say, Dark Matter, and its several non-mainstream alternatives.

Sabine Hossenfelder said...

Jean,

Sorry, I mistyped my earlier comment, it should have been "Higher precision measurements of standard model parameters are not new physics."

"New physics" is anything that's not in the standard model. Supersymmetry, extra dimensions, WIMPs, axions, technicolor, GUTs, quantum gravity, and all that.

Alexander said...

it's a small thing, but did you want to say " ... full of lies" in the title?

marten said...

It is not the first time that I feel concerned.

Phillip Helbig said...

"it is great to encounter a high energy physicist admitting that to sell yet another collider project to the politicians, you basically have to tell lies!"

Who is the high energy physicist (or, rather, high-energy physicist, unless they've been smoking some weed)? Sabine? Maybe she is a physicist with high energy, which is not the same thing as a high-energy physicist. (Yes, one of my pet peeves are missing hyphens in two-word adjectives.)

"We haven't had our mini black holes (possibly just as well)"

No serious scientist ever suggested that we would.

"or a particle that can justifiably be called the 'God Particle', from the current LHC!"

Again, a stupid name, but do you see it in official CERN literature?

Sabine Hossenfelder said...

Phillip,

A quote from the above-mentioned website:


"[The FCC-hh] will allow physicists to study particles even heavier and more mysterious than the Higgs boson, the ‘God particle’ discovered at the LHC in 2012 that underpins our fundamental understanding of the laws of nature. Just as the creation of the LHC led to major scientific and technical breakthroughs with commercial applications in fields as diverse as medicine, magnet technology, superconductivity and power distribution, the development of future particle accelerators will drive potentially even greater innovation between academia and industry."

Sabine Hossenfelder said...

Alexander,

I don't know. Does it make a difference?

Mike Stay said...

"Full of" or "filled with". https://dictionary.cambridge.org/us/grammar/british-grammar/full-or-filled

eathummus said...

Hello "and it’s full with lies" should be ""and it’s full of lies."

Sabine Hossenfelder said...

Thanks, I fixed that.

Steven Mason said...

Sabine wrote: I am strongly opposed to misleading the public about the prospects of such costly experiments.

Thank you for saying that. But being an American, I can tell you that I've been misled by "promotional marketing" since I was born, and I am quite used to it.

The US has wasted obscene amounts of money on many misguided ventures. As for the public, well, at least half of the public seems to prefer being ignorant and irrational. We elected a president who is a pathological liar. Most people - and most politicians - have no clue what critical thinking is.

When our current particle accelerators outlive their usefulness, maybe they can be retrofitted into some kind of amusement park ride, perhaps a maglev roller coaster.

Steven Mason said...

eathummus wrote: "it’s full with lies" should be ""and it’s full of lies."

I thought that "full with lies" might be correct German syntax, and Sabine was doing a literal translation in her head. I enjoy seeing variance in language syntax, even when it's an "error."

One time I complained to a friend that she wasn't really listening to me and I asked her to pay attention. Instead of saying, "Okay, you have my undivided attention," she accidentally said, "Okay, you have my undevoted attention." It's one of the funniest things I've ever heard.

Steven Mason said...

Phillip wrote: a stupid name (the God Particle)

To be fair, it was never intended to be a smart name. It was sort of an inside joke. The physicist who coined the term originally wanted to call it "the Goddamn Particle" because of the difficulties associated with it. I guess you could say that the Goddamn Particle and the God Particle are stupid jokes, but as I keep saying to Sabine, I appreciate humor wherever I can find it.

Phillip wrote: Maybe Sabine is a physicist with high energy

You see? You're a funny person too.

Mr Homais said...

At some sufficiently huge energy level, that FCC thing might just discover the Sabinon or the Hossenfelder boson, and then these billions of euros will have been money well spent. We can't take the chance to miss those !

David Bailey said...

Philip Helbig,

In connection with mini black holes, you wrote "No serious scientist ever suggested that we would"

However, 2 minutes with GOOGLE came up with this:

https://phys.org/news/2015-03-mini-black-holes-lhc-parallel.html

Not only mini black holes, but parallel universes in extra dimensions!

sean s. said...

Their advertising strategy seems to be throwing a whole bunch of crap at the wall and seeing what sticks. That's not likely to work, but they're operating on pure hope anyway ...

sean s.

Mitchell said...

Jean Tate said

"AFAIK, there are no established alternatives (“new physics”) in theory-land which claim to predict at least some of the g-2 anomalies"

If you go to arxiv and do an advanced search of hep-ph for keyword "g-2" in the abstract, you will find hundreds of theory papers proposing to explain g-2. Almost always, it is explained by new particles and it's part of a larger framework explaining other things too.

rms said...

CERN as enabler:
https://fcc.web.cern.ch/eurocircol/Page1Slideshow/CERNEnabler.png

yeah right. that venerable three gear design will work wonderfully..
really smart, people. best and brightest stuff.

paola said...

The video in question was produced by the FCC study group, not by CERN. It is oBviously addressed to politicians and not fellow physicists and uses the same arguments as those used to promote the LHC in the 90's.

Paola Catapano, Head of Audiovisual Productions, CERN

Bill Brockman said...

I admit to thinking it was a big mistake the US didn’t build the Suoerconducting Supercollider after $2 billion. Apparently it was the right call.

Lawrence Crowell said...

The FCC will probably do little to illuminate our understanding of quantum gravity. It will not address most fundamental questions about the relationship between quantum mechanics and gravity. With heavy ions though the quark-gluon plasma is by QCD~AdS connected in ways to these questions. We may not have direct quantum gravity, but QCD may be S-dual to gauge-like gravity, or the gauge bosons that in an entanglement are gravitons or graviton-like. It might also illuminate issues with CP physics, and there are hints of things with b-quark physics.

It is a gamble, and it is hard to say where this will go. Nature has a way of sometimes throwing curve balls that cause us to say, "that's odd" which might lead to something new.

Marco Parigi said...

Hi Sabine,

Fantastic post and very thorough. The only thing I don't understand is your statement:

"I am not opposed to building a larger collider."

Surely with so much tax payer's money involved, if it requires hyping, exaggeration and lies to give a hint of the value for money it might garner (or might not), that would extend to it being morally wrong to be okay with in the case that you know the truth of the matter.


I am against building a new collider. The primary reason is that it is very likely to be an even bigger embarrassment to the physics community than the LHC is in terms of having billions of Euro spent with no new physics to show for it.

But it is in the hands of Governments that I do not pay tax to, and it won't give jobs to me or my children anyway, so... good luck with the physics, I guess.

regards

Marco

Sabine Hossenfelder said...

Phillip, Davis,

In hindsight it's easy enough to say "no one ever took this seriously". I worked on this topic for my PhD and let me tell you that people totally took it seriously at the time. I stopped working on after my PhD for reasons I lay out in my book, but most of my colleagues who did similar work continued pretty much up to the day until the LHC had eventually ruled it all out. Most of these people are tenured now - for busily writing papers about something that has zero relevance to the description of nature. The reason my book hurts is that I know what I am talking about.

Traruh Synred said...

It is unfortunate that one is expected to say what you'll find to get funding, when the real reason for doing it is that we don't know.

The interesting discoveries have been those like psi, charm, upsilon, etc. that where surprises and had little to do with the 'rational' for building the machine.

Things like the Higgs are of course important, but it was after all expected. Not finding it would have been weird.

The rational used by SLAC for the SPEAR machine that read to the 'November Revolution' was not any better -- perhaps even worse.

The B-factors and Babar had predictions of CP violation and found what we expected. Oh Hum...

PS. You don't mention super B factory Japan might build. It probes the rare decay frontier. Predictions are pretty solid -- one hopes they'll be wrong...

A friend of mine applying for grad school at Berkeley wrote one line for his essay: I like physics not bull shit. He got in!

Too bad we can't get away with that on grant applications.

Sabine Hossenfelder said...

paola,

The video uses the same arguments as those used to promote LHC in the 1990s, which means it's a list of promises that didn't pan out, promises that you shouldn't have made already in the 1990s. The LHC hasn't answered any of those questions and there is no good reason to think the FCC will. Why do you think it is appropriate to tell a bunch of lies to politicians, to whom you say the video is addressed, who have no way of gauging the correctness of these claims?

naivetheorist said...

bee:

David Bailey commented " to sell yet another collider project to the politicians, you basically have to tell lies!". This mis-identifies who is being lied to. Politicians are not the ultimate target at whom the lies are aimed; they are merely the intermediaries. it is the public is the intended target of the lies since they ultimately determine the selection of the political 'leaders' in democratic societies (e.g. the current prevalent right-wing political agenda is not being imposed by politicians in opposition to the views of the voters; it implements the views of those citizens - as much as Trump can be blamed for U.S. policies, 40% of U.S. voters consciously agree with him and will continue to do so until they feel that they are being personally adversely affected by those policies).

naive theorist

Phillip Helbig said...

"One time I complained to a friend that she wasn't really listening to me and I asked her to pay attention. Instead of saying, "Okay, you have my undivided attention," she accidentally said, "Okay, you have my undevoted attention." It's one of the funniest things I've ever heard."

From a letter of recommendation: I strongly recommend this candidate with no qualifications whatsoever. :-)

Phillip Helbig said...

In connection with mini black holes, you wrote "No serious scientist ever suggested that we would"

However, 2 minutes with GOOGLE came up with this:

https://phys.org/news/2015-03-mini-black-holes-lhc-parallel.html

Not only mini black holes, but parallel universes in extra dimensions!


This is something different, not the widely touted "black holes created at CERN will swallow the Earth".

Mighty Drunken said...

I love the concept of large particle accelerators but I do think it would be wise to delay building the next one so we can fund more focused experiments. I believe we are at a juncture in particle physics where it is harder to know which are the good ideas and which are the bad ones.

We can concentrate on exploring the current mysteries like dark matter and neutrino mass. We could start doing more physics in space, with better particle detectors and experiments to test low acceleration regimes (MOND?).

At least experiments like this will, at worse, rule out lots of hypothesis. Some positive results could help us home in on new physics.

Philippe Mermod said...

Dear Sabine,

I didn't notice any lies in the video, only questions which the FCC potentially could try to address.

Regarding the heavy neutrinos via seesaw, there are in fact models with very few assumptions which,remarkably, can explain at once neutrino masses, dark matter, and matter-antimatter asymmetry, see the papers by Shaposknikov et al. (eg https://arxiv.org/abs/hep-ph/0505013). In such models there are two heavy neutrinos in the mass range 1-100 GeV, right in the region which can be probed by eg the SHiP experiment and, notably, FCC-ee at the Z pole!

Unknown said...

so, according to you,
1) what should such a video say?
2) what should the new research Frontier be?


I can think of multiple justifications for such BS in a video like this, all falling within the bag of "that's how things work in our society".

Sabine Hossenfelder said...

Unknown,

A video about a new scientific instrument whose funding is being discussed should leave the watcher with an reasonable impression what the instrument will do. The FCC will make more accurate measurements of the properties of particles we know already. That's as much as we can say with certainty. If we are lucky, the FCC will find something new, but we have no reason to think this should be the case. If we are very lucky, it will find something new that may give us a hint how the baryon asymmetry came about or what dark matter is made of. Either which way, it will certainly not probe the origin of the universe, which is just nonsense.

Of course the physicists watching this see nothing wrong with this. Because they know it's bullshit. And they have gotten used to this bullshit, so they think it's just business as usual. The moral corruption that has happened here is remarkable.

Look, I have a lot of public exposure and I can tell you that most people have no idea how to gauge these claims. To first, second, and third approximation they assume that scientists mean what they say. The same tax-paying non-experts also feel cheated now (unsurprisingly) because the LHC didn't deliver what they were told it would. Now CERN (or people at CERN anyway) repeat the same stories again asking for some more billions. Seriously? Don't you see how highly damaging this is for the trust in scientists by large?

C. M. said...


It seems to me that you are looking for some kind of planned research.
It is very difficult to predict in advance whether an experiment will falsify or "confirm" a theoretical framework.
Let the particle physicists free to investigate the fields they consider promising.

Sabine Hossenfelder said...

C.M.,

That is not correct. I am happy to let particle physicists investigate whatever they think is promising but I will not tolerate that they mislead non-experts about the prospects of these investigations.

rms said...

and yet, I do not think the point is how they lie (and lie big), the interesting thing is that they seem to not care anymore, it's like they are not even trying. to spend 4 Meuro to more or less disguise the simple message "we are too big to close, just through us money" and come up with such low low quality BS is amazing.
or perhaps they are leading the path. in the end it is as elsewhere in "science" but, like everything CERN, on steroids. after all they claim they invented the web and now we have porn everywhere, you have to concede that. perhaps in 5-10 years every scientific project will ask for money equally shamelessly, for its own sake.
look! they are even offering phd's for "quantitative modeling of socioeconomic impacts" (one assumes many and all positive): give us money to demonstrate how good we are at spending money!

Yehonatan Knoll said...

Sabine,

False advertisement is the least problem here. More than half a century of accelerators physics has produced almost nothing but papers. On accelerator physics. The first time the SM was confronted with a phenomenon which could not have been tested in accelerators, it completely collapsed (I'm referring to so-called neutrino oscillations). Theoreticians will, sooner or later, find a fix of that, resulting in... yet more papers.

The peasants couldn't speak Latin, and so medieval theologists could go about with counting angles on the head of a needle, financed by their promise to eternal life in heaven. You have to decide - are you a moral theologist (but a theologist nonetheless) or a Latin speaking peasant. You can't have both.

JeanTate said...

Thanks, @Mitchell. I am quite unfamiliar with that literature. And find it a bit forbidding ... Do you know if any of those g-2 papers make firm predictions about what an FCC would find? Ditto on other open questions, such as those in neutrino physics?

More generally, wouldn’t a tiny fraction of the cost of an FCC be better spent on neutrino physics? My fave is efforts to detect then study relict neutrinos, such as PTOLOMEY; nicely tying lab physics with cosmology.

Steven Goldfarb said...

Dear Sabine,

I am confused. If you are a scientist, yourself, then you must understand the need for null results in any kind of exploration. But, maybe I am just being naïve here, and this is meant to be a parody?

As you know, our universe can only be understood through exploration and the vast majority of our measurements turn up null results. That's science. That is how we advance our understanding of nature. We don't just say, "I think that won't work," and then not do the measurement. What is your opinion of Michelson-Morley?

The studies performed by the LHC since the discovery of the Higgs boson have included a plethora of measurements of the properties of that boson, allowing us to better understand its compliance with theory. Of course, it would be more interesting if it did not, but we don't really have control over that, now, do we?

Other measurements have put very important limits on new beyond-standard-model theories, including SUSY. Not making those measurements and noting these results would be a travesty to science. Your statement that we are not going to find anything with the FCC may very well pan out to be true. In fact, the odds are in your favour. Making the leap to say that we should thus not explore is either making a parody of science or any extraordinarily stupid mistake.

Do we know what Dark Matter is? Dark Energy? No. And it could very well be that the FCC won't give us the answers. But, scientists are not promising in this video or any other proposal that it will. We are only promising to use whatever means we have to try to answer those questions and we are arguing that this is a logical next step. That is how science works.

I know you know that, but the people you are writing to may not. So, please try to be more responsible in your future writing. Thank you.

Sabine Hossenfelder said...

Steven,

"Your statement that we are not going to find anything with the FCC may very well pan out to be true."

I did not make such a statement.

"So, please try to be more responsible in your future writing"

Please explain how you think it is irresponsible to spell out the truth.

David Bailey said...

Philip Helbig replied to me thus:

"This is something different, not the widely touted "black holes created at CERN will swallow the Earth"

However originally, I made no reference to the idea that a mini black hole could swallow the Earth - simply the claim that they might be created by the LHC. The claim that such an object might destroy the Earth would hardly have been used to justify the making of the LHC!

I presume that such holes would be so small that they would decay by Hawking radiation before they could absorb additional matter and become dangerous.

I can't really avoid the conclusion that the LHC was sold by hype created by physicists, and that the citizens of the EU did not get value for money.

Marco Masi said...

Quite so. And I'm wondering if there are also other "Sabine Hossenfelder" (or "Peter Woit" or "Lee Smolin" alike) in the field of biology, medicine and IT? Because similar arguments can be made with regards to other big science projects as well. Such as the human genome project, stem cells, cancer research, the human brain project and, of course, AI or quantum computing, just to mention some. It is about something that goes beyond the LHC, it is a widespread tendency one observes in several modern scientific 'mammoth' enterprises. What is at stake is not only money but the longterm credibility of science.

Sabine Hossenfelder said...

Marco,

I can't tell what the promises are of experiments in those other fields. But seeing how it's going in my field, I am certainly worried that they are equally over-advertised. I talked to some people who were involved with the human brain project and at least in that case it seems to be the case. Yes, the longterm credibility of science suffers from this.

Tommaso Dorigo said...

Cone on Sabine, you look a bit like a person with an agenda to me at this point, not a knight with a sword of truth. You did cast a lot of discredit on the FCC with your post, and you know that. You can do better than giving those two one-liners to Steven Goldfarb, he is not just another of your readers and you might consider being more argumentative with e.g. him, if you want to raise the bar of the discussion here. I have the strong impression that you don't.
Best,
T.

Phillip Helbig said...

"However originally, I made no reference to the idea that a mini black hole could swallow the Earth - simply the claim that they might be created by the LHC. The claim that such an object might destroy the Earth would hardly have been used to justify the making of the LHC!"

True. However, "black holes" and "LHC" in the same sentence almost always refers to this outrageous claim.

"I can't really avoid the conclusion that the LHC was sold by hype created by physicists, and that the citizens of the EU did not get value for money."

On what grounds?

To paraphrase/quote from memory Robert Pirsig, the TV scientist who says "our experiment was a failure; we didn't find what we expected" is suffering mainly from a bad scriptwriter. If you already know what you will find, you don't need to do the experiment. A null result is a result, an important result. If anything, there is a problem that it is more difficult to get null results published.

"and that the citizens of the EU did not get value for money."

CERN is not an EU institution. Not everything with "European" in it refers to the EU. In any case, the LHC is certainly value for money, except for people who don't value science. Yes, one can debate about where to spend the money, but I see no reason to say that the LHC wasn't worth it.

There are many European institutions. In addition to those in the Venn diagram in the link, there are the EBU, ESA, ESO, etc.
It's complicated.

Another view: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Template:Supranational_European_Bodies.

Question: Is it always possible to draw a two-dimensional Venn diagram?




Sabine Hossenfelder said...

Tommaso,

I do have an agenda, and I have stated it pretty clearly: Stop lying to the public.

That Goldfarb person came here and boldly proclaimed I said something I clearly never stated. Why would I bother wasting time on him.

We all know you are a particle physicist and have stakes in the issue. I am not remotely surprised that you don't like me saying publicly what everyone in the business has known for decades.

The FCC people discredited themselves. I merely drew attention to it.

sean s. said...

Come on, Tommaso! Everybody has an agenda; a knight with a sword of truth has an agenda. You have one; I have one; everyone does.

Sabine did not discredit the FCC; advocates for the FCC misrepresented what it could be used for and Sabine rightly pointed that out. Brava! to her for that.

The “two one-liners” Sabine gave to Goldfarb were on point; why should she belabor it? Goldfarb should have stopped after his first three words.

sean s.

Anonymous Snowboarder said...

Perhaps 'lies' might be a bit strong, misleading/mischaracterizations might be a better and more diplomatic choice.

Though I've been a supporter of Tevatron before and then the SSC, it seems pretty clear we are hitting diminishing returns pretty hard now. At the same time, projects at JLab, BNAL and others in the nuclear area fight for far smaller scraps. Maybe it is time to spread the wealth a bit? NSLS II and others like it as one example have tangible benefits at a fraction of the cost of LHC sized facilities.

Wolfgang Keller said...

Beforehand: I agree that marketing such a project with seemingly false claims is of "sketchy style" - I don't want to discuss this further.

But as far as I understand your book, the huge problem in particle physics is that we lack data that might concretely guide us further to a grand unified theory (so that we don't have to "invent" mathematical contraptions like supersymmetry which are of mathematical elegance but unluckily arguably fictional in terms of particles). It was hoped that the LHC might be able to provide this data - a hope that has at least not satisfied its past hype (except for the concrete discovery of the Higgs boson).
So I see no alternative to building a larger collider that could possibly give us experimental data on which we can base a theory for physics beyond the standard model.
But I am not a physicist...

David Bailey said...

Philip Helbig quoted this with approval:
" A null result is a result, an important result. If anything, there is a problem that it is more difficult to get null results published."

All I can really say, is why didn't the physicists promoting the LHC explain to the citizens of the EU ahead of time that the LHC might produce the most exciting result of all - the NULL result (plus the long predicted Higgs particle)?

I did science (in a much less exalted field) and I can assure you that the last thing I wanted was the NULL result!

Mitchell said...

Jean Tate said

"Do you know if any of those g-2 papers make firm predictions about what an FCC would find?"

They explain the anomaly with a new particle (Z' boson, extra Higgs, etc), so the basic prediction is that the new particle shows up in other ways. (In that regard, it's interesting that along with a "muon g-2 anomaly", there's also a "proton charge radius" mystery for muonic hydrogen.)

The most recent post at the particle physics blog "Resonaances" has a bit on the g-2 situation (just bear in mind that along with the muon g-2 anomaly, he's also talking about a newer, smaller, less robust "electron g-2 anomaly").

Unknown said...

who cares about this particle physics and cosmology......it has nothing to do with a meaningful life on this planet....its just welfare for the technocrats and mathamatical eggheads that the governments approve of.....

Unknown said...

"That particle physicists can fumble together models that predict all and everything is why I no longer trust their predictions."

It's exactly the same with so-called "Climate Scientists".

Sabine Hossenfelder said...

Wolfgang,

First, thanks for reading the book.

Second, what experiment is most promising to invest on is a difficult decision to make. We can only make it wisely if we look at the facts rather than let ourselves be guided by wishful thinking. That's why false advertisement like the above is a problem. People who don't understand the theories believe it. Even those who understand the theories are influenced by the overly optimistic outlook. I know they don't want to hear it, but cognitive biases and motivated cognition does influence the way we make decisions. Even as scientists. Especially in large groups.

Sure there are other ways you can invest money in experiments in the foundations of physics. Telescopes on earth or satellite missions, eg. Or you can do high precision measurement at low energies rather than aim at high energies. I also am somewhat baffled that not the whole world is running to try and reproduce the DAMA measurements because, hell, they've been measuring potentially new physics for more than a decade, but no one is paying attention.

I am not in a position to evaluate what's the best thing to do overall. I'm not a money person and there are many factors to consider which I don't feel competent to judge. I'm just a theoretical physicist and hence you will not be surprised to hear that I believe we would be well advised to spend some more on theory development.

As I lay out in my book, theory development especially in high-energy physics is presently working badly. You can construct "predictions" for anything you want, therefore those predictions are utterly worthless. This needs to change. If theorists can come up with better predictions we would be in a much better position to gauge the promise of a larger collider. Also, theorists are really cheap compared to large colliders.

Without that I think we'd be better off focusing on dark matter. In that case, at least we know it's there.

Best,

B.

Tommaso Dorigo said...

Sabine,

you are badly wrong, I have no stakes whatsoever in the issue. We also both know that to attract attention in a blog you need to overstate things - and you did so here. Yet whoever kindly points it out gets mobbed. I never liked that mechanism in my own blog, I thought you didn't either. Also, I repeat the concept: you seem to have no desire to raise the bar of the discussion here, but to be "popular", so I'll gently leave.

Cheers,
T.

Soup said...

Here's how the universe began:
Gen. 1:1 KJV In the beginning, God created the heaven and the earth.
That's good enough for me. Stop this nonsense.

Sabine Hossenfelder said...

Tommaso,

You have not made a single scientific remark, yet you complain about the "bar of discussion". You claim that I overstate something but do not say what. The only thing I take away from this exchange is that you don't like what I say. That doesn't remotely surprise me.

For those of you who don't know Tommaso, he is a particle physicist and member of the LHC CMS collaboration.

Rob van Son (Not a physicist, just an amateur) said...

I heard a story that many physicists think most benefits for the limited money would have been gotten from expanding gravitational wave detectors instead of particle accelerators. However, the story goes, those who had invested their time and career in particle detectors won the day.

Sounds plausible, but I have no way to confirm such rumors.

Steven Mason said...

Neither Steven Goldfarb nor Tommaso have directly addressed the points Sabine made about the misleading statements in the marketing video. Goldfarb offers a patronizing speech about science and suggests that Sabine's points might be a "parody" and irresponsible. Tommaso refers to them as an "overstatement." But they don't address the specific points.

If you think Sabine is wrong, by all means point it out. But you've got to start with the points she made about the video.

SRP said...

My only suggestion here is to put off planning a new accelerator using scaled-up versions of today's technology and spend a few tens of millions on wakefield and other advanced concepts that could drastically reduce the cost of reaching higher energies. Only if these are ruled out as impractical in the medium term should conventional scaled-up accelerators be initiated.

psyclonus said...

Thanks for your article I enjoyed the recap. Perhaps you aren't familiar with an old tradition dating back to the time of the alchemists. The idea is for scientists to promise sensational and probably impossible things to the wealthy in hopes of getting funding, which is then used to stock the lab and do real work. In this case CERN proposals promise nonsense, as you point out, but in the end of the day the operation acts as a subsidy for scientists and real work can be done - things like the world wide web and software have been the most obvious products coming out of CERN with real tangible effects on the world but there are other more subtle ones as well, mostly networking and sensor technologies but also visualization tools and educational resources. Sure, the ideas of a theory of everything, a god particle, understanding "the early universe" and "dark matter" are not exactly compelling to the skeptical scientist - but they have proven compelling to the money printers - and so they have their purpose in advancing science.

David Bailey said...

Psyclonus wrote:
" things like the world wide web and software have been the most obvious products coming out of CERN with real tangible effects on the world but there are other more subtle ones as well, mostly networking and sensor technologies but also visualization tools and educational resources."

Can you really justify the $13.5 billion to build the LHC and approx $1 billion annual running costs in terms of spin-offs?

In any case, I would say that the development of computers has come from a wealth of small developers and a few large companies such as Microsoft. Inventing HTML and the web was just one more step on top of the wealth of computer insights that have got us where we are today - assembly language, operating systems, computer languages (such as Fortran and C), the concept of virtual memory, the idea of graphical user interfaces, etc etc. Possibly the biggest driver of the computer industry right now, is the games industry!

Sabine Hossenfelder said...

Psyclonus, David,

From all the stupid arguments to build a larger collider, that Berners-Lee was employed at CERN when he set up the WWW is the most stupid one.

To begin with, it's well-documented that he had been thinking about the topic before working there. Physicists had nothing to do with that.

Second, if he hadn't done it then, he or someone else would undoubtedly have done it soon thereafter. He wasn't the only one on the topic, he just happened to be the first.

Third, one may even speculate that if the www had not been designed with particle physicists in mind, and instead drawn on some more insights about sociology, psychology, economics, and international law, then we would be better off today.

Fourth, even leaving all this aside, if you are thrilled by this development, you may be better off investing money into data infrastructure, because arguably the whole collider thing was entirely superfluous.

Similar considerations hold, btw, for various other technologies that were accidental byproducts of certain physics projects. We'd have been financially better off had we invested right away into data processing. It's the same issue with the argument that mammoth science projects make useful contributions to education. Sure they do. But if you want to invest into education, there are better ways to do it. And please spare me the gospel of serendipity. There's no evidence it's actually true.

Best,

B.

Rolf said...

Your most negative statement abut FCC's promotion
of a new collider is:

> A next larger collider may find nothing new. That may be depressing, but it’s true.

Where exactly does the promotional video or the material
on the FCC website claim anything different? Two senior scientists
at CERN agreed on that statement in the comments.

If they did not claim anything different, for what statement exactly did you berate the
members of FCC as "liers"? What exactly is their lie?

annie said...

What a monumental financial fart! There's more important things to spend many tens of billions of ecu's on. We have a world of hurt to fix, I cannot imagine why a bunch of scientifically illiterate politicians would ever give the go ahead for such a huge expenditure excepting some satanic reason.

Sabine Hossenfelder said...

Rolf,

I have spelled it out very clearly and do not understand why you want me to repeat what I already said.

The video raises the impression the FCC will test the above mentioned points, dark matter, dark energy, baryon asymmetry, beginning of the universe. For the first three we have no reason to think it will happen, which the video "forgets" to mention, for the last it's just nonsense.

Everyone who knows the facts agrees on that. Somehow, though, the matter never seems to be clearly communicated to the public.

Do you think it is okay if scientists behave this way? Do you think it's okay that instead of apologizing for misleading people about the promise of costly experiments, they attempt to justify their deception because it's only aimed at "politicians"?

Rob van Son (Not a physicist, just an amateur) said...

Dear Dr Bee,
"We'd have been financially better off had we invested right away into data processing."

I am afraid things are not that simple. Benefits are generally surprising. GR and GPS, QM and weather forecasts, Electricity and the telephone.

Someone (I forgot who, age etc.) once asked the hypothetical question about Queen Victoria asking her advisors for a technology to address all her subjects in all parts of the empire giving them a blank check. What could her advisors answer? Not giving money to an obscure theoretician like Maxwell or the experiments of Herz.

Fundamental science is very expensive, always has been. The benefits have always been unpredictable.

In case of the WWW. That had been invented before, with Project Xanado. It was a total failure. In many respect, it was the environment of CERN that had the requirements that looked like what the world needed. Just as nowadays the whole Big Data revolution was pioneered in high energy and astrophysics.

Btw, the yearly economic turnover of the WWW in terms of wages and revenues seems to be in the trillion $ range.

Sabine Hossenfelder said...

Rob,

That's right, things are not so simple. Saying that a particle collider is a good investment, because Berners-Lee happened to be employed at CERN when he invented the www is a gross oversimplification. I was neither speaking about GR not the GPS, QM or weather forecasts, Electricity or the telephone. I was speaking about the argument that a particle collider is a good investment, because Berners-Lee happened to be employed at CERN when he invented the www.

Steven Mason said...

psyclonus wrote: things like the world wide web and software have been the most obvious products coming out of CERN . . . the operation acts as a subsidy for scientists and real work can be done

Perhaps we would get a Bigger Bang for our buck if we put all theoretical physicists to work as examiners at patent offices. It's a real job, not a subsidy, and Einstein got some real work done. :-)

JeanTate said...

Sabine,

Re: I also am somewhat baffled that not the whole world is running to try and reproduce the DAMA measurements

At least one group is trying to do exactly that, per these recent astro-ph preprints:
https://arxiv.org/abs/1812.02000 "ANAIS-112 sensitivity in the search for dark matter annual modulation"
https://arxiv.org/abs/1812.01472 "Performance of ANAIS-112 experiment after the first year of data taking"
https://arxiv.org/abs/1812.01377 "Analysis of backgrounds for the ANAIS-112 dark matter experiment"

The first part of the abstract of the last one: "The ANAIS (Annual modulation with NaI(Tl) Scintillators) experiment aims at the confirmation or refutation of the DAMA/LIBRA positive annual modulation signal in the low energy detection rate, using the same target and technique,"

JeanTate said...

Thanks @Mitchell! :)

That Resonaances blog post is really good, particularly Mad Hatter/Jester's comment on 21 June. And it all lends support to cases for doing detailed work on low energy phenomena, rather than chasing some new high energy frontier. Or, put another way, an FCC would do little to shed light (ha!) on an awful lot of the (apparent) particle physics anomalies.

Sabine Hossenfelder said...

Jean,

I know. I didn't say no one does. But given how old the DAMA story is and how comparably inexpensive the check, very little interest. Similar thing for LSND btw - took forever to check. It's hard to avoid the impression that's because no one really "expects" there to be a "real" signal.

Rolf said...

> Somehow, though, the matter never seems to be clearly communicated to the public.

"The matter" is the fact, that the collider might find nothing new, right?

On their website the project's coordinator is quoted as:
"Going up to 100 TeV is a bold leap into completely uncharted territory that would probe new energy scales, where fundamental new physical principles might be at play..." and then some of the questions in the video are addressed.

"MIGHT BE" not "are"! It IS pointed out that there might be
no answers to the questions they state, i.e. that there might
be nothing new.

"Lier" is a serious insult. It really hurts.
Where's the lie?

Sabine Hossenfelder said...

Rolf,

I was commenting on the video, not the website, as the title of the blogpost says. You are not doing yourself any favors attempting to water down what's happening here and what, in fact, has happened for 20 years.

Look, I regularly speak to non-experts and journalists about the prospects of building particle colliders. Most of them are baffled to hear that there is no good reason to think a larger collider should see anything new, and that there was indeed no good reason to think the LHC should solve any major mystery besides finding the Higgs. They are so baffled, indeed, that before the LHC as a matter of fact did not see any of the promised new particles (besides the Higgs) where they were supposed to be, no one was listening to what I was saying.

And since people always try to misquote me, let me emphasize once again that I did not say, not here and not elsewhere, that a large collider will not find anything new, and that I did not say that the next LHC run will not find anything new. It might happen. We don't know. I simply say there's no good reason to think it will happen.

David Bailey said...

Rolf wrote:

"Lier is a serious insult. It really hurts. Where's the lie?"

I would say that HEP is so very remote to most people that it is possible to lie in the way you use language. Take the phrase "God particle" - invented by a scientist Leon Lederman, not a PR man! The average man could only assume that the discovery this particle would revolutionise science (and presumably also technology) - perhaps in the way Maxwell's equations did (and most are only dimly aware of electromagnetism), not just complete a theoretical pattern of particles, all with absurdly short life times. We all used to believe that science was scrupulously honest and upright - just as we thought of religious leaders - and way above such mere politics. Support for expensive physics experiments trades on a residual sense that even if what they do is beyond comprehension, it is honest, and when they ask for resources they are making an honest case free from exaggeration.

If you want to see what could happen to science, look at the fall in respect for the Catholic Church after the numerous sexual abuse scandals.

Rolf said...

> I was commenting on the video, not the website, as the title of the blogpost says.

That is not correct: you also commented the website, quote from your blogpost:
"On the accompanying website, I further learned that the FCC “is a bold leap into completely uncharted territory that would probe… the puzzling masses of neutrinos.”"

Where's the lie?
If you cannot give a direct comprehensible answer,
you should apologize yourself.

@David
OK they use the term "God particle" on their website. That is
a sensationalistic wording. Sabine can criticise this.
But it clearly does not justify to badly insult them as liars.

Steven Mason said...

David wrote: Take the phrase "God particle" - invented by a scientist Leon Lederman . . . the average man could only assume that the discovery this particle would revolutionise science . . . we all used to believe that science was scrupulously honest and upright.

As I pointed out in an earlier comment, Lederman meant God Particle as a joke. Any "average person" who read Lederman's book would know the term was a joke, and any average person who reads science articles about the Higgs boson would understand why it is important. "Revolutionary" is a relative term. I don't know if you meant to imply that Lederman wasn't being scrupulous, honest or upright.

As I said before, even if you think it's a bad joke, it certainly generated some interest in the Higgs boson and physics in general. It's not the worst thing in the world for average people to get interested in physics because of a joke. The worst that could be said about it is Lederman coined the term so he could have a catchy title for his book and generate more sales.

I admit I feel annoyed about catchy book titles that are misleading and aren't jokes, and seem to prey on desperation, such as "The End of Alzheimer's" or "A Parents' Guide to Preventing Homosexuality."

Sabine Hossenfelder said...

Rolf,

The video raises the impression the FCC will test the above mentioned points, dark matter, dark energy, baryon asymmetry, beginning of the universe. For the first three we have no reason to think it will happen, which the video "forgets" to mention, for the last it's just nonsense. Those are lies.

Let me give you a comparison. Suppose this wasn't a video about a collider but about a car. The advertisement video tells you "accident-free for 50 years" and "flies you to the moon and back". Well, the first may be correct if you're lucky, the second is just nonsense. According to you, that wouldn't count as lying. It counts as lying in my book. I doubt it would pass any consumer-rights check, at least not in the EU, and for scientific experiments costing billions we should have similar non-deception standards.

I don't know what your problem is with me also commenting on the statement about the neutrino-masses from elsewhere. Frankly, your attempt to find something objectionable about my blogpost is pathetic. Have I insulted your heroes?

Rolf said...

> Let me give you a comparison. Suppose this wasn't a video about a collider but about a car. The advertisement video tells you > "accident-free for 50 years" and "flies you to the moon and back".

In your comparison FCC's use of the expression "God particle" corresponds to a car ad which
calls a standard car "Rocket Car!" (which is sensationalistic language, analogous to God particle)
but without claiming that is "flies you to the moon and back"
or other outright lies. Intelligent laymen will realize that
"God particle" is not meant in a religious sense and "Rocket car" not in the
sense that it is a real rocket.

Your argument seems to be "my car ad is analogous
to the FCC video/website material and lies in its second statement, therefore
the FCC video also lies". Right? If yes then your argument fails
because, as outlined above, the FCC video/website's arguments
contain no argument that is analogous the the car ad's second statement.

> Frankly, your attempt to find something objectionable about my blogpost is pathetic.

Sadly, Tommaso was right, he wrote here:
>> We also both know that to attract attention in a blog you need to overstate things - and you did so here. Yet whoever kindly >> points it out gets mobbed.

Sabine Hossenfelder said...

Rolf,

The video doesn't say anything about the God particle and I have no idea why you are going on about this now.

The video speaks of testing the "95% of the universe" for which my car-analogy is "accident free for 50 years" (may happen, but no reason to think it will) and the "origins of the universe" which corresponds to "flying to the moon and back" (won't happen). If that does not answer your question why I say it's lies, I can only conclude that you do not actually want an answer.

But while you are here, do you think the FCC will actually tell us what the origin of the universe is? Do you think it'll tell us what dark energy is? You don't think that's misleading, you don't think it's lies? Then tell us why not. Go ahead, Rolf, make your case. I am looking forward to it.

Neither you nor Tommaso have added any scientific information that people need to judge the promise of such an experiment. And neither, for that matter, has the video. I did. It was me who had to add the explanation that the FCC-video should have delivered. It is beyond me why you think it's okay of scientists to produce misleading advertisements like this.

Further, you now insist that me replying to your accusations with the patience of an angel should count as "mobbing". Interesting, Rolf. What's next? You will prove that I'm the antichrist because I spell out that the public has been mislead and is still being mislead and you don't want to hear it?

David English said...

As a layman, I wonder...

How many things have been discovered by accident...as a result of high aspirations we may not find what we wanted, but we may find something unexpected.

From my past readings, I have reached an understanding that we cannot generate energy sufficient to reach new discoveries in particle physics. I have never perceived that notion as a hard-stop.

Moving forward is important. In this day and age, over-promising and enthusiastic selling share a blurred line.

Steven Mason said...

Rolf wrote: sensationalistic language, analogous to God particle

Am I the only "intelligent layman" here who understands that God Particle was a joke? To claim that God Particle is sensationalism is, ironically, sensationalistic. :-)

Rolf, Sabine has described the lies in the video. Your comments would be more interesting if you addressed them.

In your first comment, you asked "Where's the lie?" Sabine said she clearly described them, and even though she's not fond of repeating herself she offered a summary to you. In your next two comments you kept asking "Where's the lie?" In your fourth comment you seem more interested in having a petty argument about Sabine's car analogy than in any of the lies she's pointed to.

Could you please address the specific lies Sabine has described? If Sabine is wrong on those points, show us how. Even if you think "lie" is too strong a word, please address her specific points.

Humorous digression: Speaking of sensationalism and lies, Donald Trump has miraculously or accidentally managed to say something that is neither sensationalistic nor a lie, when he referred to himself as Tariff Man.

Steven Mason said...

David wrote: over-promising and enthusiastic selling share a blurred line

It's off topic, but I've been pondering the problem of how the risks of catastrophic climate change should be presented and discussed with the general public and with politicians. Not just the risks, but what we should do to mitigate the risks.

When climate scientists point out the risks - especially the worst-case scenario risks - that makes it all too easy for some people to say it's alarmist. If anyone talks about cutting back on fossil fuels, that makes it all too easy for some people to say it's anti-business and anti-people. Some people think climate scientists have an agenda or ulterior motives. Some people - I won't say who - say climate change is a hoax perpetrated by China.

Most people don't understand long-term risk probabilities, and when scientists try to talk about them, some people interpret it as "over-promising" or "enthusiastic selling." Speaking of which, I can't remember the last American election that wasn't being sold as The Most Important Election Of Our Lives.

Steven Mason said...

Sabine wrote: The advertisement video tells you "accident-free for 50 years"

Now you've got me wondering how the probability of car collisions compares to the probability of particles colliding in an accelerator. :-)

David Bailey said...

Rolf wrote:

"OK they use the term "God particle" on their website. That is
a sensationalistic wording. Sabine can criticise this.
But it clearly does not justify to badly insult them as liars."

Obviously the "God Particle" relates to the LHC, not the FCC, but I suppose the real problem is that these accelerators aren't something that the vast majority of people would wish to own (collectively), nor is there any reasonable chance of any technological consequences from whatever is discovered, if anything. That means that the only way to get them (i.e. their politicians) to agree, is to use intense PR. Of course they used 'sensationalistic wording', because telling the honest truth would have been a disaster.

As a former chemist, I have a healthy sense that some scientific questions are worth exploring for their own sake, but not on a time scale of 10^(-25) seconds, and at a cost of tens of billions of dollars. I mean how long will this wild goose chase continue - you can't make an infinite energy beam, so there will always be justification to construct the next, yet larger, more powerful machine!

Obviously it is frustrating that high energy physics hasn't been wrapped up in a TOE, but it would seem Nature works in a different way. If the decision were up to me, I would certainly say NO to the FCC! If the money were put into space exploration, at least people can share in many of the discoveries.

Rolf said...

>But while you are here, do you think the FCC will actually tell us what the origin of the universe is? Do you think it'll tell >us what dark energy is?

I will do so below.

>You don't think that's misleading, you don't think it's lies?

No!

OK, also in response to Stephen here is an explanation why
the statements Sabine disagrees with most strongly, are not misleading.

Sabine's statement "Particle colliders don’t probe dark energy." is mistaken,
they might well do so, e.g. by detecting the scalar particle of the dark-energy field.
See e.g. here:
https://arxiv.org/abs/1604.04299
for an example how this might pan out at the LHC, of course it might also
happen at an FCC.

Sabine is right that the FCC cannot directly "simulate" the origin of the universe.
But it is possible (not at all certain, but as I showed, the FCC website - and certainly also not the video, which only contains questions - does not claim this) that discoveries at the FCC enable the construction of a new theory of particle physics of a similar scope as the standard model. Such a theory will very likely
teach us a lot about the early universe, just as the standard model did (as laid out e.g. in Weinberg's popular book "The first three minutes").

@David
> nor is there any reasonable chance of any technological consequences from whatever is discovered, if anything.

I agree, and this is indeed a valid argument against approving the FCC.

> That means
> that the only way to get them (i.e. their politicians) to agree, is to use intense PR.

I agree. But intense PR is not per se lying. And the fact that you realize that it
is 100% pure basic research, demonstrates that they do not obscure this fact.
They really don't.

> Further, you now insist that me replying to your accusations with the patience of an angel should count as "mobbing".

Your statement
> Frankly, your attempt to find something objectionable about my blogpost is pathetic.

a. rather than your patience shows that you lost your temper
b. is the classic mobbing line on a school yard: "You're pathetic!"

@Steven Show your face, am I right or not?

Sabine Hossenfelder said...

Rolf,

Well, you are pathetic. This has nothing to do with "temper". Please imagine I intone that with a dull and bored voice. You are trying to argue a video doesn't say what it says, even after I told you repeatedly what's wrong about what the video says. It's hard to beat that in terms of denial.

When I asked whether you think the video is misleading I didn't mean if you personally feel mislead. Sorry in case that was unclear. The question is whether you think that people who do not already know that the FCC will most likely only deliver more precise measurements of some masses and decay rates would be well-informed by the video. You already know that, eg because you read my blogpost.

As to the supposed test of dark energy. I am afraid I have to inform you that this paper is misleading too. What you can test at the LHC is the coupling of certain scalar fields to normal matter, yes. Those scalar fields' potentials could also contribute to dark energy. But the LHC won't tell you anything about that. If you don't know what I mean, think about this: The Higgs is a self-interacting scalar field. What has its discovery told us about dark energy?

David English said...

@ Steven Mason

Re: Anthropogenic Climate Change, and how to communicate the dangers (I assume you mean "CAGW" when you say "Climate Change").

No-one in their right mind will deny that the Earth's climate is changing, and that it is a good idea to have a clean planet.

The problem with the CAGW message is that the predictions have not been matched by observation, climate models don't account for all climate influences (we probably don't even know all climate influences) and the Earth has undergone massive climate change without the help of humans (Snowball Earth, Laurentide Ice Sheet).

I remember being terrified by the notion of human caused climate change. It is certainly plausible. The need to create solid arguments in favor of CAGW led me to research that moved me to the middle of the question- there is more to know before societal policies should be put into play.

Carbon fuels have done so much to advance humanity that any argument in support of limiting carbon fuel usage had better be rock-solid, and there must be a good solution in place (as of today, renewable power cannot sustain modern society). Those that oppose carbon also seem to oppose nuclear, opening the door to anyone susceptible to "Engineered Malthusian Cycle" conspiracies.

In a round-about way, the discussion is not so off-topic. Important matters are at hand- understanding the universe, and protecting our home are very important. Successful messaging for both will (simply and irrefutably) demonstrate relevance and achievability.


PS. Information re: what Carbon Fuels have done for humanity used to be available on the net as an excellent white paper. I can't find the paper, but this link has a graphic that is worth pondering:

https://cornwallalliance.org/2013/01/standard-of-living-the-real-hockey-stick/


David English said...

"Speaking of which, I can't remember the last American election that wasn't being sold as The Most Important Election Of Our Lives."

I remember reading a great quote about this. A quote presented as being very old... something along the lines of, "since the beginning of elections, if the other side wins, the world will end".

David Bailey said...

@Steven Mason

You wrote:
"It's off topic, but I've been pondering the problem of how the risks of catastrophic climate change should be presented and discussed with the general public and with politicians. Not just the risks, but what we should do to mitigate the risks. "

Perhaps they should also promote the views of this physics Nobel Laureate:

https://www.mediatheque.lindau-nobel.org/videos/34729/ivar-giaever-global-warming-revisited/laureate-giaever

Steven Mason said...

David wrote: some scientific questions are worth exploring for their own sake, but not on a time scale of 10^(-25) seconds, and at a cost of tens of billions of dollars . . .

I envision a future in which we no longer waste trillions of dollars and millions of lives each year on wars and defense, crime and punishment, poverty, political idiocy, etc. A world in which billions of highly educated, curious people will say, "Gee, what are we going to do with all the tremendous discretionary time and resources at our disposal?" One obvious answer might be, "Let's do some hardcore science, baby!"

If it turns out that humans are too stupid to figure out how to stop wasting so much of their potential, then "exploring questions for their own sake" is a moot point. At that point we'll have to accept that we looked for intelligent life in the universe, and we couldn't even find it here.

I currently put the odds at 50/50 that we'll either mess things up for ourselves out of sheer stupidity or create a Great Renaissance that maximizes human potential. Does that make me a pessimist, optimist, or realist?

awesome said...

Isn't it an evidence that capitalism and science don't mix?
The way the system works is a joke. Soon scientists will be replaced completely by advertisers because it seems that the money goes to those who is better at lying networking and bribing and not at science. And I'm serious because that's what the system favours.

I remember when they advertised lhc it looked like it's going to solve all the problems of humanity( or at least in physics). The results are insignificant compared to a scale and the costs of experiment. Oh that's because lhc wasn't big enough we just need a bigger one. Sure.
It's just shameless begging at this point.

Steven Mason said...

Rolf wrote: @Steven Show your face, am I right or not?

For whatever it's worth, I think there are misleading statements in the marketing video. Now that you're starting to address those statements, I find the discussion more interesting. Sabine admits that she can be "grumpy," but I encourage you to stay focused on the specific points.

We expect misleading statements in marketing, but as everyone can see, Sabine expects higher standards in science. There are TV commercials that seem to promise that guys will be popular with girls if they drink a certain brand of beer. Should particle physicists try to sell colliders by saying "size matters"? :-)

Steven Mason said...

David wrote: there is more to know before societal policies should be put into play

That's one approach and it seems sensible. But the risk to that approach is that by the time we "know more," it may be too late to do anything about it.

This pickle, or Catch-22, is loosely analogous to conundrums of crime. For example, some people are in a situation in which they face a credible threat from a known person - e.g. an abusive ex-husband who threatens to kill an ex-wife - but there is nothing the police can do until the person commits a crime. The police have to "know more" and have "rock-solid evidence" before they can put "societal policies into play."

In the #MeToo Age, how much rock-solid evidence do we need before society ruins a person's career and life because of sexual abuse allegations? In the US we've been having a debate about restrictions on guns. We argue over whether it's better to have a war on drugs or decriminalize them and treat it as a medical issue. For Pete's sake, we even argue about e-cigarettes having flavors. All of these things have a common theme: preemptive societal action.

The risk of catastrophic climate change is different because it's a global existential risk, and there's a risk that waiting to "know more" might put us over the tipping point.

Let me offer a variation of the Trolley Problem: If there was a one in five chance that a runaway trolley was going to kill a hundred people, would you divert the trolley to a track that would definitely kill one person? (You can change the parameters of the problem to one in ten chance, a 50/50 chance, a thousand people, etc.)

David wrote: what Carbon Fuels have done for humanity . . .

Oh, you don't need to sell me on what fossil fuels have done for humanity. The burning question now is: What are the risks of continuing to burn tremendous amounts of fossil fuels, and should we do anything to mitigate those risks even when we're not certain?

Steven Mason said...

David Bailey wrote: Perhaps they should also promote the views of this physics Nobel Laureate . . .

That perspective has always been a part of the discussion/debate. Indeed, that perspective is one of the reasons we haven't yet taken any serious mitigating action.

Just as no one can claim there is incontrovertible evidence that we need to take serious mitigating action, no one can claim there is incontrovertible evidence that we don't need to take serious mitigating action. Where does that leave us, David?

If you consider the worst-case scenario of catastrophic climate change and compare to the worst-case scenario of taking serious mitigating action, where does that leave you?

If we make a mistake, which mistake is easier to justify?

Steven Mason said...

David wrote: Important matters are at hand- understanding the universe, and protecting our home are very important.

Can't explore the universe if we wreck our home. :-)

David English said...

Steven, I admire your conviction.

I'm not interested in disguising politics as science.