Click here for the archive of polls 1 to 10.
Click here for the archive of polls 11 to 15.
Poll # 19 - The LHC is going to be successful in proving the existence of extra dimensions.
Poll ended July 28 2008. 71% agreed while the rest disagreed.
Poll # 20 - The LHC will reveal the source of dark matter and/or dark energy.
Poll ended August 8 2008. 63% disagreed while the rest agreed.
Very interesting! While neither of the questions had a resounding victory, this blog's readership are leaning towards the LHC finding proof of extra dimensions, but more readers also believe the LHC will not find the source of dark matter and dark energy. What can we make of this?
These two poll questions relate to discussions in my blog from a couple of weeks ago: Dark Energy, Linelanders, and the LHC, as well as Randomness and the Missing 96 per cent. There are many articles out there about the Large Hadron Collider, which is scheduled to go online this month, and what it may or may not find. Will it reveal the Higgs Boson, called by some the "God Particle"? Will it reveal evidence of extra dimensions, or the source of dark energy? Naturally, I am rooting for the extra dimensions discovery, as the whole discussion of extra dimensions in an environment where some mainstream physicists are claiming their existnce is unprovable conjecture would be finally laid to rest. My biggest fear for the LHC is that it will only reveal another forest of tinier and tinier particles, leaving science with the task of coming up with an even larger and more powerful particle collider for further experiments in the decades to come.
The July 21st edition of New Scientist magazine had an interesting article related to all this, here are some quotes:
Awaiting a messenger from the multiverseby Stephen BattersbyAT THE most powerful particle accelerator in the world, the twin colliding beams of protons have been switched off for a few hours. All seems quiet, but both the giant machine and the foundations of physics are about to be shaken by a tiny time bomb. Hiding within a copper plate deep inside one of the accelerator's massive detectors is a peculiar interloper: a particle that is waiting to explode, and with its incandescent fragments write a message from beyond our universe.
If this particle does appear at the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) near Geneva, Switzerland, it could change the nature of physics. Physicists might have to abandon their goal of explaining the fundamental basis of our reality and just accept that the properties of matter and energy in our universe arose at random. It could mean not only that we live on a small planet in an insignificant solar system in one of a trillion galaxies in the universe, but our own universe is just one insignificant slice of an unimaginably vast and diverse multiverse.
To many physicists, that is anathema; but not to Savas Dimopoulos of Stanford University in California or his colleague Nima Arkani-Hamed at Harvard University. In 2002, they first began to wonder what a multiverse might mean for particle physics.
This was at a time when the multiverse was being discussed, albeit reluctantly, as a solution to a cosmic problem. Astronomers had discovered a repulsive force pushing the galaxies apart, caused by an inherent energy present in space. Often called the cosmological constant, no one knows what is generating this force.
On the face of it, physics has a ready-made explanation. According to quantum theory, the vacuum, or the space between particles, is not totally empty. It is home to short-lived "virtual" particles that flicker in and out, created by the fundamental quantum fuzziness of the world. Although that might be a hard concept to swallow, it is an enormously successful idea. The calculations of quantum field theory show that these virtual particles cluster around the ordinary, solid, long-lived particles of matter, changing their properties in ways that accurately match many experimental observations.
It is relatively easy to devise a model of particle physics in which virtual particles with positive and negative energies cancel out exactly to zero, but why they should almost cancel each other out, leaving us with a tiny residual energy, is much harder to see.
One physicist had already predicted this, however. In the 1980s, Steven Weinberg at the University of Texas in Austin adopted a controversial line of argument called the anthropic principle, which roughly states that the universe has to possess properties that make it hospitable to life, otherwise we wouldn't be here to see it.
He started by pointing out that if our cosmological constant were only 100 times as big as observed, we would be in trouble. Its repulsive force would have stretched out the thin gas of the early universe, preventing it from ever collapsing into stars and planets. But if you have a lot of universes, each with a random value of the cosmological constant, there's going to be at least one with an energy density of roughly a few joules per cubic kilometre. That would enable the existence of planet-dwelling life forms who would then be in a position to observe this value of cosmological constant.
Such a range of universes might sound like wild speculation, but some respected cosmological models imply that there could indeed be many universes, perhaps even an infinite number. In the theory of eternal inflation, for example, our own universe is just one offshoot of an endlessly growing "tree" of universes.
Those of you familiar with my project will recognize many common themes in this article that relate to this ideas I have been promoting with Imagining the Tenth Dimension. Here are some related blog entries:
The Spacetime Tree
Unlikely Events and Timelessness
Infinity and the Boltzmann Brains
So: will the LHC find proof of extra dimensions, but not the source of dark matter and dark energy, as this blog's participants have predicted? The idea I have promoted with this project (in my book and in blog entries like Dark Energy, Linelanders, and the LHC) is that dark matter and dark energy come from the combined gravitational effects of the neighboring parallel universes in the fifth dimension (for dark matter), and the combined "pull" from other expressions of matter and energy in the sixth dimension and beyond (for dark energy). Will the LHC push us further towards such an understanding? Only time will tell.
Next - a combined archive of polls 16 through 20