Nobel expectations for new physics at the LHC

What do leading figures in particle physics expect from the LHC?


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The full interview is also available on the CERN Document Server (CDS)


Georges Charpak

Georges Charpak was interviewed in his Paris home on August 18, 2008. He regretted not being able to take part in the LHC Inauguration for health reasons.

Georges Charpak was born in Poland, in 1925. He received the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1992 for his invention and development of particle detectors at CERN, in particular the multiwire proportional chamber. With this invention the speed of collecting data in particle physics experiments increased dramatically and the precision in measuring particle tracks improved considerably.

For more than two decades Charpak was at the forefront of developments of his fundamental ideas. While originally invented for particle physics, Charpak’s detector has also had important applications in medicine, biology and industry.



David Gross: "a super world"

I expect new discoveries that will give us clues about the unification of the forces, and maybe solve some of the many mysteries that the Standard Model (SM) leaves open.

I personally expect supersymmetry to be discovered at the LHC; and that enormous discovery, if it happens, will open up a new world – a super world.

It will give the LHC enough to do for 20 years and will help us to understand some of the deepest problems in the structure of matter and elementary particles physics and beyond.

Supersymmetry is not just a beautiful speculative idea, it has three incredibly strong vantage points in the LHC energy range: the unification of forces, the mass hierarchy and the existence of dark matter, where its abundance is observed. These three indirect hints from experimental observations all point to a TeV regime that can be naturally accommodated in extentions of the SM that were invented long before these indications appeared.

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Gross shared the 2004 Nobel Prize in Physics with David Politzer and Franck Wilczek "for the discovery of asymptotic freedom in the theory of the strong interaction". He is currently director of the Kavli Institute of Theoretical Physics at the University of California, Santa Barbara.

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’t Hooft shared the 1999 Nobel Prize in Physics with Martinus Veltman "for elucidating the quantum structure of electroweak interactions in physics". He is currently professor of theoretical physics at the Spinoza Institute of Utrecht University.


Gerardus ’t Hooft: "a Higgs, or more"

The first thing we expect – we hope to see – is the Higgs. I am practically certain that the Higgs exists. My friends here say it is almost certain that if it exists, the LHC will find it.

So we’re all prepared and we’re very curious because there’s little known about the Higgs except some interaction signs.

There could be more than one Higgs, several Higgs, and there could be a composite Higgs, but most of us think it should be an elementary particle…

My real dream is that the Higgs comes up with a set of particles that nobody has yet predicted and doesn’t look in any way like the particles that all of us expect today. That would be the nicest of all possibilities. We would then really have work to do to figure out how to interpret those results.


Douglas Osheroff: "lots of new particles"

The LHC is an incredible piece of engineering, there is no doubt about that; 27 kilometres of superfluid helium is a mind-boggling thing.

However, if you look at any little piece of that, it is a simple technology, carried to the absolute limit of what we could imagine that man would ever do. But of course the most fascinating part of CERN isn’t the cryogenics, it’s the particles that we hope the LHC will produce…

If we don’t get the Higgs, that would in fact be a bit more interesting, but I am hoping that there will be lots of new particles and resonances that no one ever expected. That will be really exciting.

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Osheroff shared the 1996 Nobel Prize in Physics with David Lee and Robert Richardson for "their discovery of superfluidity in helium-3". He is currently professor of physics and applied physics at Stanford University.


Rubbia shared the 1984 Nobel Prize in Physics with Simon van der Meer for their work that led to the discovery of the W and Z bosons at CERN. Rubbia was director-general of CERN from 1989 to 1993 and is still based mainly at CERN, pursuing a variety of research projects in the fields of neutrino physics, dark matter and new forms of renewable energy.


Carlo Rubbia: "Nature will tell"

I think Nature is smarter than physicists. We should have the courage to say: "Let Nature tell us what is going on."

Our experience of the past has demonstrated that in the world of the infinitely small, it is extremely silly to make predictions as to where the next physics discovery will come from and what it will be.

In a variety of ways, this world will always surprise us all. The next breakthrough might come from beta decay, or from underground experiments, or from accelerators.

We have to leave all this spectrum of possibilities open and just enjoy this extremely fascinating science.


George Smoot: "the nature of dark matter"

For a cosmologist, one of the great things is that cosmology and high-energy physics are merging – they begin to overlap and are necessary for each other.

For the LHC, I am very excited because it turns out that one of the missions I am doing, the Planck mission, has had the same schedule as the LHC for 14 years. We’ll probably launch a little later…

I am looking forward to hearing about the Higgs, because I’d like to see the Standard Model completed and understood. I’m also hoping that the LHC will begin to unveil extra dimensions, and that will have huge applications across the board.

But what I am really looking forward to is supersymmetry or something that shows what dark matter is made of, so I have really high hopes, perhaps too high hopes.

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Smoot shared the 2006 Nobel Prize in Physics with John Mather "for their discovery of the blackbody form and anisotropy of the cosmic microwave background radiation". He currently works in the field of cosmology at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and is a collaborator on the Planck project.


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Veltman shared the 1999 Nobel Prize in Physics with his student Gerardus ’t Hooft "for elucidating the quantum structure of electroweak interactions in physics". He is professor emeritus at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor.


Martinus Veltman: "the unexpected"

What I expect from the LHC? That’s a big problem.

What I would like to see is the unexpected. If it gives me what the Standard Model predicted flat out – the Higgs with a low mass – that would be dull. I would like something more exciting than that.

I sincerely hope that we do not find something strictly according to the Standard Model because that will make it a closed thing of which we see no door out, though it is still full of questions. Anything except the two-photon decay of the Higgs…

But there is also the possibility that other products might come up because the machine, after all, enters a new domain of energy and will perhaps show us things we didn’t know existed.

It’s a very exciting thing for me and my guts can’t wait…