The end of supersymmetry?

Supersymmetry is the periodic table of particles, predicting how quarks, leptons, and force particles could come together to form new pieces of the universe. Those magnet-loving experimentalists over at the Large Hadron Collider have been hard at work smashing atoms to see if they can find the elusive predicted members of the particle zoo. They found Higgs, but some of the zoo is still missing...

The Large Hadron Collider (LHC) is the world's largest and most powerful particle accelerator, smashing things together to break them apart into the basic components of the universe itself. Image credit: CERN


Supersymmetry hypothesizes that building blocks of quarks, leptons, or force particles create a zoo of particles. Like chemists using a periodic table to predict new elements, physicists looked at their zoo of possible combinations to predict new particles. Once the theorists were done and feeling quite proud of themselves, the experimentalists headed over to the LHC to smash together atoms at ridiculously high speeds, then analyzed the resulting chaos to see what they'd broken apart. It's a bit like taking a hammer to a fine pocket watch, then trying to reconstruct engineering from the smashed gears and springs, but somehow it works. The first round of LHC experiments are complete, the numbers are crunched, and it's looking like that supersymmetry is beautiful, elegant, and wrong. Ethan Siegel has more, including a full-blown primer on what exactly supersymmetry is, and what problems it was supposed to solve.

As always when talking about quarks, I will be forever tickled that quarks come in six flavours (each in three colours), and forever disappointed that the quixotic "Truth" and "Beauty" were renamed to the prosaic "Top" and "Bottom." At least "Strange" and "Charmed" are still keeping the poetry in particle physics.

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