Fine Tuning Is Just Fine

It is hard to overstate the anticipation that preceded the opening of the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) 10 years ago. Smashing protons together at energies well above those produced at any previous particle accelerator, the LHC seemed capable of vindicating the most fanciful speculations of theoretical physicists, from curled-up extra dimensions to microscopic black holes to a hidden realm of new particles mirroring the particles that we know.

A decade on, particle physicists find themselves in what some at the time called the “nightmare scenario”: discovery of the Higgs boson and nothing else. The triumphant discovery of the Higgs in 2012 confirmed theoretical notions about the generation of particle masses introduced in the 1960s with the Standard Model of particle physics, which describes three of the four fundamental forces of nature (gravity being the exception). The absence of new physics at the LHC so far comes as a snub to many of the speculative ideas for physics beyond the Standard Model that have been advanced since the 1960s and ’70s. This development (which still could be overturned by future analyses at the LHC) has invigorated discussion about the status of a central idea in modern elementary particle physics called the naturalness principle, which served as the basis for the prediction that “new physics”—experimental hints of more fundamental patterns beyond the Standard Model—would be found at the LHC.

As with most mathematical theories in science, the predictions of the Standard Model depend on the values of certain fixed quantities known as the theory’s parameters. If we change the parameter values, we typically change the

You're reading a preview, sign up to read more.

More from Nautilus

Nautilus15 min readTech
Reason Won’t Save Us: It’s time to accept the limits of how we think.
In wondering what can be done to steer civilization away from the abyss, I confess to being increasingly puzzled by the central enigma of contemporary cognitive psychology: To what degree are we consciously capable of changing our minds? I don’t mean
Nautilus5 min readPolitics
The Psychology of Greta Thunberg’s Climate Activism: Identifying the ingredients of an effective argument.
In September 2019, Greta Thunberg, the Swedish teenage activist, excoriated world leaders for their ongoing failure to address the climate crisis. “You have stolen my dreams and my childhood with your empty words,” she said at one point during her sp
Nautilus10 min readTech
The Implant That Can Control Your Brain: This nanoscale device meshes seamlessly with your neurons.
Shaun Patel has such a tranquil voice that it’s easy to see how he convinces patients to let him experiment in the depth of their brains. On the phone, in his office at Massachusetts General Hospital (he is also on faculty at Harvard Medical School),