Research

Answers to the greatest challenges of science: how far have we gone?

Much is unknown about the nature of the universe itself. It is curiosity inherent in people, leading to the search for answers to these questions, and moves science forward. We have already accumulated an incredible amount of knowledge, and the success of our two leading theories — quantum field theory, describing the Standard Model, and general relativity, describing gravity — demonstrate how far we have come in understanding reality itself.

Many people are pessimistic about ourcurrent attempts and future plans to unravel the great cosmic mysteries that put us in a dead end today. Our best hypotheses for new physics, including supersymmetry, extra dimensions, technicolor, string theory and others, have not been able to obtain any experimental confirmation so far. But this does not mean that physics is in crisis. This means that everything is exactly as it should be: physics tells the truth about the Universe. Our next steps will show us how well we listened.

The greatest mysteries of the universe

A century ago, the biggest questions we could ask included extremely important existential riddles, such as:

  • What are the smallest constituents of matter?
  • Are our theories of the forces of nature really fundamental, or do we need a deeper understanding?
  • How big is the universe?
  • Has our universe always existed or appeared at some point in the past?
  • How do the stars shine?

At that time, these puzzles occupied the minds of the greatestpeople. Many did not even think that they could be answered. In particular, they demanded the investment of so seemingly enormous resources that it was suggested simply to be content with what we knew at that time and use this knowledge for the development of society.

Of course, we did not do that. Investing in society is extremely important, but it is also important to expand the boundaries of the known. Thanks to new discoveries and research methods, we were able to get the following answers:

  • Atoms are made up of subatomic particles, many of which are divided into even smaller constituents; now we know the whole Standard model.
  • Our classical theories have been replaced by quantum ones combining four fundamental forces: strong nuclear, electromagnetic, weak nuclear, and gravitational interaction.
  • The observable universe extends 46.1 billion light years in all directions; the observable Universe can be much larger, or infinite.
  • It took 13.8 billion years after the event, known as the Big Bang, which gave life to the known Universe. It was preceded by an inflationary epoch of indefinite duration.
  • Stars shine thanks to the physics of nuclear fusion, turning matter into energy using Einstein's formula E = mc2.

And yet, it only deepened the scientific secrets,who surround us. Possessing all that we know about fundamental particles, we are sure that there should be a lot of other things in the Universe that are still unknown to us. We cannot explain the apparent presence of dark matter, we do not understand dark energy and we do not know why the Universe expands in this way and not otherwise.

We do not know why particles have suchmass, which have; why the Universe is overwhelmed by matter, and not antimatter; why neutrinos have mass. We do not know whether a proton is stable, whether it will ever decay and whether gravity is a quantum force of nature. And although we know that the Big Bang was preceded by inflation, we do not know whether it was the beginning of inflation itself or whether it was eternal.

Can people solve these puzzles? Can the experiments that we can do using current or future technologies shed light on these fundamental puzzles?

The answer to the first question is possible; We do not know,what nature keeps secrets until we see. The answer to the second question is definitely “yes.” Even if every theory we have ever cited on what is beyond the boundaries of the known - the Standard Model and GTR - is 100% wrong, there is a huge amount of information that can be obtained by performing the experiments that we plan to launch in the next generation Not to build all these plants would be a great folly, even if they confirm a nightmarish scenario that particle physics has been afraid of for many years.

When you hear about a particle accelerator, you,probably imagine all these new discoveries that await us at higher energies. The promise of new particles, new forces, new interactions, or even completely new sectors of physics is what the theorists like to do, even if experiment after experiment is done and they do not fulfill these promises.

There is a good reason for this: Most of the ideas that can be thought up in physics have already been either excluded or strongly limited to the data that we already have. If you want to open a new particle, field, interaction or phenomenon, you should not postulate something that is incompatible with what we already know for sure. Of course, we could make assumptions that would later prove to be incorrect, but the data itself should be in agreement with any new theory.

This is why the greatest efforts in physics go not tonew theories or new ideas, and on experiments that will allow us to leave the limits of what we have already explored. Of course, the discovery of the Higgs boson can lead to hype, but how strongly is the Higgs associated with the Z boson? What are all the connections between these two particles and others in the Standard Model? How easy is it to create them? And after the creation, will there be mutual decays that will differ from the decay of the standard Higgs plus the standard Z-boson?

There is a technique that can be used toinvestigating this: create an electron-positron collision with an exact Higgs and Z-boson mass. Instead of several tens or hundreds of events that create the Higgs and Z-boson, as the LHC does, you can create thousands, hundreds of thousands or even millions of them.

Of course, the general public will be more excitedthe discovery of a new particle than anything else, but not every experiment is intended to create new particles — yes, it is not necessary. Some are intended to investigate matter already known to us and to study its properties in detail. The Large Electron-Positron Collider, the predecessor of the LHC, did not find a single fundamental particle. Like the DESY experiment, which collided electrons with protons. And the relativistic collider of heavy ions too.

And this was to be expected; The goal of these three colliders was different. It was to investigate the matter that really exists, with unprecedented accuracy.

It doesn't seem like these experiments are justconfirmed the Standard Model, although all they found corresponded only to the Standard Model. They created new composite particles and measured the connections between them. Decay and branching relationships were found, as well as subtle differences between matter and antimatter. Some particles behaved differently from their mirror counterparts. Others seemed to break the symmetry of time reversal. However, it has been found that others mix together, creating related states that we didn’t even suspect.

The purpose of the next great scientific experiment is notin simply looking for one thing or checking out one new theory. It is necessary to collect a huge set of otherwise inaccessible data, and allow this data to guide the development of the industry.

Of course, we can design and buildexperiments or observatories, focusing on what we expect to find. But the best choice for the future of science would be a multi-purpose machine that can collect large and diverse amounts of data that would not be possible to collect without such a huge investment. This is why Hubble was so successful, why Fermilab and BAC pushed the boundaries further than before, and why future missions like the James Webb Space Telescope, future 30-meter class observatories or future colliders will need us if we want to someday answer the most fundamental questions from all.

In business there is an old saying that alsoapplicable to science: “Faster. It is better. Cheaper. Choose two. ” The world is moving faster than ever before. If we start saving and we don’t invest in the “best”, it will be tantamount to giving up.

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