Details Behind Last Week’s Supersymmetry Story

Last week, I promised you I’d fill in the details of my statement that the recent measurement (of the rare process in which a Bs meson decays to a muon and an anti-muon — read here for the physics behind this process) by the LHCb experiment at the Large Hadron Collider [LHC] had virtually no effect on the constraints on any speculative theories, including supersymmetry, contrary to the statements in the press and by a certain LHCb member. Today I’m providing you with some sources for this statement.

A number of my colleagues have tasked themselves with keeping track of how measurements at the Large Hadron Collider and elsewhere are affecting certain subclasses of variants of the supersymmetry. They call themselves the “Mastercode Project”; here’s their website. They’re not the only ones looking at this, but among them is Professor Gino Isidori, whom I was talking to last week, so I’ve gotten this information from him. I quote from the MasterCode website regarding last week’s result from LHCb: “The new measurement provides a valuable new constraint on the supersymmetric parameter space, but the observation of a Standard Model-like branching fraction for the Bs→μ+μ decay is quite consistent with supersymmetry. In fact, a Standard Model-like branching fraction of this decay was expected in constrained supersymmetric models like the CMSSM or NUHM1 (see, e.g., the recent MasterCode results for further details). As a result, the favoured regions in the parameter space of these models do not change significantly after the inclusion of the new constraint.

Now before I explain what this means, it’s important to have some terminology, running from most general to most specific.

Keep in mind that

  • ruling out the CMSSM or NUHM1 does not mean that the MSSM is ruled out;
  • ruling out the MSSM does not mean that supersymmetry at the TeV scale is ruled out;
  • ruling out supersymmetry at the TeV scale does not mean that supersymmetry is ruled out.

Among the many goals of the LHC is to find or rule out supersymmetry at the TeV scale. (It cannot hope to rule out supersymmetry altogether; that would presumably require a vastly more powerful collider that won’t likely be built for centuries, if ever.) It’s not enough to rule out the CMSSM, or the NUMH1, or even the MSSM. Similar statements apply for other speculative ideas that propose as yet unknown particles and forces; it’s not enough for the LHC to rule out just the simplest variants of these ideas.

Now if it turns out that supersymmetry is part of nature, rather few of my colleagues expect the variant we find to be contained within the CMSSM or NUHM1; and personally (though I’m probably in the minority) I have long doubted that it would be contained within the MSSM. Nevertheless, it is instructive to look at how LHC data is impacting the CMSSM and the NUHM1 subclasses of supersymmetry variants.   One just must be careful not to over-interpret; the exclusion of most variants in the CMSSM is not an indication that most variants of TeV-scale supersymmetry as a whole are excluded.

Now in this context, let’s see how the new measurement that was announced last week affects the CMSSM and the NUHM1. In Figure 1 is a plot showing the allowed variants of the CMSSM and the NUMH1, as a function of two quantities: on the horizontal axis, MA, which if large is (approximately but essentially) the mass of four of the five Higgs particles in the MSSM, and on the vertical axis, tan β, the ratio of the values of the two non-zero Higgs fields that are required in the MSSM. In solid red and solid blue are the one-standard-deviation and two-standard-deviation allowed regions after the new LHCb measurement is accounted for; any variant of the theory not sitting inside the blue region is excluded by the data. The dashed bands show the same thing before the new LHCb measurement. Since the dashed and solid blue bands are right on top of each other, you see there’s almost no effect at all. That’s what was behind my claim last Friday.

Fig. 1: Constraints on the CMSSM (left) and NUHM1 (right) subclasses of supersymmetric theories, before and after the HCP conference of last week. The quantities on the horizontal and vertical axes are explained in the text. In both plots: solid red (blue) give the constraints at one (two) standard deviations; variants outside the blue curve are excluded. Dashed red (blue) are the same limits before the new LHCb measurement. Notice there is almost no change.

But please, don’t misinterpret what I’m saying (or my colleagues) as suggesting that the LHC’s data has had no impact on the list of possible variants of supersymmetry! Far from it! Many variants are excluded, and many popular (but not necessarily more likely) subclasses of variants of supersymmetry have been pushed into regions that many would consider corners. The only statement in Figure 1 is that the new LHCb measurement didn’t make these corners smaller.  But to see how things have changed since before the LHC began, look at Figure 2, which shows how the LHC as a whole — all the measurements from LHCb, ATLAS and CMS taken together — have affected the CMSSM and NUMH1 since 2009. (The CMSSM and NUHM1 also make assumptions about where dark matter comes from, so even effects of the dark matter measurements from the XENON100 experiment are included here.)

Fig. 2: as in Figure 1, except that the dashed lines give the constraints on the CMSSM and NUHM1 before the LHC began taking data, and the solid line gives the constraints after the data taken through early summer 2011 was analyzed. Notice the scale on the horizontal axis is different from that of Figure 1.

Figure 2 is a similar plot to Figure 1 — but this time, solid blue and red indicate the impact of LHC data as of summer 2011, and the dashed blue and red indicate the situation before the LHC started. Now compare the dashed blue line in Figure 2 (before the LHC) with the solid blue line in Figure 1 (now); note the scale on the horizontal axis is different!. You’ll see that in the CMSSM it was possible before the LHC to have MA as low as 350 GeV/c², but now it has to be over 900 GeV/c², which many would consider a rather high value. In the NUHM1 there’s been a similar shift from 150 to about 300 GeV/c², not yet so high but still a significant increase. And meanwhile, while almost any value of tan β from 2 up to 60 was allowed before the LHC, this number is now limited to a smaller range. For example, if MA were below 900 GeV/c², then the CMSSM would be excluded and the NUHM1 would be allowed only for tan β < 30 or so.  This upper limit on tan β is mainly caused by the similar LHCb measurement presented back in March (and mentioned by me on Friday), and by similar ones from the CMS, CDF and ATLAS experiments.

But clearly there are plenty of variants within the NUHM1 that remain viable.  And the NUHM1 is not representative of the full range of possibilities within the MSSM, so even if the NUHM1 were excluded, we’d still have a long way to go to exclude the MSSM, much less all of TeV-scale supersymmetry. In short, it’s neither all nor nothing. Yes, a lot of progress has been made; LHC data (and data from other sources) have ruled out a lot of variants of TeV-scale supersymmetry.  But no, we’re not yet close to ruling out the full range of variants.

Please note that I’m not telling you this because I’m some devotee of supersymmetry who believes deeply in his heart that we’ll someday find it, and is trying to persuade you not to give up. I’m just laying out for you the facts on the ground. Do you imagine that I’m happy that a long, painful slog lies ahead, during which particle physicists — theorists and experimentalists — will painstakingly cover all the possible variants of supersymmetry, and slowly but surely determine whether or not supersymmetry is absent at the TeV scale? Don’t you think my life and that of my colleagues would be a lot easier if we could snap our fingers and with one or two quick measurements settle the question of whether supersymmetry is a fact of nature or not? Unfortunately, things don’t work that way.  You should simply ignore the irresponsible grand statements you will see in the press and on various blogs; indeed, sweeping remarks are a sign of careless thinking, and you should beware. The truth is that only through very hard work — by the experts who make the measurements, by those who advise them on which measurements to make, and by those who do the calculations that are the ingredients for studies like the MasterCode Project — can we hope to settle profound questions about nature.

15 responses to “Details Behind Last Week’s Supersymmetry Story

  1. Pingback: SUSY in the Hospital? | Not Even Wrong

  2. Dear Prof. Strassler,

    thanks for these very clear additional explanations, they are a very enlightening and highly enjoyale reading :-).
    About two years ago, I have stopped to pay any attention to what the mass media say about high energy and other fundamental physics for good reasons …

    People who come here to disagree (or reject) with what you so nicely explain in this or the earlier articles about the same topic, belong clearly to the one or the other kind of zealots, as you very adequately call them.

    To me, it was a sad and very baffling thing to observe how quickly the comment sections below your recent articles were overtaken by very vocal Anti-SUSY-or-other-BSM-physics zealots, who want to force particle physicists into throwing in the towel concerning the existance of any (potentially observable) BSM physics right now. The demands of these people to immediately give up on any experimental or theoretical research into BSM physics are very arrogant, ignorant, and highly unjustified.

    For that reason I will stop reading the comment sections below articles about to “politicallized” topics, that have a too high potential to attract armies of crazy zealots who either deny or dont understand the scientific method.

  3. Thanks for the very helpful overview of the types of supersymmetric theories.

  4. Thanks for a very informative article. I think the bbc should hire you as a hep story checker!

  5. Thanks for the link to the Mastercode Project through which I can no doubt get to Isidori’s paper that you mentioned a couple of articles ago.

  6. Thankyou, Professor Strassler, for this very clear explanation of where we stand in relation to speculative theories.

  7. Very good to see here more clearly what has been measured and what the consequences for the theories are. Thank you, Matt.

    Looking at the constraints for the parameter space: Is my impression correct that the remaining space inside the red curves is still “quite large” (although smaller than before starting the LHC), leaving ample space for many variants of theories that are consistent with the data?

    Can it be reasonably expected that in the next years, during the lifetime of the LHC experiments, that the areas inside the red curves either shrink to zero, or remain at a certain size that no longer shrinks when more data come in? The question is whether the LHC experiments may yield enough data (in a qualitative and in a quantitative sense) to come up (not now, in some years in the future) with a decision whether these theories show effects on the TeV-scale or not? Or is it even not known whether or not such a decision will be possible the the LHC?

  8. Markus – no, the red curve will not shrink to zero. In fact it could get bigger even as the probability of the best fit point falls – that’s what happened in Matt’s fig 2. To quote from the working group (arXiv:1110.3569)
    “The fact that much larger regions in[parameter space] are now allowed indicates that the tension between (g−2)_mu, favouring relatively low SUSY scales, and the direct search limits, favouring larger SUSY scales, has significantly reduced the sensitivity of the fits […] for constraining the SUSY parameters. Since the chi^2 values of the best-fit points are significantly higher, and consequently the chi^2 distribution towards higher values of [the parameters] is much flatter than in the pre-LHC case, the precise location of the 68% and 95% CL contours is less precisely determined than before.”
    So these curves don’t tell the whole story – you need to know how good the fit is as well.

  9. As Einstein said: “a good theory is a theory that a 6 years child can understand”.

    The field associated to the Higgs boson is not the (hypothetical) Higgs Field but the Gravitational Field.—

    • Hi Veeramohan – i followed your link – good to see other people are thinking about the relevance and possible credence to a 4D cohabitation & existence! She expresses some interesting ideas – but at variance to mine somewhat. My expression ut, x, y z, is simple dependant upon the production of Ut: New space – as opposed to the curvature of spacetime which can only exist in the presence of matter in which features her expression. Mine provides reason for matter to exist in the first place and the physical behaviour of things in the 3D are not really so important as it only forms part of the big picture. Very interested to hear about her and her ideas – thanks

      • ” reason for matter to exist” is a relevance only within human perception.
        It is not important for a stone(matter), if the “New space” disperse the matter or not.

        Spacetime curvature become weak if matter disperse- thus family relationships, affections between humans, “concentration” everything will disperse.
        You need something, collective concentration, to contain this scientific relevance- which is not entirely a physical process.

  10. For a long time there were sensational claims in the media that the LHC would produce micro black holes that would gobble up the Earth, or something like that. Does the new data put any constraints on the formation of micro black holes?

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