London, it seems, has much better weather this week than my home town of New York. Too bad I had to spend most of the day at a desk, working on my 20-minute Powerpoint presentation for tomorrow’s scientific meeting, on how to improve and expand the searches for supersymmetry at the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) so that they can cover variants of the theory that the standard searches for supersymmetry don’t address very well. (You can read a bit more about what we do and don’t know right now about less popular variants of supersymmetry by looking at this page and this one; this sequence of articles is still quite incomplete, thanks in part to certain pesky neutrinos.)
I expect an intense day tomorrow. The presentations will be short, leaving a lot of time for discussion. It’s one of my favorite forms of scientific workshop — one where an exchange of ideas can actually lead to new policy and strategy.
Meanwhile, I have been getting great questions from non-experts in response to my “Summary and Open Space for Questions” post regarding the OPERA experiment’s early-arrival neutrinos. A number of people have prefaced their comment with “this is probably a dumb question but…” Well, I have to say that I have scarcely seen a dumb question yet among the ones I’ve been receiving. A dumb question, by my definition, is one whose answer you could have figured out for yourself. That’s not to be confused with an honest question, one that stems from a lack of knowledge. And a smart question, in my book, is one that gets right to the heart of the matter. Some of you who know rather little about the science are asking such smart questions that I have had to go think about the answer for a while before figuring out what I should say.
Of course there’s been a lull in my answers since yesterday, as I’ve been far too busy with other things. But answers will come!
One more thought: many of you are asking questions of the form”What do these faster-than-light neutrinos mean? Is it a sign of extra dimensions? Are they tachyons? Will Einstein’s theory require major modification?” Well, first of all, probably they mean nothing, because probably the experiment is wrong. And if it is right, it is hard to know what it means, because the OPERA measurement provides us with only one piece of information — the early arrival-time of neutrinos produced in pion decay carrying an energy of around 20 GeV. Yes, we know a bit more from other experiments that don’t show a similar effect, but still information is very limited right now. Historically, when a breakthrough has occurred, there has usually been a lot of information, either experimental or theoretical in nature, which was available for scientists to use in making the big step. And still that step often took a couple of decades or more! So personally I think we’re running far ahead of ourselves here. We humans are not very smart, and we often require a lot of hints from nature before we get the point.