The end of supersymmetry

I’ve been wondering why the news that supersymmetry may be in its death-throws at the LHC has barely made a headline. Civil wars and hurricanes are blocking the view. But past noise suggests LHC spin doctors could surely come up with something to grab attention. Where is Brian Cox when you need him?

Or maybe they are genuinely nervous. If SUSY falls, standard speculations in physics – the features that have tenured a thousand physicists and sold a million popular science books – start to tumble: string theory, higher dimensions, holographic universes, multiverses, theories of everything.

Renegade physicists have been musing on such failure for ages. ‘My own guess, for what it’s worth,’ wrote Lee Smolin in The Trouble With Physics, ‘is that… supersymmetry will not explain the observations at the LHC.’

Or there is Roger Penrose. He always worried about ‘strange-sounding ideas like the need for extra dimensions to spacetime, or for point particles to be replaced by extended entities known as “strings”,’ as he wrote in The Road To Reality. Quantum physics has been ‘a good deal easier than it would be without supersymmetry,’ he continues. ‘But this does not tell us that Nature herself does it this way. She may have quite different tricks up her sleeve!’

SUSY isn’t gone yet. But it is intriguing: we might be witnessing yet another paradigm shift in the story of modern physics.