Different Perspectives on Particle Physics

A few weeks ago I was returning to Manchester from Trieste in northern Italy. My journey was going to be long because it involved a change in Paris, so I had loaded up my MP3 player with plenty of podcasts to while away the hours. As I was crossing the beautiful snow covered Alps, I turned on a fascinating TED podcast. The talk was given by "surfing cosmologist" Garrett Lisi who made waves* at the end of last year with a model of the universe based on E8 symmetry.

I don't understand much about Lie Groups but I found the graphical way that Garrett Lisi was showing the charges, forces and particles to be intriguing. Although Sean at Cosmic Variance - who understands all this far more than me - is quite pessimistic about it, Garrett does predict 20 new particles with particular properties. A theory with predicitons is a good thing as it can be tested against reality.

At the end of the podcast I looked out of my window to see the Sun starting to set over the Swiss town of Bern below me. From my understanding of the landscape I realised that I was looking in roughly the direction of CERN, and the epic Large Hadron Collider, around 120 km away to the south west. Given that particle physicists have used their understanding of the standard-model landscape to predict the location (energy) of the Higgs Boson, and are using the LHC to look for it, my temporary vantage point felt strangely symbolic.

* Apologies for the pun-crime.

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Posted in astro blog by Stuart on Saturday 08th Nov 2008 (15:14 GMT) | Permalink
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