Sparticles

I fear I am going to disappoint anyone tuning in to see a youthful Kirk Douglas in sandals and Roman dress (for one thing, this blog is very short of pictures of any kind).

Instead, with the LHC returning to action following its Christmas break (strictly speaking, I suspect the break was for its human workers, rather than for the LHC itself) and with Brian Cox shortly to return to our screens (cue swooning ladies across the land), I find my thoughts turning to particle physics once more.

One of the theories vying to explain life, the universe and everything (or, perhaps more modestly, to supplant the Standard Model of particle physics) is known as Supersymmetry (also known rather sweetly, and more succinctly, as SUSY).  As a lapsed mathematician, this is quite appealing as every time you can invoke symmetry you get to halve the amount of work you have to do.  As a result, SUSY seems to hold out the hope of a short cut to easy street.

The big downside seems to be the need for a whole raft of new elementary particles – with each existing boson needing a “super” fermion partner and vice versa.  This does suggest the need for an awful lot of lycra for all these super-particles (it’s going to be like a femtoscopic version of the X-Men).  As theoretical physicists have better things to do then think up clever names for all these new particles (and apparently don’t have the number of a local dog breeder or racehorse owner who always seem very creative in this area), the new particles are named by prefixing an “s” to the name of an existing fermion or suffixing “ino” to that of a boson.  In this way, we have the slightly pedestrian selectron and photino – but much better is on offer…

  • The W boson is paired with the Wino fermion – which I presume does not travel in a straight line.
  • Each lepton is paired with its corresponding slepton – which I presume are the bosons which carry the fundamental force of lethargy.
  • And then we come to the squarks – for example, the top quark being paired up with the stop boson (which, in homage to Terry Pratchett, may well relate to his fundamental force of bloody-mindedness).

The LHC is hunting down these wonderfully named particles – but, unhappily, it isn’t finding any and they’re running out of “places” to look.  This means SUSY could soon be consigned to history – which would be very bad news for soldier’s feet.

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