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Supersymmetry’s absence at LHC puzzles physicists

Lack of new particles suggests need to consider new theories

8:00am, September 6, 2016
CERN control room

HIGH HOPES  Scientists watched from the CERN control room as the LHC particle accelerator first began running at higher energies in June 2015. New data from the LHC has revealed no hints of new particles, despite physicists’ high hopes.

A beautiful but unproved theory of particle physics is withering in the harsh light of data.

For decades, many particle physicists have devoted themselves to the beloved theory, known as supersymmetry. But it’s beginning to seem that the zoo of new particles that the theory predicts —the heavier cousins of known particles — may live only in physicists’ imaginations. Or if such particles, known as superpartners, do exist, they’re not what physicists expected.

New data from the world’s most powerful particle accelerator — the Large Hadron Collider, now operating at higher energies than ever before — show no traces of superpartners. And so the theory’s most fervent supporters have begun to pay for their overconfidence — in the form of expensive bottles of brandy. On August 22, a group of physicists who wagered that the LHC would quickly confirm the theory settled a

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