Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Rumors of a LIGO discovery resurface

The BBC has followed Physics World and Starts-with-a-bang and presented its expectations for science events in the year \[

4\times 7 \times 8 \times 9 = 2016.

\] They discuss the possible discovery of the new physics manifesting itself as a \(750\GeV\) resonance at the LHC. My estimate for the probability that new physics is behind this excess is 60%. I must emphasize that a probability greater than 50% isn't "similar" to 100%. For all practical purposes, if you don't repeat the identical experiments many times, 60% is indistinguishable from 50%. I just don't know.

Two months ago, this video about gravitational waves got 300,000 views.

But the BBC also talks about a "rumour" – because they are British – that the LIGO, the 4-km-diameter L-shaped tunnels (the total of 2 arms is 8 km at each site) with lasers, has discovered the gravitational waves. Such rumors were heard some three months ago but that particular excitement went away. I heard similar rumors four weeks ago. Their ultimate origin was a physicist with a "large, disgusting" name who got some money for his new glue from a man who has produced some explosives. To figure out what a glue is good for when you produce explosives is an exercise for you. ;-)

The BBC talks about the "LIGO discovery rumors" again. I am actually not sure whether the BBC or my glueman is a more reliable source of such a rumor. (Update: Right now, the most convincing and probably reliable source of rumors is an early 20th century nuclear physicist who has posted a detailed comment under this blog post.) If my rumor is right, the announcement of a discovery is imminent. We will have to wait for a month or two or less; they're probably on the cusp of a discovery.

As the BBC warns, there is a catch. Several bosses of LIGO have the right to pump a fake signal to the data – a method to make their employees more excited. So this excited rumor (or the previous one) could have very well come from an employee who was fooled by her creative boss.

I actually think that such an "injection of interesting yet fake signals" should become a standard policy at the LHC, too. On January 1st, Fabiola Gianotti, a former spokeswoman of ATLAS, is becoming the first female CERN general director when she replaces Rolf-Dieter Heuer. Aside from promoting Comic Sans to the official font of the European scientists, she could start to inject some supersymmetric and stringy signals to the LHC data, too. Maybe she has already done it with the \(750\GeV\) diphotons. You can see that whether the events were injected or genuine, they have improved the mood in the field. ;-)

So only the VIPs at LIGO and perhaps their children know for sure whether the rumored discovery of the gravitational waves is real. Does anyone know any classmates of these children to find some more qualified information about the discovery than my explosive source can provide? ;-) We should find out within a month or two if the discovery is real.

A drone has taken moving pictures of itself and the LIGO near Livingston, Louisiana.

Dark matter

Major teams directly searching for dark matter – LUX and XENON in particular – will increase their capacity to decide about less accessible models of dark matter than ever before. My subjective confidence that such experiments will find dark matter soon has substantially decreased in recent years – and even in recent weeks. The negative result by LUX was one major reason.

Another reason is that I became much more inclined to believe that the gravitino, the supersymmetric partner of the graviton, is the lightest supersymmetric particle and therefore the "WIMP" particle of dark matter, rather than lightest neutralino, a superposition of superpartners of the photon, Z-boson, and the Higgs. If the gravitino is the dark matter, I don't expect these experiments to make a discovery in coming centuries because the gravitino's gravitational interaction is very weak. (Gravitino could be detected in this way if R-parity is broken, however. I don't want to discuss all the possibilities.)

Ethan Siegel is just cynical about all these experiments, unjustifiably certain that the dark matter search will find nothing; all particles discovered at the LHC will be bogus; gravitational waves from inflation won't reemerge. I really think that his negative certainty in unjustified in all these cases. He also mentions that the "Mars as large as the Moon" silly e-mails will return due to the opposition; the "super-Earth" in outer Solar System will be a boring Kuiper belt object; a meteor shower will disappoint; no interesting asteroids will arrive closer to the Earth.

At least, he says that a smaller exoplanet with water will be found and Nobel prizes will be handed out (either to Deborah Jin for fermionic condensates, to Z.L. Wang for nano-piezoelectricity, or to a group from which Ethan carefully removed Geoffrey Marcy, for the 1995 discovery of exoplanets – be ashamed, Ethan). My guess for the 2016 physics Nobel is Thorne-Drever-Weiss for the design of LIGO. With all of his negativeness, however, a physician should still recommend him suicide.

Telescopes, cosmic rays

Physics World is reminding us that the Event Horizon Telescope will start to observe the horizon of the galactic-center black hole! Pierre Auger Observatory in Argentina (cosmic rays) will start to be upgraded.

The Thirty-Meter-Telescope will probably continue to sleep after the 2015 protests by superstitious local tribes and a cancellation of the construction permit by a court. ITER in France (fusion) could announce a frustrating 6-year delay while the Wendelstein 7-X Stellerator in Germany (fusion) could speed up.


On the Bastille Day of 2015, a NASA flyby of Pluto was a big event in dwarf planetary science. In 2016, we will see dwarf events in big planetary science instead. NASA's Juno will arrive to Jupiter on the Independence Day; and Europe's Exomars (launched from Baikonur – how many professionals in the West would be screwed without Russia and Kazakhstan) will get stuck in an infinite loop around Mars.

Our atmosphere

The 2015-2016 El Niño has officially become the largest one ever recorded.

This picture compares the ongoing El Niño (red) with the "El Niño of the century" in 1997-1998 (blue). The previous record ONI index (a temperature anomaly of a Pacific equatorial rectangle) has been surpassed by 0.3 °C or so. These episodes have a positive effect on the global mean temperature (perhaps with a 6-month-long delay or so) and I expect (but I am not certain that) 2016 to be the first year after 1998 that finally beats 1998 as the warmest year according to the satellite record. (The weather stations like to report "new records" much more frequently.)

Joe Bastardi's claims about a dramatically cooling Pacific and progressively deeper La Niñas could be a reason to be uncertain about the warm 2016 but I don't really understand these comments.

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