This fictional story bears a resemblance to something that has gone on in real life. The young man represents the physicists who have thought up and pursued for decades the theory called supersymmetry. This theory is called SUSY for short, and it involves a symmetry rather like the symmetry of the Suzie in this story. Sadly the long quest for SUSY has ended up being as much of a frustration as the young man's long fruitless quest for Suzie.
Supersymmetry is a theory that for each type of particle known to physicists, there is another type of particle called a superparticle – a particle that is very similar, except with a different spin. One of the main motivations for this theory has been to explain away some apparent fine-tuning in the Higgs field. Without the theory of supersymmetry, we are apparently left with a Higgs field that has to be fine-tuned to many decimal places (a problem known to physicists as the hierarchy problem). As one CERN scientist says,"In a quantum theory, the hierarchy implies a severe fine tuning of the fundamental parameters in more than 30 decimal places in order to keep the masses of elementary particles at their observed values.”
But if the theory of supersymmetry is correct, we might have a way to avoid the conclusion that the Higgs field is so very highly calibrated by chance.
Some scientists have also said that they like the theory of supersymmetry because of its beauty. Unfortunately, things have not gone well for the lovely theory of supersymmetry. The theory tends to predict the existence of particles which simply have not been found by the Large Hadron Collider, that huge scientific device in Europe which discovered the Higgs boson. Some physicists now say that the theory of supersymmetry is on life support.
Some readers may have thought that such a finding was perhaps just some misunderstanding, perhaps one of those scientific studies that doesn't hold up when other scientists try to reproduce it. But last week scientists announced a new measurement of the roundness of the electron from 18 scientists different from the 6 scientists who made the earlier measurement. These 18 scientists came up with the same result, except that they found that the electron was an additional ten times rounder than the previous study. In announcing the study, Scientific American says, “The electron appears to be spherical to within 0.00000000000000000000000000001 centimeter.”
Besides raising a few hairs on the back of our necks, this eerie finding is bad news for the supersymmetry theory, It seems that the supersymmetry theory tends to predict an electron that isn't so round. If there really were all those “superpartner” particles predicted by supersymmetry (SUSY), it seems that some of them would virtually cling to electrons, causing them not to appear so astonishingly round.
Alas the SUSY theory appears to be like the phantom bride Suzie in my story-- an insubstantial symmetrical beauty to be quested after but never found.
A lovely cosmic phantom, like SUSY