High Energy Physics : 5 Needed Breakthroughs
-- Mark Wise
[In the ongoing feature '5 Breakthroughs', our guest today is Mark Wise, the John A. McCone Professor of High Energy Physics at California Institute of Technology.
Prof. Wise is a fellow of the American Physical Society, and member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the National Academy of Sciences. He was a fellow of the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation from 1984 to 1987.
Although Prof. Wise has done some research in cosmology and nuclear physics, his interests are primarily in theoretical elementary particle physics. Much of his research has focused on the nature and implications of the symmetries of the strong and weak interactions. He is best known for his role in the development of heavy quark effective theory (HQET), a mathematical formalism that has allowed physicists to make predictions about otherwise intractable problems in the theory of the strong nuclear interactions.
To provide a background of his current research activities, Prof. Wise said,"Currently we have a theory for the strong, weak and electromagnetic interactions of elementary particles that has been extensively tested in experiments. It is usually called the standard model. Even with this theory many features of the data are not explained. For example, the quark and lepton masses are free parameters in the standard model and are not predicted. Furthermore the theory has some unattractive aspects -- the most noteworthy of them being the extreme fine tuning needed to keep the Higgs mass small compared to the ultraviolet cutoff for the theory. This is sometimes called the hierarchy problem."
He explained,"My own research breaks into two parts. One part is using the standard model to predict experimental observables. Just because you have a theory doesn’t mean it’s straightforward to use it to compare with experiment. Usually such comparisons involve expansions in some small quantity. One area I have done considerable research on is the development of methods to make predictions for the properties of hadrons that contain a single heavy quark".
He elaborated,"The other part is research on physics that is beyond what is in the standard model. In particular I have worked on the development of several extensions of the standard model that solve the hierarchy problem: low energy supersymmetry, the Randall-Sundrum model and most recently the Lee-Wick standard model. This work is very speculative. It is possible that none of the extensions of the standard model discussed in the scientific literature are realized in nature."
Prof. Wise shared the 2001 Sakurai Prize for Theoretical Particle Physics with Nathan Isgur and Mikhail Voloshin. The citation mentioned his work on "the construction of the heavy quark mass expansion and the discovery of the heavy quark symmetry in quantum chromodynamics, which led to a quantitative theory of the decays of c and b flavored hadrons."
He obtained his PhD from Stanford University in 1980. While doing his thesis work, he also co-authored the book 'From Physical Concept to Mathematical Structure: an Introduction to Theoretical Physics' (U. Toronto Press, 1980) with Prof Lynn Trainor of the University of Toronto (where he did his B.S. in 1976 and M.S. in 1977). He also coauthored, with Aneesh Manohar, a monograph on 'Heavy Quark Physics' (Cambridge Univ Press, 2000).
We are pleased to present the list of 5 needed breakthroughs that Prof. Mark Wise would be happy to see in the field of high energy physics.
"Here go five breakthroughs that would be great to see:
1) An understanding of the mechanism that breaks the weak interaction symmetry giving the W's and Z's mass. This we should know the answer to in my lifetime since it will be studied at the LHC (Large Hadron Collider) and I am trying to stay healthy.
2) Reconciling gravity with quantum mechanics. Currently the favored candidate for a quantum theory of gravity is String Theory. However, there is no evidence from experiment that this is the correct theory. Perhaps quantum mechanics itself gives way to a more fundamental theory at extremely short distances.
3) An answer to the question, why is the value of the cosmological constant so small? I am assuming here that dark energy is a cosmological constant. (Hey if it looks like a duck and quacks like a duck it's probably a duck.) A cosmological constant is a very simple term in the effective low energy Lagrangian for General Relativity. The weird thing about dark energy is not what it is but rather why it's so small.
4) An understanding of why the scale at which the weak symmetry is broken is so small compared to the scale at which quantum effects in gravity become strong. This is usually called the hierarchy problem. Breakthrough (1) might provide the solution to the hierarchy problem or it might not.
5) Discovery of the particle that makes up the dark matter of the universe and the measurement of its properties (e.g., spin, mass, ...).
There are other things I would love to know. For example, is there a way to explain the values of the quark and lepton masses? But you asked for five."