Today was a bit of a busy day…
First at bat was my Astrophysics midterm. Now, I took this whole business of a midterm as rather silly so I did not study very much. I was very much ready to be embarrassed by a test that would take advantage of this. Luckily, I think I managed to do alright. The one question I didn’t know too much about asked me to list “four reasons that globular clusters are important for stellar astrophysics.” And God help me if I didn’t actually write: “they’re pretty.” Well they are pretty.
Then it was off to a talk for the LHC club that I gave on “Little Higgs” theories. Now, I spent the whole time in preparation hoping there weren’t going to be any questions. However, I think my talk put everybody to sleep, and so there actually were very few questions; I was quite disappointed. I can understand though, there was nothing particularly beautiful about the model I was presenting. It was just another in a long list of interesting, possibly relevant (and phenomenologically indistinguishable) solutions to the hierarchy problem. For those in the know, I can now bore you with my blog post!
The hierarchy problem is basically this: the standard model “predicts” a higgs boson which is too massive. It takes a bit of “fine tuning” (basically uglifying the theory) to get the mass down to a few hundred GeV, which is where it needs to be for proper electroweak symmetry breaking. The basic reason the higgs is too massive theoretically has to do with its interaction with other particles; for example, it’s interaction with the top quark provides a very large contribution to its mass. Supersymmetry solves this problem by providing a “superpartner” (the “stop quark”) which cancels the interaction with the top and keeps the higgs light.
The basic lesson of little higgs, in my view, is that you can have theories with partners that cancel the top quark that are not “super”. Indeed, given that these theories were only discovered relatively recently (early 90’s or so), I think its important to realize that solutions to the hierarchy problem come in many more flavors than supersymmetry (discovered in the 70’s). In fact, the model I was talking about, the “simplest Little Higgs,” basically just enlarges the SU(2) weak gauge group to SU(3) in a special way that turns out to solve the hierarchy problem for all LHC relevant energies. In many ways this is much simpler than supersymmetry, but it is also, sadly for my audience, much less beautiful.
Anyway, from my talk, it was off to the extremely boring Graduate Student Council Meeting. These useless meetings will be the subject of another post. Then it was off to the annually cute “Latke-Hammentashen debate,” where my loyalties remained firmly on the Latke side.
Then I prepared with Tom and Eric for our supersymmetry talk on holomorphy and moduli spaces for friday. The chat was long and illuminating and reminded me of why I like physics so much, and why, despite the usual woes of a graduate student, having long chats about very esoteric, beautiful (even possibly true) things is one of the most gratifying things in the world.
Of course, no research got done!