Physicists working at the Large Hadron Collider report that after a series of tests, they have not seen any mini black holes, to the chagrin of string theorists and the relief of disaster theorists.
Researchers working on the Compact Muon Solenoid team have been crunching numbers to test a form of string theory that calls for the creation and instant evaporation of miniature black holes. They report that the telltale signs of these black holes are disappointingly absent, however.
String theory is the most widely accepted attempt to unify the two major fields of physics, quantum mechanics and relativity. It holds that electrons and quarks are not objects, but one-dimensional strings whose oscillation gives them their observed qualities. It also says the universe has about a dozen dimensions, rather than the usual four (length, width, height and time).
In one version of string theory, if these dimensions exist, gravitons — hypothetical particles that transmit gravity — would leak into them, explaining why gravity is so much weaker than the other forces, as New Scientist explains it. It's not really weaker, it just seems weaker, because some of its particles are in another dimension we can't see. Happily, it takes a lot less energy to test this than it would to actually unify all the forces, and it just so happens it's is in the energy range that the LHC, the world's most powerful particle accelerator, is capable of testing.
If this is all true, particles that collided at energies beyond this graviton-leaking energy cutoff would get so close together that gravity would take over, and they would merge to form a tiny black hole. The black holes would instantly decay, so there would be no danger of Earth being swallowed whole, and the decay would be visible as jets of particles. But the researchers have so far seen no jets.
This doesn't disprove string theory — it just proves that mini black holes can't be produced at energies between 3.5 and 4.5 trillion electron volts. But they could still theoretically be produced at higher energies, so when the LHC fully fires up in 2013, string theorists will be holding their breath.
Meanwhile, the tests show the LHC is performing supremely well, so physicists aim to keep it running through 2012. This means they might be able to find the elusive Higgs boson sooner than expected.
Scotty: I'm giving her all she's got, Captain!
James T. Kirk: All she's got isn't good enough!
Time to shut down.. upgrade and gets this baby up to full power.
Light...a singular moment revealed from many sources tying every law together...that light is one in the same being revealed from many. Black bodies merely host and display a point for its expression giving us Spacetime and everyother demension that appears linear in time.
Quote: "String theory is the most widely accepted attempt to unify the two major fields of physics, quantum mechanics and relativity."
It's widely accepted by the popular media and the remaining string theorists. Twenty years ago, you could say that it was the most promising attempt to unify gravity and quantum mechanics. But, that was twenty years ago. Since then, there has been very little progress, as far as its myriad equations describing any aspect of our Universe. At least, according to the opinions of many physicists I've read. Their arguments are quite compelling. Where as, String Theorists always seem to be making excuses when experiment fails to produce results in support of String Theory.
If you poll physicists, you will find that most have long abandoned String Theory as a Theory of Everything or of anything -- actually. What they will agree on is that String Theory research has made great advancements in mathematics whose usefulness as mathematical tools promise to be quite significant. But, as a theory of nature -- it doesn't look good.
Yet another ad hoc hypothesis bites the dust. Is so called "dark matter" next?
AlBme - Please, do post links to these polls and swarms of Physicists aligning against Strings. There have been dissenters since the inception in the late 70s and there always will be. If you are very selective in whom you poll you can arrive at the conclusion that most physicists have abandoned Einstein as well. If the collection of hypotheses clumped into the title 'String Theory' is not the current leading candidate to combine QM with Relativity, would you mind letting me know what is?
"Are you kidding me? This is complicated Math! It makes string theory look like non-linear dynamics." - Dr. Rodney McKay
Why the black holes, I mean that was one of the reasons people where like "don't turn that thing on".
Way to go LHC! Now the world won't end in 2012.
Gravity's "not really weaker, it just seems weaker, because some of its particles are in another dimension we can’t see."
Gee - pardon the pun - but maybe ALL of its particles are in that other dimension, (the one we can't see), because we haven't seen any of them in this 'dimension' yet.
Remember, Rebecca, in spite of decades of searching and trillions of dollars of research no one's ever found a single graviton.
That doesn't mean they don't exist but they're like so much research related to Cosmology, products of a vast theoretical edifice built upon theories derived from theories derived from yet more theories derived from still more theories...ad infinitum. Every time one of the theories fails a new theory's dreamed up to patch up all the gaping holes it leaves.
If researchers in any other field spent as much time and money without having anything more to show for it than yet more theories derived from still more theories, then they'd've been run out of town as snake oil salesmen.
Don't get me wrong - I love all those pictures of billions of years old stars and galaxies that computers generate conjure out of thin air when you tell them to treat a single photon in a billion light years of cubic space as if it's actually the reflection off a galaxy that might be hidden behind a nearer galaxy, buffeted by unproven gravitons bounced off electromagnetic emanations, etc., from a black hole which no one can actually see but which must be there to hold the unseen galaxy together, even though such a black hole'd've have to be so ancient the Universe wouldn't be old enough (on current estimations) to create the sort of volume of matter in that particular region of space necessary for the black hole to come into existence in the first place.
They might even be right, (though proof of this'll likely be a long time coming), but only in the way Carl Sagan explained away the Hindus of 3 or more thousand of years ago claiming the Universe was 8 billion years old as a mere lucky guess, (completely ignoring medieval Rabbis like Isaac of Acre's calculations the Universe was 15.4 billion years old).
Reply to commenter TonyB:
If you read the arguments against String Theory, it has many, possibly insurmountable, problems as a theory of nature. Not the least of which is that it isn't actually a theory. Rather, a myriad of complicated and complex mathematical tools. Probably the only man in the world that fully comprehends that math is Ed Witten. Indeed, if the rest were as masterful, perhaps they would not jump to wild conclusions based more on wishful thinking, or perhaps as a sedative to their frustrations in understanding their work, rather than sound physics.
Just as Calculus is not a theory of nature, it was, and still is instrumental in the development of physics and has long proved its usefulness as a tool of physics. This is where I believe string research will eventually find its destiny. This is not a unique point of view nor an unreasoned one. It has been expressed by thinkers of infinitely greater capacity than the visitors of popsci.com -- (myself, especially.)
I believe that Brian Greene's PBS special did more harm than good. It generated great excitement in the public's mind, (as it did with me at the time), of the prospect that we were on the verge of a great scientific discovery. We were not, and still are not. He made ST cool -- a phenomenal achievement considering pop culture's averseness to the sciences. But, coolness and popularity is not a measure of a theory's viability.
As for my comment that most physicists have long abandoned ST as a theory of everything, I can only provide circumstantial evidence. The link below is from Physics Today's blog. It's a post in response to why coverage of string theory has waned over the years. In particular:
"Not only is the percentage of "practitioners" of string theory a small number among practicing physicists, but its impact are currently rather small in the world of physics."
link to said post:
I stand by my assertion that ST is not "the leading candidate" to unify gravity and quantum mechanics amongst physicists. That's based on my willingness to question whether ST was a viable theory, as I already stated -- I too was caught up in the sexiness. (I bought Brian's book and still read it again from time to time.) This questioning *IS* the foundation of scientific reasoning and study. That questioning led me to read those "dissenters'" arguments against ST and I find them quite compelling.
So, what is the leading candidate for a GUT? There is no consensus on that. That's not news. That's been the case for a century now. Twenty years ago, they thought they had a good candidate. But, to date, it has failed to unify itself as a theory resembling any part of nature.
I'm going to break my own rule regarding off topic responses. But, I was compelled to do so. Regarding your assertion:
"If researchers in any other field spent as much time and money without having anything more to show for it than yet more theories derived from still more theories, then they'd've been run out of town as snake oil salesmen."
I'm reminded of a not only very funny line from one of Chris Rock's stand up routines, it's also a revealing one. To paraphrase, he asks his audience:
"Hundreds of millions of dollars donated to Jerry Lewis' cause. (Muscular Dystrophy.) What good has all that money done for finding a cure? Forty years of research, and still no cure!? In fact, when was the last time you heard of *ANY* disease being cured? Something is wrong here."
If you read my posts here, I am certainly no string theory apologist. But, I wonder how much of that zeal that ST researchers are wont to assert aren't simply based on good old fashion greed, or perhaps primal self-preservation? Not too long ago, the US government, (NSF?), started to reduce funding toward String Theory research. Is it really unexpected to get such passionate responses from people whose livelihood depend so much on that funding?
We know the collapse of a star triggers the creation of a black hole with enough matter. From a practical standpoint, two particles shouldn't be enough to create the gravitational forces necessary to jumpstart a black hole. plus, can the LHC effectively eliminate ALL presence of gravitational forces already in play on the earth itself? I really don't think we can create a black hole until enough matter slams together, and all external gravitational forces are cut out of the equation.
What if all they've proved is that micro black holes don't decay?
the fact of the matter is, sometimes we can't understand everything we know, we know that gravity exists but we can't truly explain how the force applies or what truly creates the effect, everything we have is theories, some very good theories yes but still they are theories and until our science can catch up to our very basic understanding this will just be another question we cannot hope to answer. hopefully some day we will be able to scan gravity, and maby then we'll all have lightsabers in our pockets who knows, but for now it is out of reach.
Late to the party, but this never was a set back of any sort to string theory. A set back to that interpretation of the braneworld scenario that had the extra dimensions large enough for gravitons to slip into, sure, but not mainstream superstring theory. Misleading article.