A Deepening Crisis Forces Physicists to Rethink Structure of Nature’s Laws

Natalie Wolchover in Quanta:

In The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, the philosopher of science Thomas Kuhn observed that scientists spend long periods taking small steps. They pose and solve puzzles while collectively interpreting all data within a fixed worldview or theoretical framework, which Kuhn called a paradigm. Sooner or later, though, facts crop up that clash with the reigning paradigm. Crisis ensues. The scientists wring their hands, reexamine their assumptions and eventually make a revolutionary shift to a new paradigm, a radically different and truer understanding of nature. Then incremental progress resumes.

For several years, the particle physicists who study nature’s fundamental building blocks have been in a textbook Kuhnian crisis.

The crisis became undeniable in 2016, when, despite a major upgrade, the Large Hadron Collider in Geneva still hadn’t conjured up any of the new elementary particles that theorists had been expecting for decades. The swarm of additional particles would have solved a major puzzle about an already known one, the famed Higgs boson. The hierarchy problem, as the puzzle is called, asks why the Higgs boson is so lightweight — a hundred million billion times less massive than the highest energy scales that exist in nature.

More here.