"All your unparticles belong to us"

Could the theorized existence of unparticles (you read that right) on the quantum level be the unseen dark matter that scientists believe constitutes the vast majority of mass in the visible universe? Poking gentle fun at one strained sentence in an science abstract by a couple of Japanese authors (hey, my Japanese isn't so hot either), which describe this potential discovery, astronomer Dr. Pamela Gay goes on to say:

But then I read the paper, and found that it was actually very cool. Afew months ago, Harvard’s Howard Georgi (who was one of my favorites among the Harvard Faculty I used to work with), came out with a neat theory that in addition to the standard particles in the standard model of physics there is also a secondary particle regime which he called unparticles (see this article and this article). If this stuff exists, it will be detectable by the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) when it stars working at some point in (hopefully) the next 12 months...

Specifically, the[y] predict that Higgs bosons (which the LHC will produce) can decay into two dark matter unparticles. They make specific predictions for various possible Higgs boson masses, and they are set to be proven right or wrong by the giant international experiment.


What should we make of nothing in the physical sciences? Unparticles sound very mysterious, having the sort of now-you-see-now-you-don't quality that modern physics seems to possess. Reading her post reminded me of something science popularizer and writer K.C. Cole said about "nothing:" it's unstable. There's a something because nothing requires too much effort.

Moreover, symmetry plays a role in this instability. K.C. Cole:

If supersymmetric particles turn up at high energies, for example, it will mean that bosons and fermions—which seem like apples and oranges—have fallen off the same family tree. Each quark will have its squark; each photon its photino—a perfectly symmetrical team. The symmetry lost when the universe cooled will be, for the moment, restored.

Even more beautiful symmetries appear at even higher energies. Heat up the universe to big bang temperatures, and the wildly diverse family of forces turns into one. String theory, with its tangled 10-dimensional topologies, is more symmetrical still; with so much room to move about, there are ample ways for the same thing (the string) to appear in radically different forms (quarks, gravity).

Alas, the universe we know isn't very symmetrical. Somewhere along the line, it lost its symmetries—if not its innocence—like water freezing into ice. Today, the whole thing is embarrassingly unbalanced: Time goes only one way; gravity isn't a bit like the weak force; there's matter, matter everywhere, but not a drop of antimatter in sight....

As Dr. Gay points out, the math in particle physics must be amazing. It's astonishing that it might not only describe a primordial state of beauty, but in this case predict it. Should the LHC reveal that to be the case, the problem of knowledge is suddenly less daunting.

Alas, unlike her, I can't understand a bit of it.


Wikipedia: dark matter, dark energy, group theory