Is Nature Natural?




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DFG research group in particle physics to host workshop at RWTH

Natural laws are expected to be "natural" – this seemingly self-evident assumption is currently being questioned. The reason is that the theory of the Higgs boson, whose discovery with the help of CERN’s Large Hadron Collider was celebrated in 2012, is considered to be highly “unnatural” within particle physics.

As Professor Robert Harlander from the RWTH Department of Theoretical Particle Physics explains, “The particle is simply too light-weight. Unless nature surprises us with further, as yet undiscovered, particles, we would expect the Higgs boson particle to be a million million million times heavier than actually measured. There are three possible explanations only: Either there are other particles yet to be discovered by the LHC, or physicists have wrong assumptions about what is 'natural.' Or we have to fundamentally rethink our understanding of the laws of nature."

2.5 Million Euros in Funding Support

The Aachen physicist is part of the research group on “The Epistemology of the Large Hadron Collider,” which was established in 2016 and has received funding in the amount of 2.5 million euros from the German Research Foundation and the Austrian Science Fund. More than 20 international scientists from the fields of physics, philosophy, history and sociology of science participate in the group to discuss the understanding of epistemology in particle physics.

Spokesperson for the research group is Professor Gregor Schiemann from the University of Wuppertal. “For a long time, the dialog between physics and philosophy has not received the attention it deserves. Our interdisciplinary collaboration is successfully addressing this issue,” said Schiemann.

Between February 28 and March 2, 2018, the DFG Research Group will host a workshop on the topic of Naturalness, Hierarchy and Fine-Tuning. About 25 participants are expected to come to Aachen to discuss the current state of particle physics as well as the special status of the Higgs boson in particular.