Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Challenging subtleties

I have just published a conference proceeding in which I return to an idea of how the standard model of particle physics could be extended. It is an idea I have already briefly written about: The idea is concerned with the question what would happen if there would be twice as many Higgs particles as there are in nature. The model describing this idea is therefore called 2-Higgs(-doublet)-model, or for short 2HDM. The word doublet in the official name is rather technical. It has something to do with how the second Higgs connects to the weak interaction.

As fascinating as the model itself may be, I do not want to write about its general properties. Given its popularity, you will find many things about it already on the web. No, here I want to write about what I want to learn about this theory in particular. And this is a peculiar subtlety. It connects to the research I am doing on the situation with just the single Higgs.

To understand what is going on, I have to dig deep into the theory stuff, but I will try to keep it not too technical.

The basic question is: What can we observe, and what can we not observe. One of the things a theoretician learns early on that it may be quite helpful to have some dummies. This means that he adds something in a calculation just for the sake of making the calculation simpler. Of course, she or he has to make very sure that this is not affecting the result. But if done properly, this can be of great help. The technical term for this trick is an auxiliary quantity.

Now, when we talk about the weak interactions, something amazing happens. If we assume that everything is indeed very weak, we can calculate results using so-called perturbation theory. And now an amazing thing happens: It appears, like the auxiliary quantities are real, and we can observe them. It is, and can only be, some kind of illusion. This is indeed true, something I have been working on since a long time, and others before me. It just comes out that the true thing and the auxiliary quantities have the same properties, and therefore it does not matter, which we take for our calculation. This is far from obvious, and pretty hard to explain without very much technical stuff. But since this is not the point I would like to make in this entry, let me skip these details.

That this is the case is actually a consequence of a number of 'lucky' coincidences in the standard model. Some particles have just the right mass. Some particles appear just in the right ratio of numbers. Some particles are just inert enough. Of course, as a theoretician, my experience is that there is no such thing as 'lucky'. But that is a different story (I know, I say this quite often this time).

Now, I finally return to the starting point: The 2HDM. In this theory, one can do the same kind of tricks with auxiliary quantities and perturbation theory and so on. If you assume that everything is just like in the standard model, this is fine. But is this really so? In the proceedings, I look at this question. Especially, I check whether perturbation theory should work. And what I find is: This may be possible, but it is very unlikely to happen in all the circumstances where one would like this to be true. Especially, in several scenarios in which one would like to have this property, it could indeed be failing. E.g., in some scenarios this theory could have twice as many weak gauge bosons, so-called W and Z bosons, as we see in experiment. That would be bad, as this would contradict experiment, and therefore invalidate these scenarios.

This is not the final word, of course not - proceedings are just status reports, not final answers. But that there may be, just may be, a difference. This is enough to require us (and, in this case, me) to make sure what is going on. That will be challenging. But this time such a subtly may make a huge difference.