Today, I read an interesting article on New York Times by Dennis Overbye (see here). Of course, for researchers, a discovery that does not open new puzzles is not really a discovery but just the end of the story. But the content of the article is intriguing and is related to the question of the stability of our universe. This matter was already discussed in blogs (e.g. see here) and is linked to a paper by Giuseppe Degrassi, Stefano Di Vita, Joan Elias-Miró, José R. Espinosa, Gian F. Giudice, Gino Isidori, Alessandro Strumia (see here) with the most famous picture

Our universe, with its habitants, lives in that small square at the border between stability and meta-stability. So, it takes not too much to “live dangerously” as the authors say. Just a better measurement of the mass of the top quark can throw us there and this is in our reach at the restart of LHC. Anyhow, their estimation of the tunnel time is really reassuring as the required time is bigger than any reasonable cosmological age. Our universe, given the data coming from LHC, seems to live in a metastable state. This is further confirmed in a more recent paper by the same authors (see here). This means that the discovery of the Higgs boson with the given mass does not appear satisfactory from a theoretical standpoint and, besides the missing new physics, we are left with open questions that naturalness and supersymmetry would have properly assessed. The light mass of the Higgs boson, 125 GeV, in the framewrok of the Higgs mechanism, recently awarded with a richly deserved Nobel prize to Englert and Higgs, with an extensive use of weak perturbation theory is looking weary.

The question to be answered is: Is there any point in this logical chain where we can intervene to put all this matter on a proper track? Or is this the situation with the Standard Model to hold down to the Planck energy?

In all this matter there is a curious question that arises when you work with a conformal Standard Model. In this case, there is no mass term for the Higgs potential but rather, the potential gets modified by quantum corrections (Coleman-Weinberg mechanism) and a non-null vacuum expectation value comes out. But one has to grant that higher order quantum corrections cannot spoil conformal invariance. This happens if one uses dimensional regularization rather than other renormalization schemes. This grants that no quadratic correction arises and the Higgs boson is “natural”. This is a rather strange situation. Dimensional regularization works. It was invented by ‘t Hooft and Veltman and largely used by Wilson and others in their successful application of the renormalization group to phase transitions. So, why does it seem to behave differently (better!) in this situation? To decide we need a measurement of the Higgs potential that presently is out of discussion.

But there is a fundamental point that is more important than “naturalness” for which a hot debate is going on. With the pioneering work of Nambu and Goldstone we have learned a fundamental lesson: *All the laws of physics are highly symmetric but nature enjoys a lot to hide all these symmetries*. A lot of effort was required by very smart people to uncover them being very well hidden (do you remember the lesson from Lorentz invariance?). In the Standard Model there is a notable exception: Conformal invariance appears to be broken by hand by the Higgs potential. Why? Conformal invariance is really fundamental as all two-dimensional theories enjoy it. A typical conformal theory is string theory and we can build up all our supersymmetric models with such a property then broken down by whatever mechanism. Any conceivable more fundamental theory has conformal invariance and we would like this to be there also in the low-energy limit with a proper mechanism to break it. But not by hand.

Finally, we observe that all our theories seem to be really lucky: the coupling is always small and we can work out small perturbation theory. Also strong interactions, at high energies, become weakly interacting. In their papers, Gian Giudice et al. are able to show that the self-interaction of the Higgs potential is seen to decrease at higher energies and so, they satisfactorily apply perturbation theory. Indeed, they show that there will be an energy for which this coupling is zero and is due to change sign. As they work at high energies, the form of their potential just contains a quartic term. My question here is rather peculiar: What if exist exact solutions for finite (non-zero) quartic coupling that go like the inverse power of the coupling? We were not able to recover them with perturbation theory but nature could have sat there. So, we would need to properly do perturbation theory around them to do the right physics. I have given some of there here and here but one cannot exclude that others exist. This also means that the mechanism of symmetry breaking can hide some surprises and the matter could not be completely settled. Never heard of breaking a symmetry by a zero mode?

So, maybe it is not our universe on the verge of showing a dangerous life but rather some of our views need a revision or a better understanding. Only then the next step will be easier to unveil. Let my bet on supersymmetry again.

Giuseppe Degrassi, Stefano Di Vita, Joan Elias-Miró, José R. Espinosa, Gian F. Giudice, Gino Isidori, & Alessandro Strumia (2012). Higgs mass and vacuum stability in the Standard Model at NNLO JHEP August 2012, 2012:98 arXiv: 1205.6497v2

Dario Buttazzo, Giuseppe Degrassi, Pier Paolo Giardino, Gian F. Giudice, Filippo Sala, Alberto Salvio, & Alessandro Strumia (2013). Investigating the near-criticality of the Higgs boson arXiv arXiv: 1307.3536v1

Marco Frasca (2009). Exact solutions of classical scalar field equations J.Nonlin.Math.Phys.18:291-297,2011 arXiv: 0907.4053v2

Marco Frasca (2013). Exact solutions and zero modes in scalar field theory arXiv arXiv: 1310.6630v1

Interesting musings.

How would someone show a breaking or preservation of conformal invariance experimentally? Would experimental evidence of a lack of conformal invariance disprove string theory/SUSY?

Also, for what it is worth, the idiomatic English way to say (with an obscure capitalization correction) :

“All the laws of physics are highly symmetric but nature enjoys a lot to hide all these symmetries.”

is

“All the laws of physics are highly symmetric but Nature likes to hide these symmetries.”

Hi ohwilleke,

Thanks for the comment. As far as I can tell, there are two ways to see if conformal invariance is there or not. Both are rather difficult to pursue. Firstly, one should check the Higgs potential. This could be arranged with the upgraded LHC but with a somewhat large error figure. The hope is for a Higgs factory. The second way is to observe heavier excitations but also in this case there could be some difficulties: Heavier Higgs could decay in pairs of light Higgs and this process is very difficult to observe. Also, higher excited states could have strongly depressed production rates. With some luck, these could be seen at the upgraded LHC. Currently, SUSY theories live happily without conformal symmetry and with a softly broken supersymmetry. The absence of conformal invariance, explicitly broken by the mass term in the Higgs potential, does not disprove anything. But its observation would show that the current mechanism understood in the SUSY theory is wrong and must be changed recovering theories that now seem to be dead. Besides, naturalness will be saved. About the question of conformal symmetry and SUSY, I have proven a theorem at the classical level where I show that one implies the other. It remains to be seen how quantum corrections could change this situation.

About your editing, my idea was exactly that nature has fun to hide symmetry implying a kind of malice. Sorry, if this was not correctly understood.

Marco