The end of the particle era?
Institute for Theoretical Particle Physics and Cosmology, RWTH Aachen University, Aachen, Germany
2 Faculty of Humanities and Cultural Studies, University of Wuppertal, Wuppertal, Germany
Accepted: 20 March 2023
Published online: 2 June 2023
The discovery of the Higgs boson in 2012 at CERN completed the experimental confirmation of the Standard Model particle spectrum. Current theoretical insights and experimental data are inconclusive concerning the expectation of future discoveries. While new physics may still be within reach of the LHC or one of its successor experiments, it is also possible that the mass of particles beyond those of the Standard Model is far beyond the energy reach of any conceivable particle collider. We thus have to face the possibility that the age of “on-shell discoveries” of new particles may belong to the past and that we may soon witness a change in the scientists' perception of discoveries in fundamental physics. This article discusses the relevance of this questioning and addresses some of its potential far-reaching implications through the development, first, of a historical perspective on the concept of particle. This view is prompt to reveal important specificities of the development of particle physics. In particular, it underlines the close relationship between the evolution of observational methods and the understanding of the very idea of particle. Combining this with an analysis of the current situation of high-energy physics, this leads us to the suggestion that the particle era in science must undergo an important conceptual reconfiguration.
© The Author(s) 2023. corrected publication 2023
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