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John F. Gunion & Radovan Dermisek talk with and answer a few questions about this month's Fast Moving Front in the field of Physics.
Gunion Article: Escaping the large fine-tuning and little hierarchy problems in the next to minimal supersymmetric model and h-> aa Decays
Authors: Dermisek, R;Gunion, JF
Journal: PHYS REV LETT, 95 (4): art. no.-041801 JUL 22 2005
Addresses: Univ Calif Davis, Dept Phys, Davis, CA 95616 USA.
Univ Calif Davis, Dept Phys, Davis, CA 95616 USA.

 Why do you think your paper is so highly cited?

It was a very important new idea regarding the Higgs boson (the particle associated with the mechanism by which the most elementary particles acquire their mass).

Does it describe a new discovery, methodology, or synthesis of knowledge?

It was a new idea that has ignited a whole stream of papers. If correct, it would have dramatic implications.

Would you summarize the significance of your paper in layman’s terms?

In the paper, we pointed out that the properties of the hypothesized Higgs Boson (sometimes referred to as the "God Particle"), an as-yet-undiscovered particle associated with the mechanism by which the most-elementary particles acquire mass, are very sensitive to other new-particle sectors. In particular, the very simplest extension (called the "Next-to-Minimal Supersymmetric Model" or NMSSM) of the previously most-favored model (the "Minimal Supersymmetric Model" or MSSM) for physics beyond the well-known Standard Model resolves all of the problems associated with the MSSM.

Radovan Dermisek

"We are working on a summary paper for Annual Reviews of Nuclear Science that summarizes all the ideas/theories which are currently most attractive."

It does so by completely changing the way in which the unstable Higgs boson decays to other particles. As a result, the search for the Higgs boson at existing and future colliders (in particular the nearly-completed Large Hadron Collider at CERN) must be performed in a completely unexpected manner. Furthermore, the most preferred mass for the Higgs boson (100 times the proton mass) which has been experimentally ruled out by results from existing colliders in the case of the MSSM theory, is entirely consistent with experimental limits in the context of the NMSSM theory.

How did you become involved in this research and were any particular problems encountered along the way?

Jack Gunion: "The physics of Higgs bosons is an area that I have been working in for 25 years. As the problems of the MSSM (see above) became increasingly apparent, I was searching for a better theory and realized that one (the NMSSM) that I and collaborators had developed about ten years ago was the perfect possibility. Detailed work was required to show that it really was quite an ideal theory."

Where do you see your research leading in the future?

Discovery of the Higgs boson would represent a huge breakthrough in our understanding of Physics beyond the Standard Model. The new model means that the search for the Higgs must be carried out in ways that differ dramatically from those considered to date. This means that theorists and experimentalists must work together to develop the necessary techniques for allowing discovery in the unexpected "channels" (i.e., the states produced in high-energy collisions at the Large Hadron Collider) in which the Higgs boson would appear with greatest frequency.

One of the major directions of my ongoing research is to develop these techniques and to further explore the implications of the NMSSM theory. I am also looking at other models that might be as attractive as the NMSSM. We are working on a summary paper for Annual Reviews of Nuclear Science that summarizes all the ideas/theories which are currently most attractive.

Do you foresee any social or political implications for your research?

Discovery that the Higgs boson is as predicted in the NMSSM theory would dramatically impact our understanding of the physical laws that govern our universe. It is difficult to know if and when this kind of increased understanding will impact the world in a practical way. History has shown that increased understanding ultimately has dramatic technological impacts, either directly or through spin-offs.

John F. Gunion, Ph.D.
Distinguished Professor
Department of Physics
University of California
Davis, CA, USA

Radovan Dermisek, Ph.D.
Research Associate
Institute for Advanced Studies
Princeton University
Princeton, NJ, USA

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2008 : March 2008 - Fast Moving Fronts : John F. Gunion & Radovan Dermisek