Call it a preview of coming attractions. The physical theory called "supersymmetry" is as yet unproven, but its proof will unite the four fundamental forces of nature--electromagnetism, gravity, and the strong and weak nuclear forces--and lead to the so-called Grand Unified Theory that physicists have long quested after. The theory underlying supersymmetry posits that every particle has a "superpartner" (a quark has a "squark," an electron a "selectron," and so on), whose existence can be adduced by observable behavior. Some of these superpartners, such as the conjectured Higgs bosons, are "really a new kind of matter," suggests physicist Gordon Kane in Supersymmetry.
The experimental proof required to validate supersymmetry will soon be available, when reconfigured particle accelerators at the Fermilab in Illinois and CERN in Switzerland go on line. These accelerators will be powerful enough to "smash" particles at hitherto unknown levels of energy. They will also be enormously expensive, Kane adds, a cost he justifies by insisting that "Society always comes out ahead, even from a purely financial perspective, when it builds such facilities, because new developments lead to 'spinoffs' that in turn lead to multibillion-dollar industries." Society will come out ahead in another way, Kane confidently predicts, with supersymmetry's providing knowledge of how the world really works. Accessible and thought-provoking, Kane's book offers a glimpse of that knowledge to come. --Gregory McNamee [via]