Prediction in Particle Physics, Nila

Much is physics is reliant on predicting future events given our current knowledge of the universe. For example, we can calculate the exact trajectory of a certain thrown object, and we can also calculate exactly when it will reach the ground. The premise of this essentially is that we have information of the world and its conditions in the present, and we can use this information to know what will happen in the future. To illustrate, if we understand gravity, we can then predict with great accuracy when objects will fall, the orbits of various celestial bodies, the motion of the tides, etc.


One example of this is the Standard Model of particle physics. The Standard Model essentially categorizes various particles into distinct categories -- this includes all the particles of the universe that make up everything from stars to the objects in front of us (Hobbs). This model can be used to predict certain types of particles -- like the Higgs Boson -- long before we ever actually find that particle (Hobbs). In fact every single particle that has been predicted by this model has been found without fail (Hobbs). This is a prime example of prediction in physics; because of our current knowledge about the categorizations of particles that exist, we can predict the existence of particles we have yet to find.


But like most models, there are still limits. While it holds most types of particles, it is unable to account for gravity and dark matter (Hobbs). Like most models, it still has some faults and thus limits our ability to create accurate predictions. Physicists are on the search for a new, more accurate and more inclusive model of particles that would alleviate some of the gaps in the current model.


So this is one layer of limits to prediction in physics: the fact that our models may never be truly good enough. On a deeper note, even if our models do get incredibly accurate, we will never have enough information to predict everything that will happen in the universe. As Paul Davies describes, no matter how much we know in the moment, even if we know everything about the universe right now, there might always be more information that comes from a “naked infinity” in the future that could drastically change our predictions of the future (Davies). In this way, there are layers of scientific exploration we have to consider when we make these predictions. We are bound by not only the restraint of human ability to make accurate models, but also by the impossibility of knowing all information, and also the somewhat randomness that exists within the universe.

CERN. “CERN Accelerating Science.” The Standard Model | CERN,

Davies, Paul. “What Can't Be Predicted in Physics?” Closer to Truth, Closer to Truth,