Blogging ICHEP 2010

A collective forum about the 35th edition of
the International Conference on High Energy Physics (Paris, July 2010)

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Trouble with Flavor

Flavor physics gives me a headache. Unfortunately, this sub-field of particle physics is where new particles and interactions are very likely to show up, so it's essential to follow all hints from latest observations. Yesterday at ICHEP Gino Isidori gave a nice theoretical summary of where we stand.

Overall, the standard model frustratingly well explains the multitude of observed transitions between quarks and leptons of different generations. If we extend the standard model with generic non-renormalizable 4-fermion operators, their coefficients are extremely constrained by experiment. The scale suppressing certain flavor-violating operators has to be at least 100 TeV in the bs sector, at least 1000 TeV in the bd sector, and the astounding $10^5$ TeV in the ds (kaon) sector. It means that if any new particles exist at the TeV scale they better be very careful not to destroy the approximate flavor symmetries of the standard model, as otherwise they would generate effective 4-fermion operators with large coefficients.

That probably means that at the TeV scale there is no new particles beyond those of the standard model. There is still some hope, however, that the above is not true, and this forlorn hope is fueled by three results that are currently in tension with the standard model predictions. One is the widely discussed the D0 measurement of the same-sign dimuon asymmetry which points to new contributions to $B_s-\bar B_s$ meson mixing at 3.2 sigma level. The 2 other less widely known discrepancies are:
  • Various determinations of the beta angle in the unitarity triangle (determined most precisely from $B_d \to J/psi K_S$ decays, and from the $\epsilon_K$ parameter in the kaon mixing) do not agree very well. The current discrepancy is around 2.5 sigma.
  • The branching fraction of the $B \to \tau \nu$ decay measured by BaBar and Belle is currently two times larger than the standard model prediction. Given the errors, the current discrepancy with the standard model is around 3 sigma.
These are most likely flukes, unavoidable among such a huge number of measurements, but it won't hurt to keep an eye on those.

Theorists have put up several models that may fit all up-to-date flavor observables and explain the existing anomalies. For Gino, the favorite model is the 2-Higgs doublet model. In this scenario, the Higgs sector contains additional 4 scalar particles who can mediate flavor violating transitions. The point is that they do it in a very respectful way, including the suppression by small CKM angles and by small quark masses, so they not to produce excessively large effects even when the new Higgs particles are at the TeV scale. The quark mass suppression leads to the desired pattern where the smalest new contributions come in the kaon sector, while the largest occur in the Bs meson sector. This scenario also predicts new contributions to $B_s \to \mu \mu$ decay and to the neutron electric dipole moment at the level of the current sensitivity, so fresh tests of this idea are soon to come.

For more details, see the ICHEP'10 slides. As a bonus, a very accurate rendering of theorists waiting for hints of new physics in flavor physics.


  1. Well, the statement that the experimentally apparent flavor conservation implies *no* new physics is surely damn to fast, isn't it?

    One can construct - or adjust - new physics models to conserve flavor in analogous ways as the SM is. Flavor-blind (non-smelling) interactions, approximate or exact flavor symmetries, and so on.

  2. B_d to \tau\nu doesn't conserve electric charge. Is B_d to \tau\tau anomalously large?

  3. Sorry, it was meant to be B_u, that is charged B-mesons. Corrected.


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