If necessary, he puts his ideas to paper while sitting in an airplane or an airport lounge. Ellis is still publishing on an almost weekly basis.
He often addresses the question of where physics could be heading beyond the Standard Model. There are many indications that antimatter could pave the way into the new era.
So far, the formulas of the Standard Model predict almost everything the detectors are measuring. There is only one phenomenon where they fail, however: They cannot explain the whereabouts of antimatter.
To investigate the mystery, Ellis uses his formulas to feel his way into the first one-billionth of a second after the Big Bang. In this earliest period of the universe, he speculates, the laws of nature were quasi frozen in their current state. That was when matter and antimatter parted ways.
The good thing about the LHC is that it accelerates protons strongly enough to achieve energies that were typical during this decisive era. This in turn makes theories that describe these processes verifiable. At the beginning of the year, engineers increased the performance of their super-accelerator even further. Since then, a tsunami of data has swept from the detectors to the computer center. And the more accurately the properties of the Higgs boson can be defined, the clearer will the contours of the new physics become. "We'll know more by the end of this year," Ellis promises.
And what if the predictions of the Standard Model are confirmed once again? What if the study of anti-atoms uncovers no differences at all between matter and antimatter?
Ellis wouldn't be a good theoretician if he weren't prepared for this eventuality. "Then the course was set even earlier," he explains. In that case, the fate of the universe must have been decided not in the first billionth but in the first trillionth of a second. "In terms of the theory, this is a huge difference," says Ellis.
Ellis has already dreamed up scenarios of how all of this could have unfolded. Ghostlike neutrinos apparently play a key role.
Translated from the German by Christopher Sultan