Following the spectacular success of quantum electrodynamics

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Following the spectacular success of quantum electrodynamics

Post by jancancook on Thu Nov 10, 2011 7:34 am

Following the spectacular success of quantum electrodynamics in the 1950s, attempts were undertaken to formulate a similar theory of the weak nuclear force. This culminated around 1968 in a unified theory of electromagnetism and weak interactions by Sheldon Glashow, Steven Weinberg, and Abdus Salam, for which they shared the 1979 Nobel Prize in physics.[6] Their electroweak theory postulated not only the W bosons necessary to explain beta decay, but also a new Z boson that had never been observed.
The fact that the W and Z bosons have mass while photons are massless was a major obstacle in developing electroweak theory. These particles are accurately described by an SU(2) gauge theory, but the bosons in a gauge theory must be massless. As a case in point, the photon is massless because electromagnetism is described by a U(1) gauge theory. Some mechanism is required to break the SU(2) symmetry, giving mass to the W and Z in the process. One explanation, the Higgs mechanism, was forwarded by Peter Higgs and others in the mid 1960s. It predicts the existence of yet another new particle; the Higgs boson.
The combination of the SU(2) gauge theory of the weak interaction, the electromagnetic interaction, and the Higgs mechanism is known as the Glashow-Weinberg-Salam model. These days it is widely accepted as one of the pillars of the Standard Model of particle physics. As of mid-2010, despite intensive search for the Higgs boson carried out at CERN and Fermilab, its existence remains the main prediction of the Standard Model not to be confirmed experimentally.


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