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Unified field theory

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Unified field theory
"Unified theory" redirects here. For the band, see Unified Theory (band).
In physics, a unified field theory (UFT), occasionally referred to as a uniform field theory,
[1]
is a type of field
theory that allows all that is usually thought of as fundamental forces and elementary particles to be written in terms
of a single field. There is no accepted unified field theory, and thus it remains an open line of research. The term was
coined by Einstein, who attempted to unify the general theory of relativity with electromagnetism. The "theory of
everything" and Grand Unified Theory are closely related to unified field theory, but differ by not requiring the basis
of nature to be fields, and often by attempting to explain physical constants of nature.
This article describes unified field theory as it is currently understood in connection with quantum theory. Earlier
attempts based on classical physics are described in the article on classical unified field theories.
There may be no a priori reason why the correct description of nature has to be a unified field theory. However, this
goal has led to a great deal of progress in modern theoretical physics and continues to motivate research.
Introduction
According to the current understanding of physics, forces are not transmitted directly between objects, but instead
are described by intermediary entities called fields. All four of the known fundamental forces are mediated by fields,
which in the Standard Model of particle physics result from exchange of gauge bosons. Specifically the four
interactions to be unified are:
Strong interaction: the interaction responsible for holding quarks together to form neutrons and protons, and
holding neutrons and protons together to form nuclei. The exchange particle that mediates this force is the gluon.
Electromagnetic interaction: the familiar interaction that acts on electrically charged particles. The photon is the
exchange particle for this force.
Weak interaction: a short-range interaction responsible for some forms of radioactivity, that acts on electrons,
neutrinos, and quarks. It is governed by the W and Z bosons.
Gravitational interaction: a long-range attractive interaction that acts on all particles. The postulated exchange
particle has been named the graviton.
Modern unified field theory attempts to bring these four interactions together into a single framework.
History
The first successful classical unified field theory was developed by James Clerk Maxwell. In 1820 Hans Christian
rsted discovered that electric currents exerted forces on magnets, while in 1831, Michael Faraday made the
observation that time-varying magnetic fields could induce electric currents. Until then, electricity and magnetism
had been thought of as unrelated phenomena. In 1864, Maxwell published his famous paper on a dynamical theory
of the electromagnetic field. This was the first example of a theory that was able to encompass previous separate
field theories (namely electricity and magnetism) to provide a unifying theory of electromagnetism. By 1905, Albert
Einstein had used the constancy of the speed of light in Maxwell's theory to unify our notions of space and time into
an entity we now call spacetime and in 1915 he expanded this theory of special relativity to a description of gravity,
General Relativity, using a field to describe the curving geometry of four-dimensional spacetime.
In the years following the creation of the general theory, a large number of physicists and mathematicians
enthusiastically participated in the attempt to unify the then-known fundamental interactions.
[2]
In view of later
developments in this domain, of particular interest are the theories of Hermann Weyl of 1919, who introduced the
concept of an (electromagnetic) gauge field in a classical field theory
[3]
and, two years later, that of Theodor Kaluza,
who extended General Relativity to five dimensions.
[4]
Continuing in this latter direction, Oscar Klein proposed in
Unified field theory
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1926 that the fourth spatial dimension be curled up into a small, unobserved circle. In KaluzaKlein theory, the
gravitational curvature of the extra spatial direction behaves as an additional force similar to electromagnetism.
These and other models of electromagnetism and gravity were pursued by Albert Einstein in his attempts at a
classical unified field theory. By 1930 Einstein had already considered the EinsteinMaxwellDirac System
[Dongen]. This system is (heuristically) the super-classical [Varadarajan] limit of (the not mathematically
well-defined) Quantum Electrodynamics. One can easily extend this system to include the weak and strong nuclear
forces to get the EinsteinYangMillsDirac System.
Modern progress
In 1963 American physicist Sheldon Glashow proposed that the weak nuclear force and electricity and magnetism
could arise from a partially unified electroweak theory. In 1967, Pakistani Abdus Salam and American Steven
Weinberg independently revised Glashow's theory by having the masses for the W particle and Z particle arise
through spontaneous symmetry breaking with the Higgs mechanism. This unified theory was governed by the
exchange of four particles: the photon for electromagnetic interactions, a neutral Z particle and two charged W
particles for weak interaction. As a result of the spontaneous symmetry breaking, the weak force becomes short
range and the Z and W bosons acquire masses of 80.4 and 91.2GeV/c^2, respectively. Their theory was first given
experimental support by the discovery of weak neutral currents in 1973. In 1983, the Z and W bosons were first
produced at CERN by Carlo Rubbia's team. For their insights, Salam, Glashow and Weinberg were awarded the
Nobel Prize in Physics in 1979. Carlo Rubbia and Simon van der Meer received the Prize in 1984.
After Gerardus 't Hooft showed the GlashowWeinbergSalam electroweak interactions was mathematically
consistent, the electroweak theory became a template for further attempts at unifying forces. In 1974, Sheldon
Glashow and Howard Georgi proposed unifying the strong and electroweak interactions into GeorgiGlashow
model, the first Grand Unified Theory, which would have observable effects for energies much above 100 GeV.
Since then there have been several proposals for Grand Unified Theories, e.g. the PatiSalam model, although none
is currently universally accepted. A major problem for experimental tests of such theories is the energy scale
involved, which is well beyond the reach of current accelerators. Grand Unified Theories make predictions for the
relative strengths of the strong, weak, and electromagnetic forces, and in 1991 LEP determined that supersymmetric
theories have the correct ratio of couplings for a GeorgiGlashow Grand Unified Theory. Many Grand Unified
Theories (but not PatiSalam) predict that the proton can decay, and if this were to be seen, details of the decay
products could give hints at more aspects of the Grand Unified Theory. It is at present unknown if the proton can
decay, although experiments have determined a lower bound of 10
35
years for its lifetime.
Current status
Gravity has yet to be successfully included in a theory of everything. Simply trying to combine the graviton with the
strong and electroweak interactions runs into fundamental difficulties since the resulting theory is not
renormalizable. Theoretical physicists have not yet formulated a widely accepted, consistent theory that combines
general relativity and quantum mechanics. The incompatibility of the two theories remains an outstanding problem
in the field of physics. Some theoretical physicists currently believe that a quantum theory of general relativity may
require frameworks other than field theory itself, such as string theory or loop quantum gravity. Some models in
string theory that are promising by way of realizing our familiar standard model are the perturbative heterotic string
models, 11-dimensional M-theory, Singular geometries (e.g. orbifold and orientifold), D-branes and other branes,
flux compactification and warped geometry, non-perturbative type IIB superstring solutions (F-theory).
[5]
Unified field theory
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Notes
[1] See, e.g., Beyond Art: A Third Culture (http:/ / books. google. com/ books?id=xkk6U42Zl_sC& pg=PA199& lpg=PA199& dq="uniform+
field+ theory"& source=bl& ots=cc8s2X6zEG& sig=zpkyzWVAIaWOxUStQta-aPBehQA& hl=en& ei=5mjuTNqWCIK0lQfCrvniDA&
sa=X& oi=book_result& ct=result& resnum=8& ved=0CEkQ6AEwBw#v=onepage& q="uniform field theory"& f=false) page 199. Compare
Uniform field theory.
[2] See Catherine Goldstein & Jim Ritter (2003) "The varieties of unity: sounding unified theories 1920-1930" in A. Ashtekar, et al. (eds.),
Revisiting the Foundations of Relativistic Physics, Dordrecht, Kluwer, p. 93-149; Vladimir Vizgin (1994), Unified Field Theories in the First
Third of the 20th Century, Basel, Birkhuser; Hubert Goenner On the History of Unified Field Theories (http:/ / relativity. livingreviews. org/
Articles/ lrr-2004-2/ ).
[3] Erhard Scholtz (ed) (2001), Hermann Weyl's Raum - Zeit- Materie and a General Introduction to His Scientific Work, Basel, Birkhuser.
[4] Daniela Wuensch (2003), "The fifth dimension: Theodor Kaluza's ground-breaking idea", Annalen der Physik, vol. 12, p. 519542.
[5] http:/ / arxiv.org/ abs/ 0812. 1372
References
Jeroen van van Dongen Einstein's Unification, Cambridge University Press (July 26, 2010)
Varadarajan, V.S. Supersymmetry for Mathematicians: An Introduction (Courant Lecture Notes), American
Mathematical Society (July 2004)
External links
On the History of Unified Field Theories (http:/ / relativity. livingreviews. org/ Articles/ lrr-2004-2/ ), by Hubert
F. M. Goenner
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