Major theories

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M-theory. M-theory is a theory in physics that unifies all consistent versions of superstring theory.


The existence of such a theory was first conjectured by Edward Witten at the string theory conference at the University of Southern California in the summer of 1995. Witten's announcement initiated a flurry of research activity known as the second superstring revolution. Superstring theory. 'Superstring theory' is a shorthand for supersymmetric string theory because unlike bosonic string theory, it is the version of string theory that incorporates fermions and supersymmetry.

Superstring theory

Since the second superstring revolution the five superstring theories are regarded as different limits of a single theory tentatively called M-theory, or simply string theory. Background[edit] The deepest problem in theoretical physics is harmonizing the theory of general relativity, which describes gravitation and applies to large-scale structures (stars, galaxies, super clusters), with quantum mechanics, which describes the other three fundamental forces acting on the atomic scale.

The development of a quantum field theory of a force invariably results in infinite (and therefore useless) probabilities. Grand Unified Theory. A Grand Unified Theory (GUT) is a model in particle physics in which at high energy, the three gauge interactions of the Standard Model which define the electromagnetic, weak, and strong interactions, are merged into one single interaction characterized by one larger gauge symmetry and thus one unified coupling constant.

During the grand unification epoch, the gauge force separated from the gravitational force. Models that do not unify all interactions using one simple Lie group as the gauge symmetry, but do so using semisimple groups, can exhibit similar properties and are sometimes referred to as Grand Unified Theories as well. Unifying gravity with the other three interactions would provide a theory of everything (TOE), rather than a GUT. Supersymmetry. Supersymmetry differs notably from currently known symmetries in that it establishes a symmetry between classical and quantum physics, which up to now has not been observed in any other domain.


While any number of bosons can occupy the same quantum state, for fermions this is not possible because of the exclusion principle, which allows only one fermion in a given state. But when the occupation numbers become large, quantum physics approaches the classical limit. Gauge theory. The term gauge refers to redundant degrees of freedom in the Lagrangian.

Gauge theory

The transformations between possible gauges, called gauge transformations, form a Lie group—referred to as the symmetry group or the gauge group of the theory. Associated with any Lie group is the Lie algebra of group generators. For each group generator there necessarily arises a corresponding vector field called the gauge field. Gauge fields are included in the Lagrangian to ensure its invariance under the local group transformations (called gauge invariance). Lattice gauge theory. Basics[edit] In lattice gauge theory, the spacetime is Wick rotated into Euclidean space and discretized into a lattice with sites separated by distance and connected by links.

Lattice gauge theory

In the most commonly considered cases, such as lattice QCD, fermion fields are defined at lattice sites (which leads to fermion doubling), while the gauge fields are defined on the links. Lattice field theory. Just as in all lattice models, numerical simulation gives access to field configurations that are not accessible to perturbation theory, such as solitons.

Lattice field theory

Likewise, non-trivial vacuum states can be discovered and probed. The method is particularly appealing for the quantization of a gauge theory. Effective field theory. The renormalization group[edit] Presently, effective field theories are discussed in the context of the renormalization group (RG) where the process of integrating out short distance degrees of freedom is made systematic.

Effective field theory

Although this method is not sufficiently concrete to allow the actual construction of effective field theories, the gross understanding of their usefulness becomes clear through a RG analysis. This method also lends credence to the main technique of constructing effective field theories, through the analysis of symmetries. If there is a single mass scale M in the microscopic theory, then the effective field theory can be seen as an expansion in 1/M. The construction of an effective field theory accurate to some power of 1/M requires a new set of free parameters at each order of the expansion in 1/M.

Electroweak interaction. In particle physics, the electroweak interaction is the unified description of two of the four known fundamental interactions of nature: electromagnetism and the weak interaction.

Electroweak interaction

Although these two forces appear very different at everyday low energies, the theory models them as two different aspects of the same force. Above the unification energy, on the order of 100 GeV, they would merge into a single electroweak force. Thus if the universe is hot enough (approximately 1015 K, a temperature exceeded until shortly after the Big Bang) then the electromagnetic force and weak force merge into a combined electroweak force. During the electroweak epoch, the electroweak force separated from the strong force. Quantum chromodynamics. In theoretical physics, quantum chromodynamics (QCD) is a theory of strong interactions, a fundamental force describing the interactions between quarks and gluons which make up hadrons such as the proton, neutron and pion.

Quantum chromodynamics

QCD is a type of quantum field theory called a non-abelian gauge theory with symmetry group SU(3). The QCD analog of electric charge is a property called 'color'. Gluons are the force carrier of the theory, like photons are for the electromagnetic force quantum electrodynamics. Quantum field theory. For example, quantum electrodynamics (QED) has one electron field and one photon field; quantum chromodynamics (QCD) has one field for each type of quark; and, in condensed matter, there is an atomic displacement field that gives rise to phonon particles.

Quantum field theory

Edward Witten describes QFT as "by far" the most difficult theory in modern physics.[1] In QFT, quantum mechanical interactions between particles are described by interaction terms between the corresponding underlying fields. QFT interaction terms are similar in spirit to those between charges with electric and magnetic fields in Maxwell's equations. Standard Model. The Standard Model of particle physics is a theory concerning the electromagnetic, weak, and strong nuclear interactions, which mediate the dynamics of the known subatomic particles. It was developed throughout the latter half of the 20th century, as a collaborative effort of scientists around the world.[1] The current formulation was finalized in the mid-1970s upon experimental confirmation of the existence of quarks. Since then, discoveries of the top quark (1995), the tau neutrino (2000), and more recently the Higgs boson (2013), have given further credence to the Standard Model.