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Sheldon Glashow - Towards a Unified Theory

Sheldon Glashow - Towards a Unified Theory

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Published by Parag Mahajani
In 1956, when I began doing theoretical physics, the study of elementary particles was like a patchwork quilt. Electrodynamics, weak interactions, and strong interactions were clearly separate disciplines, separately taught and separately studied. There was no coherent theory that described them all. Developments such as the observation of parity violation, the successes of quantum electrodynamics, the discovery of hadron resonances and the appearance of strangeness were well-defined parts of the picture, but they could not be easily fitted together.
Things have changed. Today we have what has been called a “standard theory” of elementary particle physics in which strong, weak, and electro- magnetic interactions all arise from a local symmetry principle. It is, in a sense, a complete and apparently correct theory, offering a qualitative description of all particle phenomena and precise quantitative predictions in many instances. There is no experimental data that contradicts the theory. In principle, if not yet in practice, all experimental data can be expressed in terms of a small number of “fundamental” masses and cou- pling constants. The theory we now have is an integral work of art: the patchwork quilt has become a tapestry.
In 1956, when I began doing theoretical physics, the study of elementary particles was like a patchwork quilt. Electrodynamics, weak interactions, and strong interactions were clearly separate disciplines, separately taught and separately studied. There was no coherent theory that described them all. Developments such as the observation of parity violation, the successes of quantum electrodynamics, the discovery of hadron resonances and the appearance of strangeness were well-defined parts of the picture, but they could not be easily fitted together.
Things have changed. Today we have what has been called a “standard theory” of elementary particle physics in which strong, weak, and electro- magnetic interactions all arise from a local symmetry principle. It is, in a sense, a complete and apparently correct theory, offering a qualitative description of all particle phenomena and precise quantitative predictions in many instances. There is no experimental data that contradicts the theory. In principle, if not yet in practice, all experimental data can be expressed in terms of a small number of “fundamental” masses and cou- pling constants. The theory we now have is an integral work of art: the patchwork quilt has become a tapestry.

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Published by: Parag Mahajani on Aug 21, 2013
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