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String Theory, Supersymmetry, Unification, And All That

String Theory, Supersymmetry, Unification, And All That

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String theory, supersymmetry, unification, and all that
John H. Schwarz
*
California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, California 91125 
Nathan Seiberg
Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton, New Jersey 08540 
String theory and supersymmetry are theoretical ideas that go beyond the standard model of particlephysics and show promise for unifying all forces. After a brief introduction to supersymmetry, theauthors discuss the prospects for its experimental discovery in the near future. They then show howthe magic of supersymmetry allows us to solve certain quantum field theories exactly, thus leading tonew insights about field theory dynamics related to electric-magnetic duality. The discussion of superstring theory starts with its perturbation expansion, which exhibits new features including‘‘stringy geometry.’’ The authors then turn to more recent nonperturbative developments. Using newdualities, all known superstring theories are unified, and their strong-coupling behavior is clarified. Acentral ingredient is the existence of extended objects called branes. [S0034-6861(99)01402-6]
I. INTRODUCTION
The standard model of particle physics (see the articleby Gaillard, Grannis, and Sciulli in this volume) is abeautiful theory that accounts for all known phenomenaup to energies of order 100 GeV. Its consistency relieson the intricacies of quantum field theory (see Wilczek’sarticle), and its agreement with experiment is spectacu-lar. However, there are many open problems with thestandard model. In particular, we would like to knowwhat lies beyond the standard model. What is the phys-ics at energies above 100 GeV?One suggestion for physics at nearby energies of order1 TeV (
1000 GeV), which we shall review below, issupersymmetry. At higher energies the various interac-tions of the standard model can be unified into a grandunified theory. Finally, at energies of the order of thePlanck energy,
c
2
(
c
/
G
)
1/2
c
2
10
19
GeV, thetheory must be modified. This energy scale is deter-mined on dimensional grounds using Newton’s constant
G
, the speed of light
c
, and Planck’s constant
. It de-termines the characteristic energy scale of any theorythat incorporates gravitation in a relativistic andquantum-mechanical setting. At this energy scale thegravitational interactions become strong and cannot beneglected. How to combine the elaborate structure of quantum field theory and the standard model with Ein-stein’s theory of gravity—general relativity—is one of the biggest challenges in theoretical physics today.String theory is the only viable attempt to achieve this!There are various problems that arise when one at-tempts to combine general relativity and quantum fieldtheory. The field theorist would point to the breakdownof renormalizability—the fact that short-distance singu-larities become so severe that the usual methods fordealing with them no longer work. By replacing point-like particles with one-dimensional extended strings, asthe fundamental objects,
superstring theory
certainlyovercomes the problem of perturbative nonrenormaliz-ability. A relativist might point to a different set of prob-lems including the issue of how to understand the causalstructure of space-time when the metric has quantum-mechanical fluctuations. There are also a host of prob-lems associated with black holes, such as the fundamen-tal origin of their thermodynamic properties and anapparent loss of quantum coherence. The latter, if true,would imply a breakdown in the basic structure of quan-tum mechanics. The relativist’s set of issues cannot beaddressed properly in a perturbative setup, but recentdiscoveries are leading to nonperturbative understand-ings that should help in addressing them. Most stringtheorists expect that the theory will provide satisfyingresolutions of these problems without any revision in thebasic structure of quantum mechanics. Indeed, there areindications that someday quantum mechanics will beviewed as an implication of (or at least a necessary in-gredient of) superstring theory.String theory arose in the late 1960s in an attempt todescribe strong nuclear forces. In 1971 it was discoveredthat the inclusion of fermions requires world-sheet su-persymmetry. This led to the development of space-timesupersymmetry, which was eventually recognized to be ageneric feature of consistent string theories—hence thename
superstrings
. String theory was a quite active sub- ject for about five years, but it encountered serious the-oretical difficulties in describing the strong nuclearforces, and QCD came along as a convincing theory of the strong interaction. As a result the subject went intodecline and was abandoned by all but a few diehards forover a decade. In 1974 two of the diehards (Joe ¨l Scherkand John Schwarz) proposed that the problems of stringtheory could be turned into virtues if it were used as aframework for realizing Einstein’s old dream of unifica-tion, rather than as a theory of hadrons and strongnuclear forces. In particular, the massless spin-two par-ticle in the string spectrum, which had no sensible had-ronic interpretation, was identified as the graviton andshown to interact at low energies precisely as requiredby general relativity. One implication of this change inviewpoint was that the characteristic size of a string be-
*
Electronic address: jhs@theory.caltech.edu
Electronic address: seiberg@ias.edu
S112
Reviews of Modern Physics, Vol. 71, No. 2, Centenary 1999 0034-6861/99/71(2)/112(9)/$16.80 ©1999 The American Physical Society
 
came the Planck length,
L
/
cM 
(
G
/
c
3
)
1/2
10
33
cm, some 20 orders of magnitude smaller thanpreviously envisaged. More refined analyses lead to astring scale
L
S
that is a couple of orders of magnitudelarger than the Planck length. In any case, experimentsat existing accelerators cannot resolve distances shorterthan about 10
16
cm, which explains why the point-particle approximation of ordinary quantum field theo-ries is so successful.
II. SUPERSYMMETRY
Supersymmetry is a symmetry relating bosons and fer-mions, according to which every fermion has a bosonicsuperpartner and vice versa. For example, fermionicquarks are partners of bosonic
squarks
. By this we meanthat quarks and squarks belong to the same irreduciblerepresentation of the supersymmetry. Similarly, bosonicgluons (the gauge fields of QCD) are partners of fermi-onic
gluinos
. If supersymmetry were an unbroken sym-metry, particles and their superpartners would have ex-actly the same mass. Since this is certainly not the case,supersymmetry must be a broken symmetry (if it is rel-evant at all). In supersymmetric theories containinggravity, such as supergravity and superstring theories,supersymmetry is a gauge symmetry. Specifically, the su-perpartner of the graviton, called the
gravitino
, is thegauge particle for local supersymmetry.
 A. Fermionic dimensions of space-time
Another presentation of supersymmetry is based onthe notion of 
superspace
. We do not change the struc-ture of space-time but we add structure to it. We startwith the usual four coordinates,
,
 x
,
 y
,
z
, and addfour odd dimensions,
 
 
(
 
1, . . . ,4). These odd di-mensions are fermionic and anticommute:
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
.They are quantum dimensions that have no classicalanalog, which makes it difficult to visualize or to under-stand them intuitively. However, they can be treatedformally.The fact that the odd directions are anticommutinghas important consequences. Consider a function of su-perspace,
 X 
,
 
 
 X 
 
 
 
 
 X 
••
 
4
 X 
.Since the square of any
 
is zero and there are only fourdifferent
 
’s, the expansion in powers of 
 
terminates atthe fourth order. Therefore a function of superspaceincludes only a finite number of functions of 
(16in this case). Hence we can replace any function of superspace
(
 X 
,
 
) with the component functions
 
(
 X 
),
 
(
 X 
), . . . . These include bosons
 
(
 X 
), . . . andfermions
 
(
 X 
), . . . . This is one way of understandingthe pairing between bosons and fermions.A supersymmetric theory looks like an ordinarytheory with degrees of freedom and interactions thatsatisfy certain symmetry requirements. Indeed, a super-symmetric quantum field theory is a special case of amore generic quantum field theory rather than being atotally different kind of theory. In this sense, supersym-metry by itself is not a very radical proposal. However,the fact that bosons and fermions come in pairs in su-persymmetric theories has important consequences. Insome loop diagrams, like those in Fig. 1, the bosons andthe fermions cancel each other. This boson-fermion can-cellation is at the heart of most of the applications of supersymmetry. If superpartners are present in the TeVrange, this cancellation solves the gauge hierarchy prob-lem (see below). This cancellation is also one of the un-derlying reasons for our ability to analyze supersymmet-ric theories exactly.
B. Supersymmetry in the TeV range
There are several indications (discussed below) thatsupersymmetry is realized in the TeV range, so that thesuperpartners of the particles of the standard modelhave masses of the order of a few TeV or less. This is animportant prediction, because the next generation of ex-periments at Fermilab and CERN will explore the en-ergy range where at least some of the superpartners areexpected to be found. Therefore, within a decade ortwo, we should know whether supersymmetry exists atthis energy scale. If supersymmetry is indeed discoveredin the TeV range, this will amount to the discovery of the new odd dimensions and will be a major change inour view of space and time. It would be a remarkablesuccess for theoretical physics—predicting such a deepnotion without any experimental input!
1. The gauge hierarchy problem
The
gauge hierarchy problem
is essentially a problemof dimensional analysis. Why is the characteristic energyof the standard model, which is given by the mass of theW boson
100 GeV, so much smaller than the char-acteristic scale of gravity, the Planck mass
10
19
GeV? It should be stressed that in quantum fieldtheory this problem is not merely an aesthetic problem,but also a serious technical problem. Even if such a hi-erarchy is present in some approximation, radiative cor-rections tend to destroy it. More explicitly, divergentloop diagrams restore dimensional analysis and move
.The main theoretical motivation for supersymmetry atthe TeV scale is the hierarchy problem. As we men-tioned, in supersymmetric theories some loop diagramsvanish—or become less divergent—due to cancellationsbetween bosons and fermions. In particular the loop dia-gram restoring dimensional analysis is canceled as in Fig.1. Therefore, in its simplest form, supersymmetry solvesthe technical aspects of the hierarchy problem. More so-
FIG. 1. Boson-fermion cancellation in some loop diagrams.
S113
J. H. Schwarz and N. Seiberg: String theory, supersymmetry, unification . . .
Rev. Mod. Phys., Vol. 71, No. 2, Centenary 1999
 
phisticated ideas, known as dynamical supersymmetrybreaking, also solve the aesthetic problem.
2. The supersymmetric standard model
The minimal supersymmetric extension of the stan-dard model (the MSSM) contains superpartners for allthe particles of the standard model, as we have alreadyindicated. Some of their coupling constants are deter-mined by supersymmetry and the known coupling con-stants of the standard model. Most of the remaining cou-pling constants and the masses of the superpartnersdepend on the details of supersymmetry breaking. Theseparameters are known as
soft breaking terms
. Variousphenomenological considerations already put strongconstraints on these unknown parameters but there isstill a lot of freedom in them. If supersymmetry is dis-covered, the new parameters will be measured. Thesenumbers will be extremely interesting as they will giveus a window into physics at higher energies.The MSSM must contain two electroweak doublets of Higgs fields. Whereas a single doublet can give mass toall quarks and charged leptons in the standard model,the MSSM requires one doublet to give mass to thecharge-2/3 quarks and another to give mass to thecharge-1/3 quarks and charged leptons. Correspond-ingly, electroweak symmetry breaking by the Higgsmechanism involves two Higgs fields’ obtaining vacuumexpectation values. The ratio, called tan
 
, is an impor-tant phenomenological parameter. In the standardmodel the Higgs mass is determined by the Higgsvacuum expectation value and the strength of Higgs self-coupling (coefficient of the
 
4
term in the potential). Insupersymmetry the latter is related to the strength of thegauge interactions. This leads to a prediction for themass of the lightest Higgs boson
h
in the MSSM. In theleading semiclassical approximation one can show that
h
cos 2
 
, where
91 GeV is the mass of the
boson. Due to the large mass of the top quark, radia-tive corrections to this bound can be quite important. Areasonably safe estimate is that
h
130 GeV, whichshould be compared to current experimental lowerbounds of about 80 GeV. The discovery of a relativelylight Higgs boson, which might precede the discovery of any superparticles, would be encouraging for supersym-metry. However, it should be pointed out that there arerather mild extensions of the MSSM in which the upperbound is significantly higher.It is useful to assign positive R parity to the knownparticles (including the Higgs) of the standard modeland negative R parity to their superpartners. For reason-able values of the new parameters (including the softbreaking terms) R parity is a good symmetry. In thiscase the lightest supersymmetric particle (called theLSP) is absolutely stable. It could be an important con-stituent of the dark matter of the universe.
3. Supersymmetric grand unification
The second motivation for supersymmetry in theTeV range comes from the idea of gauge unification.Recent experiments have yielded precise determinationsof the strengths of the SU(3)
SU(2)
U(1) gaugeinteractions—the analogs of the fine-structure constantfor these interactions. They are usually denoted by
 
3
,
 
2
, and
 
1
for the three factors in SU(3)
SU(2)
U(1).In quantum field theory these values depend on the en-ergy at which they are measured in a way that dependson the particle content of the theory. Using the mea-sured values of the coupling constants and the particlecontent of the standard model, one can extrapolate tohigher energies and determine the coupling constantsthere. The result is that the three coupling constants donot meet at the same point. However, when one repeatsthis extrapolation with the particles belonging to theminimal supersymmetric extension of the standardmodel, the three gauge-coupling constants meet at apoint,
GUT
, as sketched in Fig. 2. At that point thestrengths of the various gauge interactions become equaland the interactions can be unified into a
grand unifiedtheory
. Possible grand unified theories embed the knownSU(3)
SU(2)
U(1) gauge group into SU(5) or SO(10).How much significance should we assign to this re-sult? Two lines must meet at a point. Therefore, thereare only two surprises here. The first is that the third lineintersects the same point. The second more qualitativeone is that the unification scale,
GUT
, is at a reason-able value. Its value is consistent with the experimentalbound from proton decay, and it is a couple of orders of magnitude below the Planck scale, where gravity wouldneed to be taken into account. One could imagine thatthat there are other modifications of the standard modelthat achieve the same thing, so this is far from a proof of supersymmetry, but it is certainly encouraging circum-stantial evidence. It is an independent indication thatsuperpartner masses should be around a TeV.
C. Supersymmetric quantum field theories
Quantum field theory is notoriously complicated. It isa nonlinear system of an infinite number of coupled de-grees of freedom. Therefore, until recently when thepower of supersymmetry began to be exploited, therewere few exact results for quantum field theories (exceptin two dimensions). However, it has been realized re-
FIG. 2. Coupling-constant unification in supersymmetric theo-ries.
S114
J. H. Schwarz and N. Seiberg: String theory, supersymmetry, unification . . .
Rev. Mod. Phys., Vol. 71, No. 2, Centenary 1999

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