Infinite-dimensional symmetry opens up possibility of a new physics—and new particles

Infinite-dimensional symmetry opens up possibility of a new physics—and new particles
November 16, 2018, University of Warsaw

For a half-century, physicists have been trying to construct a theory that unites all four fundamental forces of nature, describes the known elementary particles and predicts the existence of new ones. So far, these attempts have not found experimental confirmation, and the Standard Model—an incomplete, but surprisingly effective theoretical construct—is still the best description of the quantum world.

In a recent paper in Physical Review Letters, Prof. Krzysztof Meissner from the Institute of Theoretical Physics, Faculty of Physics, University of Warsaw, and Prof. Hermann Nicolai from the Max-Planck-Institut für Gravitationsphysik in Potsdam have presented a new scheme generalizing the Standard Model that incorporates gravitation into the description. The new model applies a kind of symmetry not previously used in the description of elementary particles.

“For the first time, we have a scheme that precisely anticipates the composition of the fermions in the Standard Model—quarks and leptons—and does so with the proper electric charges. At the same time it includes gravity into the description. It is a huge surprise that the proper symmetry is the staggeringly huge symmetry group E10, virtually unknown mathematically. If further work confirms the role of this group, that will mean a radical change in our knowledge of the symmetries of nature,” Prof. Meissner says.

Although the dynamics is not yet understood, the scheme proposed by Professors Meissner and Nicolai makes specific predictions. It keeps the number of spin 1/2 fermions as in the Standard Model but on the other hand suggests the existence of new particles with very unusual properties. Importantly, at least some of them could be present in our immediate surroundings, and their detection should be within the possibilities of modern detection equipment. But that is a topic for a separate story.