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Chaotic Strings: A New Viewpoint for Particle Physics

Por: | 22 de mayo de 2013

PHY094 - Groote

In the process of scientific discovery, researchers have developed various means to amplify their own capabilities. Modern elementary particle physics, for example, is a field that aims to look into the incredibly micro world of what matter is made of. To do this, scientists need to access higher and higher energy levels and, consequently, need larger and larger instruments to look closer and closer into matter. A noteworthy large-scale instrument is the Large Hadron Collider on the border between France and Switzerland. The Large Hadron Collider is a huge ring accelerator, with a perimeter of 27 km, used to examine elementary particles.

In their task of peering deeper and deeper into matter, even large accelerators are restricted because we cannot construct one larger than the Earth, on Earth. In this sense, Earth-bound accelerator technology will soon reach its functional limits. Physicists are, therefore, also looking for energetic particles from outside Earth that can break these acceleration barriers, for example, particles found in natural ‘accelerators’ such as starburst galaxies. But the search is slow and the chance to find such particles is very low. In the progress to new subatomic levels, a new approach for systematic research on elementary particles and forces is required. But how and where can we find such a new approach?

Some of the greatest scientific approaches have relied on chance. Alexander Fleming would not have discovered penicillin if he had cleaned his vessels, and August Kekulé may not have discovered the structure of benzene if he had not dreamt of a snake that bit its tail. The discoveries of Christian Beck, who in the 1990s looked for properties of an iterative object called a chaotic string, also rested largely on chance. In looking for chaotic behaviour and scanning the self-energy of this string, he was surprised to find a relatively smooth dependence of the self-energy on the coupling parameter, a quantity that shows how strong an interaction is. Further investigation of the relation showed inclines, declines and valleys, or points where the self-energy takes minimal values. As is known, minimal values are preferred by most physical systems in nature, and on investigating the corresponding coupling parameter, Beck found the value of approximately 1/137, well known to physicists as the electromagnetic coupling constant.

This was not just a coincidence. Beck’s research team unveiled many other parallels to physics when investigating different species of chaotic strings. The locations of the minima can be identified with the masses of elementary particles of the known world. What’s more, these analogies allow scientists to predict the masses of yet unknown and unmeasured particles. Because the coupling parameters of the chaotic strings can be identified with existing couplings in known elementary forces, the behaviour of the dependence of these forces on the energy can be predicted, leading to a grand unification of the forces at certain (very high) energies. At moderate energies, there is plenty of room for dark matter, while the excitation of the string itself serves as a source of dark energy. Finally, chaotic strings can explain how usual space and time can emerge at a special branching point of the chaotic strings — a modern way of looking at the Big Bang, the creation of energy and matter 13.7 billion years ago.

An important concern in frontier scientific research, especially at this scale of complexity, is reliability. When Galileo Galilei assembled his first telescope, he had a simple means of convincing the sovereign looking through his instrument toward the ocean: ships seen through the glass appeared some time later, visible to the naked eye. As the observed objects become smaller and as the instruments themselves grow larger and ever more complex, it becomes vital to verify the findings of these instruments. The mathematical instruments of chaotic strings are at hand, and there is still a lot more to be done, but it is still difficult to achieve the resolutions we seek with any physical instrumentation to probe this subatomic world.

The exciting research I am involved in aims to understand the characteristics of chaotic strings, to ensure their reliability, and, in doing so, to look at the fundamental constituents of matter and their relation to space and time beyond existing theories. At the moment, we are both fascinated and puzzled by the interaction of the strings — like the chief character of C.S. Lewis' Perelandra in his description of intertwining strings. After the picture had settled, he was able to distinguish objects in their ‘living’ and ‘dying’. In the same way, once we unravel the puzzling picture of string interactions, we will be able to distinguish objects of the ‘real world’ in their creation and extinction. It can be expected that the instrument of chaotic strings can bring humankind closer to a new understanding of the world.

Stefan Groote
University of Tartu

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