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Yes, we've made progress, but we're not there yet. Not only that, but it's not even a certainty that there even is a theory of everything.

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The electromagnetic, weak, strong and gravitational forces are the four fundamental forces known to exist in this Universe. The laws of nature, as we've discovered them so far, can be broken down into four fundamental forces: the force of gravity, governed by General Relativity, and the three quantum forces that govern particles and their interactions, the strong nuclear force, the weak nuclear force, and the electromagnetic force.

Supersymmetry, Grand Unification and String Theory Documentary Lecture

The earliest attempts at a unified theory of everything came shortly after the publication of General Relativity, before we understood that there were fundamental laws to govern nuclear forces. These ideas, known as Kaluza-Klein theories, sought to unify gravitation with electromagnetism. The idea of unifying gravitation with electromagnetism goes all the way back to the early s, and the work of Theodr Kaluza and Oskar Klein. By adding an extra spatial dimension to Einstein's General Relativity, a fifth dimension overall in addition to the standard three space and one time gave rise to Einstein's gravity, Maxwell's electromagnetism, and a new, extra scalar field.


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The extra dimension would need to be small enough to avoid interfering with the laws of gravity, and the details were such that the extra scalar field needed to have no discernible effects on the Universe. The quarks, antiquarks, and gluons of the standard model have a color charge, in addition to all the other properties like mass and electric charge. The Standard Model can be written as a single equation, but all the forces within are not unified. However, the strong and weak nuclear forces led to the formulation of the Standard Model in , which brought the strong, weak, and electromagnetic forces under the same overarching umbrella.

Particles and their interactions were all accounted for, and a slew of new predictions were made, including a big one about unification. At high energies of around GeV the energy required to accelerate a single electron to a potential of billion volts , a symmetry unifying the electromagnetic and the weak forces would be restored. New, massive bosons were predicted to exist, and with the discovery of the W and Z bosons in , this prediction was confirmed. The four fundamental forces were reduced down to three. The idea of unification holds that all three of the Standard Model forces, and perhaps even gravity at higher energies, are unified together in a single framework.

Grand Unification

Unification was already an interesting idea, but models took off. People assumed that at higher energies still, the strong force would unify with the electroweak; that was where the idea of Grand Unification Theories GUTs came from.

What the data says

Some assumed that at even higher energies, perhaps around the Planck scale, the gravitational force would unify as well; this is one of the main motivations for string theory. What's very interesting about these ideas, however, is that if you want to have unification, you need to restore symmetries at higher energies.


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  • And if the Universe has symmetries at high energies that are broken today, that translates into something observable: new particles and new interactions. The Standard Model particles and their supersymmetric counterparts. This spectrum of particles is an inevitable consequence of unifying the four fundamental forces in the context of String Theory.

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    So what new particles and interactions are predicted? This depends on which variant of unification theories you go for, but include:. Although we can be certain, from indirect observations, that there is some origin to our Universe's dark matter, none of these particles or predicted decays have been observed to exist.

    In , an experiment running under the leadership of Blas Cabrera, one with eight turns of wire, detected a flux change of eight magnetons: indications of a magnetic monopole. Unfortunately, no one was present at the time of detection, and no one has ever reproduced this result or found a second monopole. This is a pity, in many regards, because we've searched, and hard. In , one of the experiments searching for magnetic monopoles registered a single positive result, spawning many copycats which attempted to discover large numbers of others.

    Unfortunately, that one positive result was anomalous, and no one has ever replicated it. Also in the s, people began building giant tanks of water and other atomic nuclei, searching for evidence of proton decay.


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    • While those tanks eventually wound up being repurposed as neutrino detectors, not a single proton has ever been observed to decay. The proton lifetime is now constrained to be greater than 10 35 years: some 25 orders of magnitude greater than the age of the Universe.

      GUTs: The Unification of Forces | Physics

      The water-filled tank at Super Kamiokande, which has set the most stringent limits on the lifetime of the proton. In later years, detectors set up in this fashion have made outstanding neutrino observatories, but have yet to detect a single proton decay. At very early times, the Universe is hot enough to produce matter-and-antimatter pairs of all the particles that can possibly exist.

      In most GUTs, two of those particles that exist are superheavy X-and-Y bosons, which are charged, and contain both quark and lepton couplings. There's expected to be an asymmetry in the way the matter versions and the antimatter versions decay, and they can give rise to a leftover presence of matter over antimatter, even if there was none initially. Hsu and colleagues applied advanced computations to qualities that might exist in quantum gravity in distance-shortened, high-energy interactions.

      We cannot actually produce the energies or produce the particles necessary to directly test whether unification occurs, so we look for hints at lower energy scales -- and look at how the interactions change. We have seen indications that these three interactions are starting to unify. If you extrapolate these trends to very high energy, it looks like, in certain models or theories, they could unify -- all based on experimental data. If grand unification exists, it might be shown at the LHC.

      Enter quantum gravity.

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      It's not the physical law version as seen under of Isaac Newton's apple tree but rather a physical theory about gravitational interactions of matter and energy that may be vital to grand unification. This is the realm of space time and its curvature. Hsu's team looked closely at quantum gravity and the interactions of the forces at work using extrapolations built by mathematical magnification. The scale at which this grand unification might occur is getting kind of close to the scale where quantum gravity might exhibit this kind of fuzziness.

      The fuzziness, researchers theorize, blurs the envisioned highway to unification. The blurring, they say, is brought about in the interplay of nature's forces, where, in certain models of unification, there may be thousands of yet-unseen particles at the boundary, affecting the highway itself. If grand unification is to be found, the discovery would move particle physicist closer to the proposed idea of supersymmetry, whereby particles at each level have corresponding qualities in another level as they spin.

      The bottom line, Hsu said, is that as data is generated in the LHC, interpretations as to relationships to grand unification may be more difficult for particle physicists to pin down. Materials provided by University of Oregon. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.