Saturday, April 11, 2015

On leave: a personal note. The Standard Model.

I am on leave this semester, and for the first time I have no work due, no work planned, no ...  It has been remarkable for me, since I am self-starting. It took about two months to slow down, and of late I have been reading in quantum field theory, the Standard Model in particle physics, and partial differential equations. I have no good reason why. I did write up my work on uncertainty, early on, during that slow down period. But nothing else other than notes to myself.

We'll see where it goes.

In my reading I have been struck by the precision of modern work in high energy physics and particle physics. The Standard Model proves to be robust, the experimenters ingenious, the theorists capable of calculating just about everything. And agreement of calculation and experiment often is about three significant figures, an extraordinary achievement. The only more impressive numbers are Kinoshita's calculations in QED, where ten significant figures and thousands of Feynman diagrams are needed, and one needs as well knowledge of QCD effects (effects of heavier particles than electrons and photons, usually virtual).

I recall when in the 70s the Standard Model became orthodoxy due to experimental discoveries. What was striking then, and is still striking, is how much modern theory is an ingenious but quite recognizable adaptation of Maxwell's 1870 equations for electricity and magnetism--quantized, quantum field-ized, and given more complicated symmetries.

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