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Posts Tagged ‘family symmetry’

Now time for another installment of “symmetry in physics.” For those of you tuning in late (or who have forgotten what we’ve been discussing), we started out in part 1 with a very general discussion of the symmetries of spacetime and how this constrains the form of our theories. Next, in part 2 we looked at discrete symmetries and how they relate the notion of antimatter to charge and parity conjugation. We’ll be using some of the jargon of part 2, so make sure you brush up and remember what “CP” means. Now we’d like to address another mystery of the Standard Model: why is there so much repetition?

Family Symmetry

Let’s review the matter content of the Standard Model:

standardmodelmatter

The top two rows are quarks, the bottom two are leptons (charged leptons and neutrinos). Each row has a different electric charge. The top row has charge +2/3, the 2nd row has charge -1/3, the third row has charge -1, and the last has charge 0. As discussed in part 2, there are also the corresponding anti-particles with opposite charges [note 1]. Just about all of the matter that you’re used to is made up of only the first column. All atoms and everything they’re made of are more-or-less completely composed of up and down quarks and electrons (the neutrinos haven’t done much since early in the universe).

The replication of the structure of the first column is known as family symmetry. For each particle in the first column, there are two other particles with nearly the same properties. In fact, they would have exactly the same properties, except that they are sensitive to the Higgs field in different ways so that the copies end up having heavier masses. Technically the Higgs discriminates between different generations and breaks this symmetry, but we are still left with the question: why are there two other families of matter?

(more…)

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