Synopsis: Building a tower out of the vacuum

In particle physics theory, the presence of multiple metastable vacua gives rise to new possibilities for transitions between energy states.
Synopsis figure

The vacuum, in particle physics language, is the ground state of a theory. A metastable vacuum is a local minimum of the theory but not the true ground state. If a system is prepared initially in a metastable state it will eventually decay through tunneling to the true ground state.

The role of metastable states in particle physics has expanded considerably with the realization that supersymmetric field theories can be phenomenologically viable even when no ground state breaks supersymmetry spontaneously. These scenarios require long-lived metastable states that do not preserve supersymmetry.

In work appearing in Physical Review D, Keith Dienes and Brooks Thomas of the University of Arizona study decays of metastable ground states of supersymmetric theories with multiple “photons” (a theoretical extension of our usual notion) and matter that is charged with respect to two distinct photons. The authors show that these theories can be arranged to have multiple metastable states allowing for complex decay patterns to lower energy states. The authors find a rich array of possibilities, including collapsing decays to the lowest energy state, cascades through multiple intermediate energy metastable states, and more surprisingly perhaps, states into which decays are not possible. – Ansar Fayyazuddin


Announcements

More Announcements »

Subject Areas

Particles and FieldsString Theory

Previous Synopsis

Magnetism

Cooling with magnets

Read More »

Next Synopsis

Related Articles

Viewpoint: Extending an Alternative to Feynman Diagrams
Particles and Fields

Viewpoint: Extending an Alternative to Feynman Diagrams

A simplifying technique for calculating scattering amplitudes—the basis for predictions in particle physics experiments—has been extended to cover a class of effective quantum field theories. Read More »

Synopsis: A Little Empty Inside
Cosmology

Synopsis: A Little Empty Inside

A new model has allowed researchers to test a theory for why the centers of dark matter halos are less dense than expected. Read More »

Synopsis: Still Waiting For Electron Decay
Particles and Fields

Synopsis: Still Waiting For Electron Decay

Scientists have placed new limits on how often electrons decay into neutrinos and photons, a reaction that—if it occurred—would violate the law of charge conservation. Read More »

More Articles