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


Features

More Features »

Announcements

More Announcements »

Subject Areas

Particles and FieldsString Theory

Previous Synopsis

Magnetism

Cooling with magnets

Read More »

Next Synopsis

Related Articles

Viewpoint: Spinning Gluons in the Proton
Particles and Fields

Viewpoint: Spinning Gluons in the Proton

Computer simulations indicate that about 50% of the proton’s spin comes from the spin of the gluons that bind its quark constituents. Read More »

Synopsis: Neutrino Flashes from Exploding Stars
Astrophysics

Synopsis: Neutrino Flashes from Exploding Stars

Calculations indicate that neutrino emission from a supernova could be detected on Earth, possibly revealing how the star explodes. Read More »

Synopsis: Model Tries to Solve Five Physics Problems at Once
Particles and Fields

Synopsis: Model Tries to Solve Five Physics Problems at Once

A minimal extension to the standard model of particle physics involves six new particles. Read More »

More Articles