Synopsis: Making Monopoles with Waves

Magnetic monopoles—theorized particles with only one magnetic pole—might possibly be created by wave-wave collisions.
Synopsis figure
T. Vachaspati, Phys. Rev. Lett. (2016)

Magnetic monopoles are hypothesized particles that have a magnetic, rather than electric, charge. Despite a long history of nondetections, monopoles continue to be a topic of study because of their possible role in the unification of the fundamental forces. In new theoretical work, Tanmay Vachaspati from Arizona State University, Tempe, considered whether monopoles could be generated through the scattering of waves. The results suggest one might detect monopoles in collisions between high-intensity, circularly polarized light waves.

Monopoles were originally proposed in 1931 by the physicist Paul Dirac, who found they could explain why electric charge is discrete rather than continuous. Later on, theorists discovered that monopoles appeared naturally in so-called grand unified theories (GUTs), which connect electromagnetic and nuclear forces. Many experiments have looked for evidence of magnetic monopoles in high-energy collisions at particle accelerators, but nothing yet has shown up.

Instead of colliding two particles, as in an accelerator, Vachaspati asked what would happen if two waves collided? The waves in this case consist of many force-carrying particles, such as photons and W bosons, that move coherently together. To describe these waves, Vachaspati used a GUT-like model that describes force-carrying particles in terms of fields. In his numerical simulations, two circularly polarized waves in these fields collide head-on. In the wake of these collisions, Vachaspati observed monopoles as cratered peaks in the energy density, and around the peaks the magnetic field was that of an isolated north or south pole. Vachaspati speculates that one might see signals of monopoles in the collisions of high-intensity laser beams, where photon-photon interactions are predicted to occur.

This research is published in Physical Review Letters.

–Michael Schirber

Michael Schirber is a Corresponding Editor for Physics in Lyon, France.


Features

More Features »

Announcements

More Announcements »

Subject Areas

Particles and Fields

Previous Synopsis

Fluid Dynamics

Suppressing the Splash

Read More »

Next Synopsis

Nuclear Physics

Neutron Stars in a Petri Dish

Read More »

Related Articles

Synopsis: How a Pentaquark is Put Together
Particles and Fields

Synopsis: How a Pentaquark is Put Together

New Large Hadron Collider data reveal that exotic quark quintets, discovered in 2016, are composites of quark-antiquark mesons and three-quark baryons.   Read More »

Viewpoint: Charm Reflects Poorly on Anticharm
Particles and Fields

Viewpoint: Charm Reflects Poorly on Anticharm

A study of particles containing charm quarks has uncovered a violation of so-called CP symmetry, which could help in understanding why matter dominates antimatter in the Universe.   Read More »

Viewpoint: Pushing Tensor Networks to the Limit
Particles and Fields

Viewpoint: Pushing Tensor Networks to the Limit

An extension of tensor networks—mathematical tools that simplify the study of complex quantum systems—could allow their application to a broad range of quantum field theory problems. Read More »

More Articles