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In search of symmetry lost


Powerful symmetry principles have guided physicists in their quest for nature's fundamental laws. The successful gauge theory of electroweak interactions postulates a more extensive symmetry for its equations than are manifest in the world. The discrepancy is ascribed to a pervasive symmetry-breaking field, which fills all space uniformly, rendering the Universe a sort of exotic superconductor. So far, the evidence for these bold ideas is indirect. But soon the theory will undergo a critical test depending on whether the quanta of this symmetry-breaking field, the so-called Higgs particles, are produced at the Large Hadron Collider (due to begin operation in 2007).

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Figure 1: Visual metaphors for gauge symmetry and superconductivity.
Figure 2: Gauge symmetry and the Higgs condensate.
Figure 3: Constraints on the mass of the Higgs boson from experimental data.
Figure 4: Higgs couplings.
Figure 5: Unification of the forces.


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Wilczek, F. In search of symmetry lost. Nature 433, 239–247 (2005).

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