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Electroweak Theory and the Origin of the Fundamental Forces

What is the Electroweak interaction ?

In particle physics, the electroweak interaction or electroweak force is the unified description of two of the four known fundamental interactions of nature: electromagnetism and the weak interaction. Although these two forces appear very different at everyday low energies, the theory models them as two different aspects of the same force. Above the unification energy, on the order of 246 GeV, they would merge into a single force. Thus, if the universe is hot enough (approximately 1015 K, a temperature not exceeded since shortly after the Big Bang), then the electromagnetic force and weak force merge into a combined electroweak force. During the quark epoch, the electroweak force splits into the electromagnetic and weak force.

Sheldon Glashow, Abdus Salam, and Steven Weinberg were awarded the 1979 Nobel Prize in Physics for their contributions to the unification of the weak and electromagnetic interaction between elementary particles, known as the Weinberg–Salam theory. The existence of the electroweak interactions was experimentally established in two stages, the first being the discovery of neutral currents in neutrino scattering by the Gargamelle collaboration in 1973, and the second in 1983 by the UA1 and the UA2 collaborations that involved the discovery of the W and Z gauge bosons in proton–antiproton collisions at the converted Super Proton Synchrotron. In 1999, Gerardus ‘t Hooft and Martinus Veltman were awarded the Nobel prize for showing that the electroweak theory is renormalizable.


Our universe seems pretty complicated. We have a weird zoo of elementary particles, which interact through very different fundamental forces.

But some extremely subtle clues in nature have led us to believe that the forces of nature were once unified, ruled by a single, grand symmetry.

But how does one force separate into multiple?

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