News FocusParticle Physics

Spontaneous Symmetry Breaking Decanted

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Science  14 Sep 2012:
Vol. 337, Issue 6100, pp. 1289
DOI: 10.1126/science.337.6100.1289

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A quantum field can interact with itself to produce an energy landscape resembling a wine-bottle bottom. The field can then minimize its energy by rolling downhill, just as a marble placed in the wine bottle would. To do so, the field must take on a nonzero strength and randomly choose a direction in an abstract two-dimensional "phase space," breaking the symmetry of the situation. When such spontaneous symmetry breaking occurs, different kinds of particles emerge, one of which is the Higgs boson.