Optical Experiments and Weak Interactions

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Science  05 Dec 1986:
Vol. 234, Issue 4781, pp. 1203-1210
DOI: 10.1126/science.234.4781.1203


Recent optical experiments have demonstrated cases in which mirror symmetry in stable atoms is broken during absorption of light. These results, which are in contradiction with quantum electrodynamics, support the theory of unification of the electromagnetic and weak forces. The interpretation of these experimental results is based on exchanges of weak neutral Z0 bosons between the electrons and the nucleus of the atom. The information obtained from low-energy experiments is different from, but complementary to, the results of high-energy experiments. Sensitive measurements in a simple, reliably computable atom are in quantitative agreement with the standard electroweak theory and put stringent constraints on alternative models. Attaining sufficient accuracy in the experiments and the computations for the electroweak radiative corrections to manifest themselves is now the challenge for experimenters and theorists.