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Current Research on the Origin of Electric Charge

  1. Nov 16, 2014 #1

    I am not sure if this is the correct place for this but here is a go.

    I'm currently applying to graduate schools and I know that I am interested in theoretical particle physics and condensed matter theory. In electricity and magnetism we were told that charge is an axiom and it's not really known where charge comes from, this notion has been incredibly interesting to me and I'd like to see if anyone is actively researching this topic. From my research and courses I know it's a relativistic invariant and thus there isn't a lot of interest in finding out where it comes from.

    My question is does anyone know of any physicist at universities/research programs that are currently working on this problem or something similar?

    I will be very thankful for any information anyone has
  2. jcsd
  3. Nov 16, 2014 #2
    Surely we "know" where electric charge comes from: it's a conserved current corresponding to a combination of weak hypercharge and weak isospin which is not broken by electroweak symmetry breaking:


    Now, of course, you'd ask "what is the origin of weak hypercharge and weak isospin?"
  4. Nov 16, 2014 #3


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    Turtles, all the way down.

    To the OP: I think you want to look into people who are trying to construct Beyond Standard Model theories of particle physics.
  5. Nov 17, 2014 #4


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    Isn't it a more question to ask why it's quantized? or not?
    I haven't noticed so far where the quantization (|Q|=0,1/3, 2/3,1) gets into the game when breaking EW symmetry...
  6. Nov 17, 2014 #5


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    Although the electric charge itself is not (directly) a topological number, your question often comes up in the study of Topological Quantum Field Theories (TQFT). So, you need to look into people who work on the following (key words) problems in TQFT:
    1) Homotopy groups of Lie groups, 2) Topological Invariants, 3) (Extended) Poincare’ Lemma, 4) Soliton, Instanton and Monopoles.
    And, you can always ask questions in here, I always have few words to say about TQFT.
  7. Nov 17, 2014 #6


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    Are you proficient in the theory behind the notion that "elementary particles can be classified according to the unitary irreducible representations (unirreps) of the Poincare group" (and also the unirreps of certain gauge groups) ?

    Maybe you've heard about how some types of elementary particles transform differently from others under a parity reversal?

    Electric charge arises from a similar idea when the complex-conjugate of a representation is not equivalent to the original one. Think about how electrons and positrons transform under a gauge (phase) transformation. Of course, there's more to it than that, since we get fractional charges when other interactions and quarks are considered.

    The big question, then, is why the fundamental interactions are what they are (if that question even has an answer, or deeper foundation). People have been attacking that "grand challenge" for decades, without much success. Good luck. :D

    [Edit:] ... and now I sit back and wait for dextercioby to nit-pick my answer. :p
  8. Nov 17, 2014 #7
    I don't believe it does. I think this is one of the motivations for grand unified theories, since if the U(1)_Y comes from a larger gauge group then the hypercharges are automatically quantised.
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