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My path to GUT research?

  1. Nov 20, 2012 #1
    So I'm interested in doing research regarding a GUT after I graduate, but I don't know the best way to go about this.

    In regards to choosing my senior level courses, which courses should I be taking? Should I start thinking experimental or theoretical?

    I know this is a pretty wide subject, but in which fields is research being done regarding GUT's?
  2. jcsd
  3. Nov 21, 2012 #2
    You need to be a little more specific. What year/level are you right now, whats your current major and what courses have you already taken?
  4. Nov 21, 2012 #3
    Halfway through my Physics Specialist degree, taking all the general physics courses, but starting next year I can pick which physics branches to lean towards, so I can take a course in Nuclear for example, or optics or solid state physics or atmospheric physics, and you get the point. So assuming my large university offers all the types of undergraduate physics courses (I'm also allowed to take grad courses) which courses would be beneficial?
  5. Nov 21, 2012 #4
    Advanced EM, advanced QM, General Relativity, classical field theory, subatomic particle physics, quantum field theory.

    Also take all the math you can. Especially focus on topology and differential geometry. You also need courses on algebra. Start with group theory, then rings, modules, etc... up to and including homological algebra. You want to set yourself up for algebraic geometry, so include graduate courses on commutative algebra and representation theory.
  6. Nov 21, 2012 #5
    I think this is accurate. I'm also an undergrad with similar goals and I think its necessary to have an excellent grasp of QFT and GR of course and then on the math side, things like algebraic/differential geometry, and algebraic/differential topology.
  7. Nov 21, 2012 #6
    Thanks for the information! Is more of the research theoretical or experimental though? I'm assuming it's more experimental since I don't believe there is any current experimental data suggesting a theory, but again, I'm just assuming
  8. Nov 22, 2012 #7
    We cannot probe the relevant energy scales (yet), so just about all of the research is theoretical.
  9. Nov 22, 2012 #8
    When people refer to GUTs it usually means theories such as string theory, LQG and other theories of quantum gravity. These fields are entirely theoretical and the people who work on these theories very rarely talk to experimentalists. So the situation is quite the contrary to your assumption.

    Espen180 and other more experienced people than me: Do you think it's worth it to actually *take* the classes on algebraic topology/geometry etc? These would usually be graduate classes offered in the math department and would be very demanding courses where the focus would be on proving things. However as a theoretical physicist, do you really need that kind of understanding? As a budding string theorist, wouldn't it be more worthwhile to spend the majority your time working on quantum field theory and general relativity problems as opposed to proving difficult theorems in algebraic topology? Can what you need be picked up from other more physics-oriented books or auditing those math classes as opposed to taking them?
    Last edited: Nov 22, 2012
  10. Nov 23, 2012 #9
    When I say GUT, I mean high energy particle physics, where Electroweak and strong are combined into one force at super high energies. String theory and LQG aim for a Theory of Everything, which is sort of different as they are trying to combine gravity with the other forces.

    So another way to say what I was asking is whether HEP has better prospects experimentally or theoretically at the moment, but as espen has made me aware, our accelerators simply aren't good enough yet to look at it experimentally.

    In response to that, does anyone have an (educated) guess on how far we are away from reaching those energies?
  11. Nov 23, 2012 #10
    @retro10x: In that cas you should have said experimental HEP from the start. There are lots of experimental work going on, Have a look at the relevant arxiv page: http://arxiv.org/list/hep-ex/recent

    @ahsanxr: One approach to modern theoretical physics, especially quantum gravity, is topological quantum field theory. If you take a look at the wiki page, yo will see that its very definition is filled to the brim with differential and algebraic topology. Since you will need to derive stuff from this stuff, I think you should have a working understanding of them at the very least.
  12. Nov 23, 2012 #11


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    If you mean the planck energy, it's likely impossible to build an accelerator that can directly probe the planck scale. Even if we could build an accelerator with 1TeV/m gradients (thousands of times better than current accelerators, and still significantly above the current state of the art), it would be thousands of AU long. It's difficult to imagine a scenario where you can create energy gradients high enough to have a feasible construction project.
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