The strong CP problem is one of the biggest puzzles in physics…let’s dive in.
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While you’re probably pretty familiar with the standard model—a theory of fundamental particles and how they interact—you might be less familiar with what’s known as the “strong CP problem.” The strong CP problem is a glaring flaw in the standard model that we are still trying to understand and solve.
The strong CP problem is such a mathematical improbability, physicists think there must be something else at play. In the 1970s, scientists Roberto Peccei and Helen Quinn proposed that maybe there’s some undiscovered parameter, like a field that inhibits strong CP violation.
If this field does exist, then there must be a particle to go with it.
Could axions really be the solution to the most puzzling problem in physics?
Find out more about the strong CP problem and its possible solutions in this Elements.
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The ‘Strong CP Problem’ Is The Most Underrated Puzzle In All Of Physics
“In the weak interactions, CP violation occurs at approximately the 1-in-1,000 level, and perhaps one would naively expect that it occurs in the strong interactions at approximately the same level. Yet we’ve looked for CP violation extensively and to no avail.”
Roberto Peccei and Helen Quinn, Driving Around Stanford in a Clunky Jeep
“Four decades ago, Helen Quinn and Roberto Peccei took on one of the great problems in theoretical particle physics: the strong charge-parity (CP) problem. Why does the symmetry between matter and antimatter break in weak interactions, which are responsible for nuclear decay, but not in strong interactions, which hold matter together?”
In memoriam: Roberto Peccei, 78, internationally renowned particle physicist
“Peccei, along with Stanford University colleague Helen Quinn, made major contributions to physics, including the Peccei-Quinn Symmetry — an elegant theory that ties together several branches of physics and has important implications for our universe. The Peccei-Quinn Symmetry predicts the existence of very light particles called axions, which may nevertheless be the dominant source of mass in the universe. Axions, the subject of intense experimental and theoretical investigation for four decades, may be the mysterious “dark matter” that account for most of the matter in the universe.”
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