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Unified Field Theory

  This theory, in the physical sciences, is concerned with showing that all forces and interactions, though they may seem very different, are in fact aspects of one fundamental force, which existed at the beginning of the universe. This idea, attractive though it may seem, has no guarantee of being true. But present theories appear to indicate that it may well be the case.

In order to test ideas about the early universe, scientists attempt to re-create conditions at that time in high-energy particle accelerators. The early universe contained particles possessing enormous energies, and only by imparting similar energies to particles today can we hope to approximate those conditions.

All forces, for example gravity or electromagnetism, act by interchange of field particles. Unified field theory attempts to show that all these forces and their respective field carriers are the same at high energies. The first example of unification of forces was James Maxwell\'s equations, which combine the phenomena of electricity and magnetism in one elegant theory, and show that electricity and magnetism are just different aspects of the electromagnetic interaction.

As the universe cooled, the forces began to separate. First to branch away was gravity, which is perhaps why gravity is so very different from all the other forces. The next was the strong nuclear force, followed by the weak nuclear force, leaving the electromagnetic force. It was shown in the 1960s that the electromagnetic and weak nuclear forces are essentially the same energies that may be achieved in modern accelerators, and that at these energies, their field particles, the photon and the Z boson, are the same. Grand unified theories attempt to do the same for the strong nuclear force, but these theories are hampered by the fact that no accelerator is large enough to test them. Gravity is proving to be very difficult to include, and its field carrier, the graviton, has never been detected. JJ

See also weak force/strong force.



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