Particles, Fields and Spacetime

Lead Research Organisation: Durham University
Department Name: Mathematical Sciences

Abstract

All matter in the universe and the fundamental forces apart from gravity appear to be well described by particle theories, in which the fundamental components of matter are pointlike particles, which interact by exchanging other kinds of particles. Quantum field theory is the mathematical language describing these particle theories; the particles describing forces are described by a class of theories called gauge theories. However, it appears we need to go beyond quantum field theory to include gravity. The leading candidate for this extension is string theory, which is based on the idea that the particles are actually one-dimensional loops of string, with the interactions described by smooth surfaces connecting different strings.

One strand of our research is the development of new tools for computations in quantum field theory. In one line of research, it has been understood that certain gauge theories have additional previously unsuspected symmetries, which explain the mysterious simplicity of some computational results. This has been developed to obtain more efficient calculational techniques for increasingly general questions. In an independent line, a symmetry called conformal symmetry has been newly exploited to constrain the particle content and interactions of theories with this symmetry. We aim to develop these tools further and bring them together with the long-term goal of completely solving the simplest, most symmetric theories. We also have a broad programme of research on aspects of field theory far from the vacuum, including work on smooth classical solutions (solitons) and their moduli spaces, and special classes of field theories where the theory is completely solvable (integrable models).

Work on string theory has led to the discovery that some quantum field theories can be related to string theories in a space with more dimensions; this is referred to as holography. Some difficult questions in the field theory can be mapped to simpler questions in the higher-dimensional space. This also provides a new perspective on string theory, which can be used to deepen our understanding of gravity. We are studying the application of these techniques to field theories used to study interesting new phases of matter, and we are exploring the role of intrinsically quantum mechanical features of the field theory in the emergence of the higher-dimensional geometry.

Cosmology is the study of the very early universe. This has a long history of fruitful interaction with particle theory, and we are developing this further, relating new developments in field theory to cosmological observations. For example, we are studying the role of the Hiss boson recently discovered at CERN in cosmological evolution.

Planned Impact

Our work primarily has an academic impact, through the contribution to knowledge about the fundamental nature of forces and spacetime. This includes impact on related academic disciplines, where connections between different areas such as the holographic relations of field theories to gravity and new calculational techniques can be applied to study a wide range of questions, including aspects of the properties of matter with potential real-world implications. We have an active engagement with outreach activities at local, national and international levels which has an impact on school children and the public at large.

Publications

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Abl T (2019) Recursion relations for anomalous dimensions in the 6d (2, 0) theory in Journal of High Energy Physics

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Ahmed W (2019) Conical holographic heat engines in Classical and Quantum Gravity

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Anabalón A (2018) Holographic thermodynamics of accelerating black holes in Physical Review D

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Anabalón A (2019) Thermodynamics of charged, rotating, and accelerating black holes in Journal of High Energy Physics

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Andrei N (2020) Boundary and defect CFT: open problems and applications in Journal of Physics A: Mathematical and Theoretical

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Appels M (2017) Black hole thermodynamics with conical defects in Journal of High Energy Physics

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Aprile F (2018) Unmixing supergravity in Journal of High Energy Physics

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Aprile F (2018) Loop corrections for Kaluza-Klein AdS amplitudes in Journal of High Energy Physics

 
Description LMS Scheme 3 Grant
Amount £1,200 (GBP)
Funding ID 31730 
Organisation London Mathematical Society 
Sector Academic/University
Country United Kingdom
Start 10/2017 
End 09/2018
 
Description Royal Society Research Fellow Enhancement Award
Amount £92,938 (GBP)
Funding ID RGF\EA\180182 
Organisation The Royal Society 
Sector Charity/Non Profit
Country United Kingdom
Start 10/2018 
End 03/2023
 
Description University Research Fellowships Renewals 2020
Amount £395,868 (GBP)
Funding ID URF\R\201025 
Organisation The Royal Society 
Sector Charity/Non Profit
Country United Kingdom
Start 10/2020 
End 09/2023
 
Description International Particle Physics Masterclass 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an open day or visit at my research institution
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Schools
Results and Impact In March 2019, I helped organise an International Particle Physics masterclass in the IPPP at Durham University, where over 100 students analysed real data from the ATLAS detector in the LHC. This inspired many students to ask questions and have discussions.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
 
Description New Scientist - Instant Expert - "Relativity and Beyond" 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact Participated in a New Scientist event. Gave two talks and part of Panel discussion.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
 
Description School Outreach Program 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an open day or visit at my research institution
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Schools
Results and Impact I participated in a school outreach program called the Ordered Universe project in which 20 high school students visited the IPPP at Durham University and learned about exciting topics in particle physics like particle colliders and dark matter though a brief lecture and hands-on experiments. This inspired many students to ask questions and have discussions.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018