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Nov 23, 2021

The Mathematical Structure of Particle Collisions Comes Into View

Posted by in categories: computing, information science, mathematics, particle physics, quantum physics

And that’s where physicists are getting stuck.

Zooming in to that hidden center involves virtual particles — quantum fluctuations that subtly influence each interaction’s outcome. The fleeting existence of the quark pair above, like many virtual events, is represented by a Feynman diagram with a closed “loop.” Loops confound physicists — they’re black boxes that introduce additional layers of infinite scenarios. To tally the possibilities implied by a loop, theorists must turn to a summing operation known as an integral. These integrals take on monstrous proportions in multi-loop Feynman diagrams, which come into play as researchers march down the line and fold in more complicated virtual interactions.

Physicists have algorithms to compute the probabilities of no-loop and one-loop scenarios, but many two-loop collisions bring computers to their knees. This imposes a ceiling on predictive precision — and on how well physicists can understand what quantum theory says.

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