Spontaneous symmetry breaking

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Spontaneous symmetry breaking is a way symmetry breaks in a physical system. The underlying laws do not change, but the system as a whole changes. Symmetry breaking in physics occurs when a system is crossing a critical point. Small fluctuations decide the system's fate, by determining which branch is taken.

Uses for spontaneous symmetry breaking[change | change source]

Spontaneous symmetry breaking can create a particle called a Higgs boson. This is a particle which is predicted to be able to give mass to certain particles called bosons, like a photon. Also, many scientists believe in the Higgs effect (which is very similar to spontaneous symmetry breaking) to answer questions that are not answered in the standard model of physics. The standard model predicts that certain types of quarks should have a mass of zero, while in reality they have a non-zero mass value. Some scientists believe that spontaneous symmetry breaking is the answer.

Method of spontaneous symmetry breaking[change | change source]

For spontaneous symmetry breaking to happen, you need an environment which is completely symmetrical, and has at least two outcomes that are equally likely. Spontaneous symmetry breaking starts with two particles that are completely equal; their spin is equal, too. Mathematically, spontaneous symmetry breaking can be extremely puzzling, since you start out with two identical things and end up with two non-identical things. However, in practice, it is not so puzzling. If you have two particles moving at each other with equal speed, it would seem impossible for either of them to do anything but be symmetrical. However, if each particle has an equal 50-50 chance to be spinning one way or another, it is possible–in theory and in practice–to have this symmetry broken. It begins with symmetry to start with because the particles have an equal and symmetrical 50-50 chance of spinning one way or another.