Throughout human history, scientific theories and experiments of increasing power and sophistication have addressed these basic questions about the universe. The resulting knowledge has led to revolutionary insights into the nature of the world around us.
In the last 30 years, physicists have achieved a profound understanding of the fundamental particles and the physical laws that govern matter, energy, space and time. Researchers have subjected this "Standard Model" to countless experimental tests; and, again and again, its predictions have held true. The series of experimental and theoretical breakthroughs that combined to produce the Standard Model can truly be celebrated as one of the great scientific triumphs of the 20th century.
Now, in a development that some have compared to Copernicus's recognition that the earth is not the center of the solar system, startling new data have revealed that only five percent of the universe is made of normal, visible matter described by the Standard Model. Ninety-five percent of the universe consists of dark matter and dark energy whose fundamental nature is a mystery. The Standard Model's orderly and elegant view of the universe must be incorporated into a deeper theory that can explain the new phenomena. The result will be a revolution in particle physics as dramatic as any that have come before.
QUESTIONS FOR THE UNIVERSE
A worldwide program of particle physics investigation is underway to explore the mysterious new scientific landscape. Nine interrelated questions define the path ahead.
ARE THERE UNDISCOVERED PRINCIPLES OF NATURE: NEW SYMMETRIES, NEW PHYSICAL LAWS?
The quantum ideas that so successfully describe familiar matter fail when applied to cosmic physics. Solving the problem requires the appearance of new forces and new particles signaling the discovery of new symmetries--undiscovered principles of nature's behavior.
HOW CAN WE SOLVE THE MYSTERY OF DARK ENERGY?
The dark energy that permeates empty space and accelerates the expansion of the universe must have a quantum explanation. Dark energy might be related to the Higgs field, a force that fills space and gives particles mass.
ARE THERE EXTRA DIMENSIONS OF SPACE?
String theory predicts seven undiscovered dimensions of space that give rise to much of the apparent complexity of particle physics. The discovery of extra dimensions would be an epochal event in human history; it would change our understanding of the birth and evolution of the universe. String theory could reshape our concept of gravity.
DO ALL THE FORCES BECOME ONE?
At the most fundamental level all forces and particles in the universe may be related, and all the forces might be manifestations of a single grand unified force, realizing Einstein's dream.
WHY ARE THERE SO MANY KINDS OF PARTICLES? Why do three families of particles exist, and why do their masses differ so dramatically? Patterns and variations in the families of elementary particles suggest undiscovered underlying principles that tie together the quarks and leptons of the Standard Model.
WHAT IS DARK MATTER? HOW CAN WE MAKE IT IN THE LABORATORY?
Most of the matter in the universe is unknown dark matter, probably heavy particles produced in the big bang. While most of these particles annihilated into pure energy, some remained. These remaining particles should have a small enough mass to be produced and studied at accelerators.
WHAT ARE NEUTRINOS TELLING US?
Of all the known particles, neutrinos are the most mysterious. They played an essential role in the evolution of the universe, and their tiny nonzero mass may signal new physics at very high energies.
HOW DID THE UNIVERSE COME TO BE?
According to cosmic theory, the universe began with a singular explosion followed by a burst of inflationary expansion. Following inflation, the universe cooled, passing through a series of phase transitions and allowing the formation of stars, galaxies and life on earth. Understanding inflation requires breakthroughs in quantum physics and quantum gravity.
WHAT HAPPENED TO THE ANTIMATTER?
The big bang almost certainly produced equal amounts of matter and antimatter, yet the universe seems to contain no antimatter. How did the asymmetry arise?
OPPORTUNITIES FOR DISCOVERY
We live in an age when the exploration of great questions is leading toward a revolutionary new understanding of the universe.
"Opportunities have emerged for discovery about the fundamental nature of the universe that we never expected," Presidential Science Advisor John Marburger said recently. "Technology places these discoveries within our reach, but we need to focus efforts across widely separated disciplines to realize the new opportunities."
Quantum Universe is a response to that challenge. It serves as a guide to where the search for understanding has taken us so far, and to where it is going. The chapters that follow articulate how existing and planned particle physics experiments at accelerators and underground laboratories, together with space probes and ground-based telescopes, bring within reach new opportunities for discovery about the fundamental nature of the universe.