Particle Physics

PHGN 423
Particle Physics
Spring 2016 (Old version of the couse, but being taught again in spring of 2018)

The Facts:

  • Recommended but not required text: "Introduction to Elementary Particles (2nd Edition)" by David J. Griffiths. I used to teach this course largely following this text, but I found the order of material uninspiring, so this semester I am planning to completely revamp the approach. You will find much useful information in the text, but what I expect you to learn will be covered in class or in the lecture notes I provide. I know many of you are saavy and can get your hands on electronic copies. That will be fine since at no point will I require you to use the book. Note that the second edition of the book is preferred since some problems were modified and a rather significant notational change in Feynman diagrams was made between editions.


    This course will serve as an introduction/survey of the modern ideas that have arisen through our asking one of the most basic questions in physics, i.e. "What are the fundamental constituents of matter and what are the interactions between them?" Our best answers to these questions are posed in the framework of quantum field theory (QFT). This will not be a full-blown course in QFT as this subject usually merits several semesters of work at the advanced graduate level. Rather we will try to get a working knowledge of many results which come out of QFT. I used to frame this course as an introduction to the Standard Model of particle physics, but the truth is that many of the more profound ideas that we will cover extend beyond this specific example. To be sure, we will develop a firm appreciation and understanding of the content and structure of the Standard Model, but we will also see connections to other branches of physics as well as motivations to go beyond this framework.


    We will begin with an outline of the Standard Model if only to layout the many details later to be filled in. The first part of the semester (up to spring break) will focus on the formal structure of the Standard Model including an introduction to the mathematical treatment of symmetries, special relativity, relativistic lagranigans and equations of motion for scalar, spinor and vector fields, the principle of local gauge invariance and the Higgs mechanism for mass generation. The second part of the course will focus more on computational aspects including a review of perturbation theory and developing how it is applied to relativistic field theories. This will require us to utilize the famed Feynman diagrams and will allow us to reproduce several of the classic and well confirmed predictions of the Standard Model. Most importantly it will allow us to explore the idea of renormalization which will serve as a stepping stone to other areas of physics, e.g. condensed matter, as well as "new" fundamental physics beyond the Standard Model.


My hope is to provide you with a pre-lecture summary of the ideas to be covered that you should read in advance. These will be linked below. I will also point out relevant sections of the suggested text for further reading. After each lecture, I will post my notes below as well.

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