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the end is near

Thursday I went to what might be the last class I'll ever take for credit. But I still have much work to do.

This coming week is finals week, and I have two final projects I'm working on. In Quantum Field Theory III, I still haven't handed in homework 3 (originally due over 2 weeks ago), although it's fairly close to done so I plan to put some last remarks on it and then turn it in Monday. Homework 4 none of us had time to even look at (it was supposed to be due a few days ago), but the professor said he's fine with us doing it over the summer intsead. He also said it was probably his fault for underestimating the length of some of the assignments, so that makes me feel a little better.

In contrast, Group Theory has been the easiest class I've taken in grad school; I didn't buy either of the books or read anything, and most of the homework was more or less trivial. Which makes me even more amazed at how hard QFT III was considering I had so much time to dedicate to it! For my final project in Group Theory, I'm doing an oral presentation on graded Lie algebras (aka super-algebras) and supersymmetry (SUSY). I've been reading up on SUSY and the more I read the more I'm impressed with its elegance. The coolest part, I think, is that just by assuming this extra symmetry of spacetime and making it local you get classical gravity popping right out at you. As a bonus, it breaks down all the boundries between matter and energy once and for all (finishing the trend which started with relativity and continued with wave-particle duality). Then there's all the "problems" of particle physics that it miraculously solves, one of which is what my other final project is about.

My QFT III final project is to find the GUT energy where all three forces (electromagnetic, weak, and strong) become one. First I have to find the beta-functions for the Standard Model with one Higgs doublet (which generates the masses). The beta functions will tell me how each of the 3 coupling constants scale with energy in the renormalization group. But they don't intersect in the Standard Model! So then I have to make it supersymmetric which turns the SM into the MSSM (Minimal Supersymmetric Standard Model) by adding squarks, sleptons, gluinos, photino, wino, bino, and a Higgsino (which are SUSY partners of the usual quarks, leptons, gauge bosons, and Higgs which make up the SM) plus an extra Higgs doublet. At that point, if I've done all the calculations correctly, all three coupling constants should intersect at a single energy, the grand unified scale. It should be around 10^16 GeV (Giga-electronVolts), but I'm a long ways away from obtaining that result.

I have to give my 45 minute SUSY talk for Group Theory on Wednesday, and then give a 30 minute presentation of the results of my QFT project on Thursday. And I've barely started on either of them. So this is why I say I still have a ton of work left to do this quarter! But it'll be all worth it once it's over and I can relax for a bit. I just wish I understood more about the Higgs, I'm having a lot of trouble figuring out what its unbroken interactions are with the other particles and what the corresponding Feynman diagrams are. Seems like every book I check does it differently and none are very expilcit with what I need.

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