Explicit symmetry breaking

Explicit symmetry breaking

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Explicit symmetry breaking indicates a situation where the dynamical equations are not manifestly invariant under the symmetry
Symmetry generally conveys two primary meanings. The first is an imprecise sense of harmonious or aesthetically pleasing proportionality and balance; such that it reflects beauty or perfection...

 group considered. This means, in the Lagrangian
The Lagrangian, L, of a dynamical system is a function that summarizes the dynamics of the system. It is named after Joseph Louis Lagrange. The concept of a Lagrangian was originally introduced in a reformulation of classical mechanics by Irish mathematician William Rowan Hamilton known as...

Hamiltonian may refer toIn mathematics :* Hamiltonian system* Hamiltonian path, in graph theory** Hamiltonian cycle, a special case of a Hamiltonian path* Hamiltonian group, in group theory* Hamiltonian...

) formulation, that the Lagrangian (Hamiltonian) of the system contains one or more terms explicitly breaking the symmetry. Such terms can have different origins:

(a) Symmetry-breaking terms may be introduced into the theory by hand on the basis of theoretical/experimental results, as in the case of the quantum field theory
Quantum field theory
Quantum field theory provides a theoretical framework for constructing quantum mechanical models of systems classically parametrized by an infinite number of dynamical degrees of freedom, that is, fields and many-body systems. It is the natural and quantitative language of particle physics and...

 of the weak interactions, which is expressly constructed in a way that manifestly violates parity. The underlying result in this case is parity non-conservation in the case of the weak interaction, first predicted in the famous (Nobel prize
Nobel Prize
The Nobel Prizes are annual international awards bestowed by Scandinavian committees in recognition of cultural and scientific advances. The will of the Swedish chemist Alfred Nobel, the inventor of dynamite, established the prizes in 1895...

 winning) 1956 paper by T. D. Lee and C.N. Yang.

(b) Symmetry-breaking terms may appear in the theory because of quantum-mechanical effects. One reason for the presence of such terms — known as “anomalies” — is that in passing from the classical to the quantum level, because of possible operator ordering ambiguities for composite quantities such as Noether charges and currents, it may be that the classical symmetry algebra
Algebra is the branch of mathematics concerning the study of the rules of operations and relations, and the constructions and concepts arising from them, including terms, polynomials, equations and algebraic structures...

 (generated through the Poisson bracket structure) is no longer realized in terms of the commutation relations of the Noether charges. Moreover, the use of a “regulator” (or “cut-off”) required in the renormalization procedure to achieve actual calculations may itself be a source of anomalies. It may violate a symmetry of the theory, and traces of this symmetry breaking may remain even after the regulator is removed at the end of the calculations. Historically, the first example of an anomaly arising from renormalization is the so-called chiral anomaly, that is the anomaly violating the chiral symmetry
Chiral symmetry
In quantum field theory, chiral symmetry is a possible symmetry of the Lagrangian under which the left-handed and right-handed parts of Dirac fields transform independently...

 of the strong interaction .

(c) Finally, symmetry-breaking terms may appear because of non-renormalizable effects. Physicists now have good reasons for viewing current renormalizable field theories as effective field theories, that is low-energy approximations to a deeper theory (each effective theory explicitly referring only to those particles that are of importance at the range of energies considered). The effects of non-renormalizable interactions (due to the heavy particles
Subatomic particle
In physics or chemistry, subatomic particles are the smaller particles composing nucleons and atoms. There are two types of subatomic particles: elementary particles, which are not made of other particles, and composite particles...

not included in the theory) are small and can therefore be ignored at the low-energy regime. It may then happen that the coarse-grained description thus obtained possesses more symmetries than the deeper theory. That is, the effective Lagrangian obeys symmetries that are not symmetries of the underlying theory. These “accidental” symmetries, as Weinberg has called them, may then be violated by the non-renormalizable terms arising from higher mass scales and suppressed in the effective Lagrangian .