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Gauge Symmetry Breaking in Gauge Theories---In Search of Clarification

Friederich, Simon (2011) Gauge Symmetry Breaking in Gauge Theories---In Search of Clarification. [Preprint]

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    Abstract

    The paper investigates the spontaneous breaking of gauge symmetries in gauge theories from a philosophical angle. Local gauge symmetry itself cannot break spontaneously in quantized gauge theories according to Elitzur's theorem---even though the notion of a spontaneously broken local gauge symmetry is widely employed in textbook expositions of the Higgs mechanism, the standard account of mass generation for the weak gauge bosons in the standard model. Nevertheless, gauge symmetry can be broken in gauge theories, namely, in the form of the breaking of remnant subgroups of the original local gauge group under which the theories typically remain invariant after gauge fixing. The paper discusses the relation between these instances of symmetry breaking and phase transitions and draws some more general conclusions for the philosophical interpretation of gauge symmetries and their breaking.


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    Item Type: Preprint
    Additional Information: Some improvements over previous version thanks to helpful comments.
    Keywords: gauge theories; symmetry breaking; phase transitions; Higgs mechanism
    Subjects: Specific Sciences > Physics > Quantum Field Theory
    Specific Sciences > Physics > Symmetries/Invariances
    Depositing User: Dr. Simon Friederich
    Date Deposited: 02 Nov 2011 08:43
    Last Modified: 02 Nov 2011 08:43
    Item ID: 8854
    URI: http://philsci-archive.pitt.edu/id/eprint/8854

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