Graduate student Daniel Vagie, member of the Sinha high energy theory group, recently co-authored a paper published in the prestigious journal Physical Review Letters. Collaborating with researchers at UCLA, Penn State, and IPMU (Japan), Vagie probed the fundamental question of baryogenesis.
“When the Universe began, there were equal amounts of matter and anti-matter. Then something happened in the first few seconds, and all the anti-matter essentially disappeared. What happened is a mystery - but it’s why we exist. The community calls it baryogenesis and it’s one of the biggest problems in fundamental physics,” says Prof. Sinha, who was not a part of the study. “Daniel published four papers with our group and then struck out on his own. The hallmark of a successful graduate career is an independent student. The fact that Daniel reached out to researchers at other institutions and co-authored this important paper with them is a matter of great pride for our group,” he added.
There are a few major paradigms within which baryogenesis is studied. One of them, called Electroweak Baryogenesis, operates near the energy scale that is currently being probed by the Large Hadron Collider at CERN, an energy scale that is being intensely studied by OU’s high energy experimentalists and theorists alike. Another theory of baryogenesis, called Affleck-Dine Baryogenesis, operates at much higher energy scales but integrates supersymmetry, another favorite of OU’s theorists.
“The stakes are high: with no clear signatures of Electroweak Baryogenesis emerging at the Large Hadron Collider (for example through deformations of the Higgs sector beyond the Standard Model), we have to keep an open mind. It is very challenging to directly probe Affleck-Dine Baryogenesis, since it operates at much higher energy scales than current or future collider technology will let us probe. But there are indirect ways of getting at this: through the use of gravitational waves. The Affleck-Dine mechanism involves the formation of a condensate that contains the necessary ingredients to explain the matter anti-matter asymmetry. If the condensate fragments into spherically charged lumps called Q-balls, they can live sufficiently long to dominate the energy density of the Universe at very early times. These Q-balls can enhance the primordial gravitational waves predicted by the theory of inflation, as they rapidly decay into unequal amounts of matter and anti-matter," explains Vagie.
According to Prof. Sinha, "In theoretical high energy physics, we value democracy greatly. There are no senior "last authors" or leading "first authors". Author names are almost always alphabetic. Looking at Daniel's paper on arXiv, I notice that they comment "author order determined by coin-flip." Looks like they had a lot of fun! On a more serious note, though, Daniel's research focuses on very deep questions pertaining to the origins of mass and matter. These questions, and the answers we find, will live on forever. They're timeless."