|The Winter Workshop on Electric Dipole Moments meets this Wednesday through Friday.|
Anyone who has fumbled for a flashlight in the dark knows the value of a charged battery. In a charged battery, the negative and positive electric charges are physically separated, or polarized. In a dead battery, the electric charges have all relaxed back to a neutral mixture that is unpolarized.
This polarization, at a much, much smaller scale, is the focus of the Winter Workshop on Electric Dipole Moments, which takes place from Feb. 13 to 15 in One West. Understanding the intrinsic electric polarization of atoms and subatomic particles is crucial to developing better models of particle physics.
In chemistry it is common for atoms to arrange into molecules that are electrically polarized, such as those in sodium chloride, better known as salt. This is true even though the sodium and chlorine atoms by themselves are perfect little spheres that are unpolarized.
The Standard Model of particle physics today predicts that particles such as protons, neutrons, muons and even atoms are perfect little spheres that are electrically unpolarized. Just as the laws of chemistry can electrically polarize molecules, new physics beyond the Standard Model can electrically polarize protons, neutrons, muons and atoms to an extent that can be detected experimentally. Particles that are polarized are described as possessing an electric dipole moment, or EDM.
The workshop this week will kick off with a colloquium on Wednesday describing the worldwide experimental hunt for EDMs. This will be followed by sessions on how these searches reach beyond the Standard Model. The workshop will conclude Friday with a physics seminar on how EDM searches could be driven by Project X.
—Bob Tschirhart, Winter Workshop on Electric Dipole Moments co-chair