The name is attributed to Dmitrii Blokhintsev and F.M. Gal'perin in 1934
|Electric charge:||0 e|
In physics, the graviton is a hypothetical elementary particle that mediates the force of gravity in the framework of quantum field theory. If it exists, the graviton must be massless (because the gravitational force has unlimited range) and must have a spin of 2 (because the source of gravity is the stress-energy tensor, which is a second-rank tensor, compared to electromagnetism, the source of which is the four-current, which is a first-rank tensor). To prove the existence of the graviton, physicists must be able to link the particle to the curvature of the space-time continuum and calculate the gravitational force exerted.
Gravitons are postulated because of the great success of the quantum field theory (in particular, the Standard Model) at modeling the behavior of all other forces of nature with similar particles: electromagnetism with the photon, the strong interaction with the gluons, and the weak interaction with the W and Z bosons. In this framework, the gravitational interaction is mediated by gravitons, instead of being described in terms of curved spacetime as in general relativity. In the classical limit, both approaches give identical results, which are required to conform to Newton's law of gravitation.
However, attempts to extend the Standard Model with gravitons have run into serious theoretical difficulties at high energies (processes with energies close to or above the Planck scale) because of infinities arising due to quantum effects (in technical terms, gravitation is nonrenormalizable). Some proposed models of quantum gravity attempt to address this issue, but these are highly speculative theories.
When describing graviton interactions, the classical theory (i.e. the tree diagrams) and semiclassical corrections (one-loop diagrams) behave normally, but Feynman diagrams with two (or more) loops lead to ultraviolet divergences; that is, infinite results that cannot be removed because the quantized general relativity is not renormalizable, unlike quantum electrodynamics. In popular terms, the usual ways physicists calculate the probability that a particle will emit or absorb a graviton give nonsensical answers and the theory loses its predictive power. These problems, together with some conceptual puzzles, led many physicists to believe that a theory more complete than just general relativity must regulate the behavior near the Planck scale.
Unambiguous detection of individual gravitons, though not prohibited by any fundamental law, is impossible with any physically reasonable detector. The reason is simply the extremely low cross section for the interaction of gravitons with matter. For example, a detector with the mass of Jupiter and 100% efficiency, placed in close orbit around a neutron star, would only be expected to observe one graviton every 10 years, even under the most favorable conditions. It would be impossible to discriminate these events from the background of neutrinos, since the dimensions of the required neutrino shield would ensure collapse into a black hole.
However, experiments to detect gravitational waves, which may be viewed as coherent states of many gravitons, are already underway (e.g. LIGO and VIRGO). Although these experiments cannot detect individual gravitons, they might provide information about certain properties of the graviton. For example, if gravitational waves were observed to propagate slower than c (the speed of light in a vacuum), that would imply that the graviton has mass.
Unlike the force carriers of the other forces, gravitation plays a special role in general relativity in defining the spacetime in which events take place. Because it does not depend on a particular space-time background, general relativity is said to be background independent. In contrast, the Standard Model is not background independent. A theory of quantum gravity is needed in order to reconcile these differences. Whether this theory should be background independent or not is an open question. The answer to this question will determine if gravity plays a special role in the universe.
String theory predicts the existence of gravitons and their well-defined interactions which represents one of its most important triumphs. A graviton in perturbative string theory is a closed string in a very particular low-energy vibrational state. The scattering of gravitons in string theory can also be computed from the correlation functions in conformal field theory, as dictated by the AdS/CFT correspondence, or from Matrix theory.
An interesting feature of gravitons in string theory is that, as closed strings without endpoints, they would not be bound to branes and could move freely between them. If we live on a brane (as hypothesized by some theorists) this "leakage" of gravitons from the brane into higher-dimensional space could explain why gravity is such a weak force, and gravitons from other branes adjacent to our own could provide a potential explanation for dark matter. See brane cosmology.
|Particles in Physics|
|Elementary:||Fermions:|| Quarks: up - down - strange - charm - bottom - top|
Leptons: electron - muon - tau - neutrinos
|Bosons:||Gauge bosons: photon - W and Z bosons - gluons|
|Composite:||Hadrons:||Baryons: proton - neutron - hyperon|
|Mesons: pion - kaon - J/ψ|
|Atomic nuclei - Atoms - Molecules|
|Hypothetical:||Higgs boson - Graviton - Tachyon|