Gauge Symmetries, Symmetry Breaking, and Gauge-Invariant Approaches

Abstract

Gauge symmetries play a central role, both in the mathematical foundations as well as the conceptual construction of modern (particle) physics theories. However, it is yet unclear whether they form a necessary component of theories, or whether they can be eliminated. It is also unclear whether they are merely an auxiliary tool to simplify (and possibly localize) calculations or whether they contain independent information. Therefore their status, both in physics and philosophy of physics, remains to be fully clarified. In this overview we review the current state of affairs on both the philosophy and the physics side. In particular, we focus on the circumstances in which the restriction of gauge theories to gauge invariant information on an observable level is warranted, using the Brout-Englert-Higgs theory as an example of particular current importance. Finally, we determine a set of yet to be answered questions to clarify the status of gauge symmetries.

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