Over the past hundred years, quantum field theory turned out to be the most successful theory physics ever saw.
It is an umbrella term that merges numerous quantum field theories – just like the word “shape” covers both a circle and a square.
The most widely spread of the theories is called the Standard Model, and it is the basis of physics that has been highly successful.
David Tong, a physicist from the University of Cambridge, said that it can explain in detail literally what every single experiment they have ever done.
However, Quantum Field Theory, also known as QFT, is fundamentally incomplete.
Neither mathematicians nor physicists know precisely what makes a QFT a quantum field theory.
They have bits of the whole picture, but, for the moment, they can’t make it out.
Nathan Seiberg, a physicist from the Institute for Advanced Study, said that there are numerous indications that there may be a better way of thinking about QFT.
“It feels like it’s an animal you can touch from many places, but you don’t quite see the whole animal,” he added.
Mathematics, which needs internal consistency and attention to all details, is the language that may solve the QFT mystery.
If mathematics can figure out how to describe QFT with the same level of detail that characterizes well-known mathematical instances, a more rigorous picture of the physical world will likely pop up.
Robert Dijkgraaf, a director of the Institute for Advanced Study, said:
“If you really understood quantum field theory in a proper mathematical way, this would give us answers to many open physics problems, perhaps even including the quantization of gravity.”