An introduction to spontaneous symmetry breaking

Aron J. Beekman, Louk Rademaker, Jasper van Wezel

SciPost Phys. Lect. Notes 11 (2019) · published 4 December 2019


Perhaps the most important aspect of symmetry in physics is the idea that a state does not need to have the same symmetries as the theory that describes it. This phenomenon is known as spontaneous symmetry breaking. In these lecture notes, starting from a careful definition of symmetry in physics, we introduce symmetry breaking and its consequences. Emphasis is placed on the physics of singular limits, showing the reality of symmetry breaking even in small-sized systems. Topics covered include Nambu-Goldstone modes, quantum corrections, phase transitions, topological defects and gauge fields. We provide many examples from both high energy and condensed matter physics. These notes are suitable for graduate students.

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