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Supersymmetry

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Definition: Supersymmetry is a special type of symmetry in physics which implies that there is a correspondence, at a fundamental level, between fermions and bosons. Each type of particle is related, according to supersymmetry, to a "superpartner." The mathematical structures at the heart of supersymmetry was discovered by various physicists (on both sides of the iron curtain) throughout the late 1960's and into the early 1970's, including applications to string theory.

Today, supersymmetry is most often talked about (at least by non-physicists) in relation to string theory, because it removes many of the theoretical and mathematical complications to the theory. In fact, the full name of string theory is actually "superstring theory" which is a shorthand for "supersymmetric string theory."

At present, we have no clear experimental evidence that conclusively proves supersymmetry is true. The most obvious evidence that physicists hope for would be the discovery of a superpartner for an existing partner.

Supersymmetry Naming Conventions

The naming of the superpartners is a bit unusual, because the different types of superpartners have different types of prefixes and suffixes added to indicate their relation to the known particles.

If the particle is a boson, then the superpartner is named by adding a "-ino" to the end. If supersymmetry is true, then the photon (a boson) should have a related photino which is a fermion.

The fermions, however, have superpartners which are named by putting an "s-" prefix onto the term. So the electron (a fermion) has a superpartner called a selectron, which is a boson.

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