The Standard Model of particle physics is a theory concerning the electromagnetic, weak, and strong nuclear interactions, which mediate the dynamics of the known subatomic particles. Developed throughout the mid to late 20th century, the Standard Model is truly “a tapestry woven by many hands”, sometimes driven forward by new experimental discoveries, sometimes by theoretical advances. It was a collaborative effort in the largest sense, spanning continents and decades. The current formulation was finalized in the mid 1970s upon experimental confirmation of the existence of quarks. Since then, discoveries of the bottom quark (1977), the top quark (1995), and the tau neutrino (2000) have given further credence to the Standard Model. More recently, (2011–2012) the apparent detection of the Higgs boson completes the set of predicted particles. Because of its success in explaining a wide variety of experimental results, the Standard Model is sometimes regarded as a "theory of almost everything".
The Standard Model falls short of being a complete theory of fundamental interactions because it does not incorporate the full theory of gravitation as described by general relativity, or predict the accelerating expansion of the universe (as possibly described by dark energy). The theory does not contain any viable dark matter particle that possesses all of the required properties deduced from observational cosmology. It also does not correctly account for neutrino oscillations (and their non-zero masses). Although the Standard Model is believed to be theoretically self-consistent, it has several apparently unnatural properties giving rise to puzzles like the strong CP problem and the hierarchy problem.
Nevertheless, the Standard Model is important to theoretical and experimental particle physicists alike. For theorists, the Standard Model is a paradigm of a quantum field theory, which exhibits a wide range of physics including spontaneous symmetry breaking, anomalies, non-perturbative behavior, etc. It is used as a basis for building more exotic models that incorporate hypothetical particles, extra dimensions, and elaborate symmetries (such as supersymmetry) in an attempt to explain experimental results at variance with the Standard Model, such as the existence of dark matter and neutrino oscillations. In turn, experimenters have incorporated the Standard Model into simulators to help search for new physics beyond the Standard Model.
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