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The fundamental forces of the Universe

by The Open University

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Course Description

To begin to understand how the Universe works, you need to address the rules that the Universe follows. These ‘laws of physics’ tell us how objects move when forces are applied and how solids, liquids and gasses behave at different temperatures, among many other things.

Behind these laws are the four fundamental interactions: the electromagnetic force, the strong and weak nuclear forces, and the gravitational force. These four forces lie at the heart of all interactions, everywhere in the Universe.

Are these four forces really distinct from each other? Have they always been distinct, throughout the history of the Universe? When scientists investigate these forces at high energies – using particle accelerators such as the Large Hadron Collider at CERN for instance – they have seen hints that these forces are not as distinct as supposed.

And since the very early Universe was an extremely energetic place in that first fraction of a second after the Big Bang, it seems likely that the four forces were unified then in some way.

This learning pathway introduces the four fundamental forces, explaining their discovery and the theories surrounding their interactions, before going on to explore real world examples of these interactions, the ideas of superunification and so-called ‘theories of everything’.
The fundamental forces of the Universe
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