1.4.5 Towards Unification of Forces
We remarked in section 1.1 that unification is a basic quest in physics. Great advances in physics often amount to unification of different theories and domains. Newton unified terrestrial and celestial domains under a common law of gravitation. The experimental discoveries of Oersted and Faraday showed that electric and magnetic phenomena are in general inseparable. Maxwell unified electromagnetism and optics with the discovery that light is an electromagnetic wave. Einstein attempted to unify gravity and electromagnetism but could not succeed in this venture. But this did not deter physicists from zealously pursuing the g^al of unification of forces.
Recent decades have seen much progress on this front. The electromagnetic and the weak nuclear force have now been unified and are seen as aspects of a single ‘electro-weak’ force. What this unification actually means cannot be explained here. Attempts have been (and are being) made to unify the electro-weak and the strong force and even to unify the gravitational force with the rest of the fundamental forces. Many of these ideas are still speculative and inconclusive. Table 1.4 summarises some of the milestones in the progress towards unification of forces in nature.