Event celebrates 50 years of Kobayashi–Maskawa theory

21 April 2023
KM50 event
Mixing Participants of the KM50 event in Tsukuba. Credit: KEK

Quarks change their flavour through the weak interaction, and the strength of the flavour mixing is parametrised by the Cabibbo–Kobayashi–Maskawa (CKM) matrix, which is an essential part of the Standard Model. This year marks the 60th anniversary of Nicola Cabibbo’s paper describing the mixing between down and strange quarks. It also marks the 50th anniversary of the paper by Makoto Kobayashi and Toshihide Maskawa, published in February 1973, which explained the origin of CP violation by generalising the quark mixing to three generations. To celebrate the magnificent accomplishments of quark-flavour physics during the past 50 years and to discuss the future of this important topic, a symposium was held at KEK in Tsukuba, Japan on 11 February, attracting about 150 participants from around the globe, including Makoto Kobayashi himself.

Opening the event, Masanori Yamauchi, director-general of KEK, summarised the early history of Kobayashi-Maskawa (KM) theory and the ideas to test it as a theory of CP violation. He recalled his time as a member of the Belle collaboration at the KEKB accelerator, including the memorable competition with the BaBar experiment at SLAC during the late 1990s and early 2000s, which finally led to the conclusion that KM theory explains the observed CP violation. Kobayashi and Maskawa shared one half of the 2008 Nobel Prize in Physics “for the discovery of the origin of the broken symmetry which predicts the existence of at least three families of quarks in nature”.

The scientific sessions were initiated by Amarjit Soni (BNL), who summarised various ideas to measure CP violation from cascade decays of B mesons including the celebrated papers by A I Sanda and co-workers in 1980–1981, which gave a strong motivation to build B factories. Stephen Olsen (Chung Ang University), who was one of the leaders of the Belle collaboration, looked back at the situation in the early 1980s when B-meson mixing was first observed, and emphasised the role of the accelerator physicists who achieved the 100-fold increase in luminosity that was necessary to measure CP angles. Adrian Bevan (Queen Mary University of London) added a perspective from the BaBar experiment, while the more recent impressive development by the LHCb experiment was summarised by Patrick Koppenburg (Nikhef).

Theoretical developments remain an integral part of quark-flavour physics. Matthias Neubert (University of Mainz) gave an overview of the theoretical tools developed to understand B-meson decays, which include heavy-quark symmetry, heavy-quark effective field theory, heavy-quark expansion and QCD factorisation, and Zoltan Ligeti (LBNL) summarised concurrent developments of theory and experiment to determine the sides of the CKM triangle. Lattice QCD also played a central role in the determination of the CKM matrix elements by providing precision computation of non-perturbative parameters, as discussed by Aida El-Khadra (University of Illinois).

There are valuable lessons from the KM paper when applied to the search beyond the Standard Model

The B sector is not the only place where CP violation is observed. Indeed, it was first observed in kaon mixings, and important pieces of information have been obtained since then. A number of theoretical ideas dedicated to the study of kaon CP violation were discussed by Andrzej Buras (Technical University of Munich), and experimental projects were overviewed by Taku Yamanaka (Osaka University).

There are still unsolved mysteries around quark-flavour physics. The most notable is the origin of the fermion generations, which may only be understood by accumulating more data to find any discrepancy with the Standard Model. SuperKEKB/Belle II, the successor of KEKB/Belle, plans to accumulate 50 times more data in the coming decades, while LHCb will continue to improve the precision of measurement in hadronic collisions. Nanae Taniguchi (KEK) reported the current status of SuperKEKB/Belle II, which has been in physics operation since 2019 and has already broken peak-luminosity records in e+e collisions. Gino Isidori (University of Zurich) gave his view on the possible shape of physics to come. “There are valuable lessons from the KM paper, which are still valuable today, when applied to the search beyond the Standard Model,” he concluded. 

As a closing remark, Makoto Kobayashi reminisced about the time when he built the theory as well as the time when the KEKB/Belle experiment was running. “I was able to watch the development of the B factory so closely from the very beginning,” he said. “I am grateful to the colleagues who gave me such a great opportunity.”

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