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Ultra-high energy physics and standard basic principles
ABSTRACT. It has not yet been elucidated whether the observed flux suppression for ultrahigh energy cosmic rays (UHECR) at energies above 4 x 10E19 eV is a signature of the Greisen-Zatsepin-Kuzmin (GZK) cutoff or a consequence of other phenomena. In both cases, violations of the standard fundamental principles of Physics can be present and play a significant role. They can in particular modify cosmic-ray interactions, propagation or acceleration at very high energy. Thus, in a long-term program, UHECR data can hopefully be used to test relativity, quantum mechanics, energy and momentum conservation, vacuum properties... as well as the elementariness of standard particles. Data on cosmic rays at energies ~ 10E20 eV may also be sensitive to new physics generated well beyond Planck scale. A typical example is provided by the search for possible signatures of a Lorentz symmetry violation (LSV) associated to a privileged local reference frame (the "vacuum rest frame", VRF). If a VRF exists, the internal structure of standard particles at ultra-high energy can undergo substantial modifications. Similarly, the conventional particle symmetries may cease to be valid at such energies instead of heading to a grand unification and the structure of vacuum may no longer be governed by standard quantum field theory. Then, the question whether the notion of Planck scale still makes sense clearly becomes relevant and the very grounds of Cosmology can undergo essential modifications. UHECR studies naturally interact with the interpretation of WMAP and Planck observations. Recent Planck data analyses tend to confirm the possible existence of a privileged space direction. If the observed phenomenon turns out to be a signature of the spinorial space-time (SST) we suggested in 1996-97, then conventional Particle Physics may correspond to the local properties of standard matter at low enough energy and large enough distances. This would clearly strengthen the cosmological relevance of UHECR phenomenology and weaken the status of the Planck scale hypothesis. Another crucial observation is that, already before incorporating standard matter and relativity, the SST geometry naturally yields a H t = 1 law where t is the age of the Universe and H the ratio between relative speeds and distances at cosmic scale. As standard cosmology is not required to get such a fundamental result, the need for a conventional Planck scale is far from obvious and the study of UHECR can potentially yield evidence for an alternative approach including new physics and new ultimate constituents of matter. UHECR may in particular allow to explore the possible indications of the existence of a transition scale at very high energy where the standard laws would start becoming less and less dominant and new physics would replace the conventional fundamental principles. We discuss prospects of searches for potential signatures of such a phenomenon. (Contribution to the International Conference on New Frontiers in Physics, Kolymbari, Crete, Greece, August-September 2013. Paper submitted for the Conference Proceedings on February 5, 2014. A Post Scriptum has been added to this preprint on April 25).