Duality and 'particle' democracy
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Weak/strong duality is usually accompanied by what seems a puzzling ontological feature: the fact that under this kind of duality what is viewed as 'elementary' in one description gets mapped to what is viewed as 'composite' in the dual description. This paper investigates the meaning of this apparent 'particle democracy', as it has been called, by adopting an historical approach. The aim is to clarify the nature of the correspondence between 'dual particles' in the light of an historical analysis of the developments of the idea of weak/strong duality, starting with Dirac's electric-magnetic duality and its successive generalizations in the context of (Abelian and non-Abelian) field theory, to arrive at its first extension to string theory. This analysis is then used as evidential basis for discussing the 'elementary/composite' divide and, after taking another historical detour by analysing an instructive analogy case (DHS duality and related nuclear democracy), drawing some conclusions on the particle-democracy issue.