MetadataShow full item record
This article reviews the current situation in the field of rare K decays: the relevant phenomenology, the present experimental situation, and prospects for the near future. Study of rare K decays can make a significant contribution in a number of different frontier areas of research in high-energy physics. In the area of CP violation, study of such rare decays as K(L)0 --> pi0e+e-, K(L)0 --> pi0mu+mu-, K(L)0 --> pi0nunuBAR, and muon polarization in K(L)0 --> mu+mu- can provide important complementary information to what has been learned from the decay K(L)0 --> pipi. Even though experiments with sufficient accuracy to make a meaningful study of CP violation are still a few years away, significant progress has been made in this general area during the last decade. A second major area of interest in the field of rare K decays is the search for processes forbidden in the Standard Model, e.g., K(L)0 --> mue and K+ --> pi+mu+e-. Various extensions of the Standard Model predict that these processes will occur with branching fractions in the range of 10(-10) to 10(-15). Experiments of the last decade have pushed the limits into the 10(-10) to 10(-11) range, and further improvements in sensitivity of one to two orders of magnitude can be expected in the next few years. K decays allow one also to study higher-order weak-interaction processes such as K(L)0 --> mu+mu-, K(L)0 --> e+e-, K+ --> pi+nunuBAR, which are forbidden to first order in the Standard Model. Because of strong suppression, these decay modes offer potential windows on new physics; in addition, they may offer the most reliable measurement of V(td), one of the elements of the weak mixing matrix in the quark sector. The studies of the mu+mu- channel have achieved data samples of close to 1000 events; the other two modes should be observed for the first time in the next few years. Finally, as a byproduct of these studies, one has been able to look simultaneously for new light particles into which the K meson could decay. Limits obtained for various hypothetical particles are summarized.