Elementary particles, like photons and electrons, are not more elementary in the sense that there are underlying theories, such as quantum spin model on lattice, from which they can be derived as an effective approximation (see for example arXiv:hep-th/0302201).
In particular, the string-net condensation provides a unified origin for gauge interactions and Fermi statistics: Both elementary gauge bosons (such as photons, gluons) and elementary fermions (such as electrons, quarks) can emerge as quasi-particles in a quantum spin model on lattice if the quantum spin model has a "string-net condensed state" as its ground state. An comparison between the string-net approach and the superstring approach can be found here.
There is a falsifiable prediction from the string-net theory: all fermions (elementary or composite) must carry gauge charges (see cond-mat/0302460). The standard model contain composite fermions that are neutral for $U(1)\times SU(2)\times SU(3)$ gauge theory. So according to the string-net theory, the standard model is incomplete. The correct model should contain extra gauge theory, such as a $Z_2$ gauge theory. So the string-net theory predicts extra discrete gauge theory and new cosmic strings associated with the new discrete gauge theory.
The emergence approach may also produce (linear) quantum gravity from quantum spin models (see arXiv:0907.1203). However, the emergence approach (such as the string-net theory), so far, fail to produce the chiral coupling between the $SU(2)$ weak interaction and the fermions.
Note added: We now know that the emergence approach (such as the string-net theory) CAN produce the chiral coupling between the $SU(2)$ weak interaction and the fermions. See http://arxiv.org/abs/1305.1045 , http://arxiv.org/abs/1307.7480 , http://arxiv.org/abs/1402.4151 .
This post imported from StackExchange Physics at 2014-04-04 16:13 (UCT), posted by SE-user Xiao-Gang Wen