Large Hadron Collider scientists ‘are on the verge of proving Standard Model of physics is WRONG’ in ‘heart racing’ discovery that would help reveal some of the universe’s biggest secrets
- Result from CERN challenges the leading theory in physics – the Standard Model
- CERN found particles not behaving the way they should according to the model
- Scientists involved said they were shaking when they first looked at the results
Scientists have announced ‘intriguing’ results today that potentially cannot be explained by the current laws of nature.
CERN, which operates the largest particle physics laboratory in the world near Geneva in Switzerland, has detected ‘gaps in our understanding of the universe’.
From Large Hadron Collider data, CERN has found particles not behaving how they should according to the guiding theory of particle physics – the Standard Model.
As the Standard Model goes, particles called ‘beauty quarks’ should decay into either ‘muons’ or ‘electrons’ in equal measure.
However, the new findings suggest this may not be happening, which could point to the existence of new particles or interactions not explained by the Standard Model.
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New results from CERN have challenged the leading theory in particle physics – the Standard Model. The results were produced by the Large Hadron Collider beauty (LHCb) experiment (pictured), one of four huge particle detectors at CERN’s Large Hadron Collider (LHC)
The LHC started colliding particles in 2010. Inside the 27-km LHC ring, bunches of protons travel at almost the speed of light and collide at four interaction points.
These collisions generate new particles, which are measured by detectors surrounding the interaction points.
By analyzing these collisions, physicists from all over the world are deepening our understanding of the laws of nature.
While the LHC is able to produce up to 1 billion proton-proton collisions per second, the HL-LHC will increase this number, referred to by physicists as ‘luminosity’, by a factor of between five and seven, allowing about 10 times more data to be accumulated between 2026 and 2036.
This means that physicists will be able to investigate rare phenomena and make more accurate measurements.
For example, the LHC allowed physicists to unearth the Higgs boson in 2012, thereby making great progress in understanding how particles acquire their mass.
Physicists from Imperial College London and the universities of Bristol and Cambridge led the analysis of the data to produce this result, with funding from the Science and Technology Facilities Council, the UK government agency.
‘We were actually shaking when we first looked at the results, we were that excited,’ said Dr Mitesh Patel at Imperial College London, one of the leading physicists behind the measurement. ‘Our hearts did beat a bit faster.
‘It’s too early to say if this genuinely is a deviation from the Standard Model but the potential implications are such that these results are the most exciting thing I’ve done in 20 years in the field.
The Standard Model describes all the known fundamental particles that make up our universe and the forces that they interact with.
Over the 20th century, it became established as a well-tested physics theory.
However, it cannot explain some of the deepest mysteries in modern physics, including what dark matter is made of and the imbalance of matter and antimatter in the universe.
To help solve some of these mysteries, researchers have been searching for particles behaving in different ways than would be expected in the Standard Model.
The results were produced by the Large Hadron Collider beauty (LHCb) experiment, one of four huge particle detectors at CERN’s Large Hadron Collider (LHC).
The LHC is the world’s largest and most powerful particle collider – it accelerates subatomic particles to almost the speed of light, before smashing them into each other.
Image shows the very rare decay of a beauty meson involving an electron and positron observed at LHCb=
SUBATOMIC PHYSICS, IN BRIEF
Atoms are usually made of protons, neutrons and electrons.
These are made of even smaller elementary particles.
Elementary particles, also known as fundamental particles, are the smallest particles we know to exist.
They are subdivided into two groups, the first being fermions, which are said to be the particles that make up matter.
The second are bosons, the force particles that hold the others together.
Within the group of fermions are subatomic particles known as quarks.
When quarks combine in threes, they form compound particles known as baryons.
Protons are probably the best-known baryons.
Sometimes, quarks interact with corresponding anti-particles (such as anti-quarks), which have the same mass but opposite charges.
When this happens, they form mesons.
Mesons often turn up in the decay of heavy man-made particles, such as those in particle accelerators, nuclear reactors and cosmic rays.
Mesons, baryons, and other kinds of particles that take part in interactions like these are called hadrons.
These collisions produce a burst of new particles, which physicists record and study in order to better understand the basic building blocks of nature.
Researchers say the updated measurement questions the laws of nature that treat electrons and their heavier cousins – muons – identically, except for small differences due to their different masses.
The muon is an elementary particle similar to the electron but approximately 200 times heavier.
According to the Standard Model, muons and electrons interact with all forces in the same way, so beauty quarks created at LHCb should decay into muons just as often as they do to electrons.
However, these new measurements suggest the decays could be happening at different rates, which could indicate never-before-seen particles tipping the scales away from muons.
‘The result offers an intriguing hint of a new fundamental particle or force that interacts in a way that the particles currently known to science do not,’ said Imperial College London PhD student Daniel Moise, who made the first announcement of the results at the Moriond Electroweak Physics conference.
‘If this is confirmed by further measurements, it will have a profound impact on our understanding of nature at the most fundamental level.’
In particle physics, the gold standard for discovery is five standard deviations – which means there is a one in 3.5 million chance of the result being a fluke.
This result is three deviations – meaning there is still a 1 in 1,000 chance that the measurement is a statistical coincidence, so it is therefore too soon to make any firm conclusions, the scientists say.
‘We know there must be new particles out there to discover because our current understanding of the universe falls short in so many ways,’ said Dr Michael McCann at Imperial College London., who also played a leading role.
‘We do not know what 95 per cent of the universe is made of, or why there is such a large imbalance between matter and anti-matter, nor do we understand the patterns in the properties of the particles that we do know about.
‘While we have to wait for confirmation of these results, I hope that we might one day look back on this as a turning point, where we started to answer to some of these fundamental questions.’
The deviation is consistent with a pattern of anomalies measured in similar processes by LHCb and other experiments worldwide over the past decade, according to CERN.
The result was announced at the Moriond Electroweak Physics conference and published as a pre-print paper, yet to be peer-reviewed.
EXPLAINED: THE STANDARD MODEL OF PHYSICS DESCRIBES THE FUNDAMENTAL STRUCTURE OF MATTER IN THE UNIVERSE
The theories and discoveries of thousands of physicists since the 1930s have resulted in a remarkable insight into the fundamental structure of matter.
Everything in the universe is found to be made from a few basic building blocks called fundamental particles, governed by four fundamental forces.
Our best understanding of how these particles and three of the forces are related to each other is encapsulated in the Standard Model of particle physics.
All matter around us is made of elementary particles, the building blocks of matter.
These particles occur in two basic types called quarks and leptons. Each consists of six particles, which are related in pairs, or ‘generations’.
All stable matter in the universe is made from particles that belong to the first generation. Any heavier particles quickly decay to the next most stable level.
There are also four fundamental forces at work in the universe: the strong force, the weak force, the electromagnetic force, and the gravitational force. They work over different ranges and have different strengths.
Gravity is the weakest but it has an infinite range.
The electromagnetic force also has infinite range but it is many times stronger than gravity.
The weak and strong forces are effective only over a very short range and dominate only at the level of subatomic particles.
The Standard Model includes the electromagnetic, strong and weak forces and all their carrier particles, and explains well how these forces act on all of the matter particles.
However, the most familiar force in our everyday lives, gravity, is not part of the Standard Model, and fitting gravity comfortably into this framework has proved to be a difficult challenge.
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