Physics

CERN anomaly hints at new particle physics Standard Model can't explain

CERN anomaly hints at new part...
A diagram of an unusual particle decay that may hint at unknown physics
A diagram of an unusual particle decay that may hint at unknown physics
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A diagram of an unusual particle decay that may hint at unknown physics
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A diagram of an unusual particle decay that may hint at unknown physics
The LHCb facility at CERN, where the study was conducted
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The LHCb facility at CERN, where the study was conducted

CERN’s Large Hadron Collider (LHC) is designed to probe the fringes of known physics, and now the facility has found particles not behaving as predicted. While it’s still early days, the discovery hints at the existence of new particles or forces beyond the Standard Model.

The discovery was made in one particular experiment called the LHCb, which studies particles called “beauty quarks.” These exotic fundamental particles are produced in high numbers in the LHC collisions, but they don’t last long – beauty quarks quickly decay into electrons and muons.

According to the Standard Model of particle physics, beauty quarks are expected to decay into electrons and muons at equal rates. But the new data from LHCb suggests that’s not the case – rather than flipping a coin, beauty quarks tend to favor decaying into electrons more than muons. In five years’ worth of data, the team found that for every 100 electron decays, there were only about 85 muon decays.

Why exactly that’s happening remains a mystery, and can’t be explained by the Standard Model. The team says that the only reason there should be any preference towards one or the other is that some hidden particle is influencing the outcome.

Intriguingly, the new find is the culmination of several years’ worth of other studies that also hinted at unknown particles at play in this process. While those earlier results weren’t concrete enough individually, the team says they’re all pointing in the same direction, building a larger body of evidence.

The LHCb facility at CERN, where the study was conducted
The LHCb facility at CERN, where the study was conducted

“This new result offers tantalizing hints of the presence of a new fundamental particle or force that interacts differently with these different types of particles,” says Paula Alvarez Cartelle, a lead researcher on the study. “The more data we have, the stronger this result has become. This measurement is the most significant in a series of LHCb results from the past decade that all seem to line up – and could all point towards a common explanation. The results have not changed, but their uncertainties have shrunk, increasing our ability to see possible differences with the Standard Model.”

That said, there are still uncertainties involved, as the study is yet to be peer-reviewed, and the find has not yet been “confirmed.” Normally a statistical significance of five standard definitions – equivalent to around a 1 in 3.5 million chance of being a coincidence – is required to declare something a “discovery.” The new result, meanwhile, only registers three standard deviations, or about 1 in 1,000 chance of being an anomaly.

Still, the researchers are cautiously optimistic that they’re on the trail of new physics. After all, there are questions that the Standard Model can’t answer, such as dark matter or what happened to all the antimatter. Even gravity doesn’t fit in.

“The discovery of a new force in nature is the holy grail of particle physics,” says Konstantinos Petridis, an author of the study. “Our current understanding of the constituents of the universe falls remarkably short – we do not know what 95 percent of the universe is made of or why there is such a large imbalance between matter and antimatter. The discovery of a new fundamental force or particle, as hinted at by the evidence of differences in these measurements could provide the breakthrough required to start to answer these fundamental questions.”

The research was presented at the Moriond Electroweak Physics conference, and published in pre-print on ArXiv.

Sources: CERN, University of Cambridge, The Conversation

8 comments
8 comments
Chris Coles
Since it's inception the Large Hadron Collider LHC has used a very simple system to record data. They surround the point of impact of the colliding protons with detectors, that detect the movement of what are packages of energy, travelling at ~ the speed of light, so that the LHC staff can work out the line of movement of each package of energy, as it passes through the surrounding structure. They then take these lines of movement and, using the directions of movement to calculate the equivalent mass of each package; which in turn has been defined with a title; from Quarks to Electrons. What everyone must recognise is that, they are dealing with millions of such packages, and their respective lines of movement . . . every hour; requiring that they have to take statistical averages as a result. It is very much like taking two garden hoses and pointing them at each other, and recording the resulting splashes of the water being thrown off in every direction, and using the resulting images of the splashes to work out what each drop of splashed water denotes in energy and mass terms. Importantly . . . they have never recorded exactly the same detection of movement for every single event.

If the proton is, eventually recognised as being entirely composed of electromagnetic force field; then the analogy of the garden hoses will accurately describe their working system, exchanging water for EMF.

My ongoing concern is that, if as I believe it possible, that the LHC will eventually raise the impact levels to a point where, for example when using a lead target, instead of splitting, within a single atom, two of the protons, releasing a single neutron . . . they in fact impart sufficient energy to break the attachments of every proton in such an atom . . . such an event might release sufficient energy to serve to destroy the entire LHC system.

Be that as it may, it is my opinion that they are, and always have been, creating results to fit the needs of their theories; rather than creating totally incontrovertible facts.
bwana4swahili
The Standard Model is simply the 'model' currently known. It doesn't mean this model is the be all and end all. Scientific discovery is an ongoing adventure!
aki009
Yay! Another unpredicted particle. Clearly they need a bitter collider to study it further. (Not saying that we shouldn't, but it's kind of obvious, isn't it.)
Karmudjun
Nice conjecture Chris Coles.

I prefer to allow scientific results to stand on their own. I am not certain after years of function that the collider " have never recorded exactly the same detection of movement" - as I can't imagine an "every single event" study. In medicine, we attempt to duplicate the results, not record the same data points for every single study.

Once again Michael, you have opened our eyes to science beyond our realm of understanding. After reading the source article, I am amazed you were able to "dummy it down" for publication online here. Apparently they are reporting (I understand it isn't published in peer review yet) findings that are unexpected and DON'T FIT THE NEEDS OF THEIR THEORIES. Incontrovertibly they are actually studying the science where it leads them.
wolf0579
Is it possible that we primitive humans don't actually know everything?!?

I'm SHOCKED! Shocked, I tell you!
Signguy
Yeah, GOD keeps 'em guessing ....
Mark Rays
When something is not understood... et voilà a new particle comes out
Lamar Havard
Well, since quantum experiment's outcomes are changed by being observed, maybe Haddy is just messin' with the observers.