The “tantalization” results of the two experiments violate the physics rulebook

The preliminary results of the two experiments suggest that there may be something wrong with the basic way physicists think the universe works.

The smallest particles do not do exactly what they are expected to do when they orbit around two different long-term experiments in the United States and Europe. The results of confounding, when correctly proven, reveal a major problem in the rulebooks that physicists use to explain and understand how the universe works at the elementary particle level.

Matthew McCullough, a theoretical physicist at CERN, the European Organization for Nuclear Research, said that unraveling the mystery could “beyond the current understanding of nature.”

Rule book called Standard model, It was developed about 50 years ago. Experiments conducted over decades have repeatedly confirmed that the description of particles and the forces that make up and control the universe are mostly prominent. until now.

“New particle physics, new physics may go beyond our research,” said Alexei Petrov, a particle physicist at Wayne State University. “It’s appetizing.”

The US Department of Energy’s Fermi Lab announced Wednesday the results of 8.2 billion races along railroad tracks outside Chicago. For most people, physicists are worried. The magnetic field around the fleeting subatomic particles is not what the Standard Model should say.This continues New result Last month, it was announced by CERN’s Large Hadron Collider. A surprising proportion of particles were found in the aftermath of a fast collision.

Petrov, who was not involved in either experiment, was initially skeptical of the results of the Large Hadron Collider when the hint first appeared in 2014. With the latest and more comprehensive results, he is now “carefully ecstatic.”

The point of the experiment is, as David Kaplan, a theoretical physicist at Johns Hopkins University, explains, pulling the particles apart and seeing if “something interesting is happening” in both the particles and the seemingly empty space between them. Is to find out.

“Secrets aren’t just living in problems. They live in something that seems to fill all of space and time. These are quantum field theories,” Kaplan said. “We put the energy in a vacuum and see what comes out.”

Both sets of results contain strange, fleeting particles called Muon.. Muons are the heavier cousins ​​of electrons that orbit the center of an atom. However, muons are not part of the atom, they are unstable and usually only exist for 2 microseconds. After being discovered on cosmic rays in 1936, it confused scientists, and a well-known physicist asked, “Who ordered it?”

“From the beginning, I was worried about physicists,” said Graziano Venanzoni, an experimental physicist at the Italian National Laboratory called Muong-2, one of the top scientists at the Fermi Institute in the United States. ..

In the experiment, the muon is sent around a magnetized track and the particle remains present for enough time for the researcher to scrutinize the particle. Preliminary results suggest that the muon’s magnetic “spin” is 0.1% off what the Standard Model predicts. It may sound less, but it’s huge for particle physicists, more than enough to overturn current understanding.

Researchers will need another year or two to complete the analysis of the results of all laps around a 50-foot (14-meter) track. If the results do not change, it will be counted as a major finding, Venanzoni said.

Separately, at CERN’s largest atomic crusher in the world, physicists collide protons with each other to see what happens afterwards. One of several separate experiments on particle colliders measures what happens when particles collide, called beauty or bottom quarks.

The Standard Model predicts that collisions of these beauty quarks should result in the same number of electrons and muons. He said it was like throwing a coin 1,000 times and getting about the same number of heads and tails. Beauty experiment of large Hadron collider Chief Chris Parks.

But that’s not what happened.

Researchers scrutinized data from years and thousands of crashes And found Syracuse University experimental researcher Sheldon Stone said there was a 15% difference and had far more electrons than muons.

Neither experiment has yet been called an official finding, as the results are still unlikely to be statistical quirks. According to researchers, running the experiment many more times (both planned) could reach very stringent statistical requirements for physics to praise it as a discovery in a year or two. There is.

If the results hold, they will overturn “all other calculations done” in the world of particle physics, Kaplan said.

“This is not a fudge factor. There is something wrong with this,” Kaplan said.

He explained that there may be some undiscovered particles (or forces) that could explain both strange consequences.

Or these could be mistakes. In 2011, a strange finding that particles called neutrinos seemed to move faster than light threatened the model, which turned out to be the result of problems with loose electrical connections in experiments. ..

“We checked all the cable connections and did what we could to check the data,” Stone said. “We are somewhat confident, but you never know.”


Geneva AP writer James Keaten contributed to this report.


Follow Seth Borenstein on Twitter. @borenbears.


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