The ‘tantalizing’ results of the two experiments defy the physics rulebook

Preliminary results from the two experiments suggest that something may be wrong with the basic way physicists think the universe works, the appearance it has and the area of ​​particle physics confusing and enthralling.

Tiny particles called muons do not do exactly what is expected of them in two different long-term experiments in the United States and Europe. The confusing results – if proven right – reveal major problems with the rules that physicists use to describe and understand how the universe works at the subatomic level.

“We think we could be swimming in a sea of ​​background particles all the time that just weren’t directly detected,” Fermilab experiment chief scientist Chris Polly told a news conference. “Maybe there are monsters we haven’t yet imagined emerging from the vacuum interacting with our muons and that gives us a window to see them.”

The ordinance, called the Standard Model, was developed about 50 years ago. Experiments conducted over the decades have repeatedly confirmed that his descriptions of the particles and forces that make up and control the universe are largely. So far.

“New particles, new physics may be beyond our research,” said particle physicist from Wayne State University Alexei Petrov. “It’s annoying.”

Fermilab, the U.S. Department of Energy, announced on Wednesday the results of 8.2 billion races along the track outside Chicago, which, although ho-hum for most people have physicists, look like muon magnetic fields are not what the Standard Model says it should be. This follows new results released last month by the European Center for Nuclear Research’s Large Hadron Collider, which revealed a surprising proportion of particles after a high-speed collision.

If confirmed, U.S. results would be the biggest find in the bizarre world of subatomic particles in nearly 10 years, since the discovery of the Higgs boson, often called the “god particle,” said Aida El-Khadra of the University of Illinois, who works on theoretical physics for Fermilabov. experiment.

The point of the experiments, explained Johns Hopkins University theoretical physicist David Kaplan, is to separate the particles and find out if “something funny” is happening to both the particles and the seemingly empty space between them.

“Secrets do not live only in matter. They live in something that seems to fill all space and time. These are quantum fields, “Kaplan said. “We put energy into the vacuum and see what comes out.”

Both sets of results include an unusual, transient particle called a muon. A muon is a heavier relative of an electron orbiting the center of an atom. But a muon is not part of an atom. It is unstable and normally only exists for two microseconds. After being discovered in the cosmic rays in 1936, it confused scientists so much that a famous physicist asked, “Who ordered it?”

“Physicists have been chasing each other from the start,” said Graziano Venanzoni, an experimental physicist from the Italian National Laboratory, who is one of the best scientists in the American Fermilab experiment, called Muon g-2.

The experiment sends muons around a magnetized path that keeps the particles long enough for researchers to take a closer look. Preliminary results suggest that the magnetic “spin” of the muon is 0.1% lower than that predicted by the standard model. That may not sound like much, but to physicists the particles are huge – more than enough to encourage instant understanding.

Researchers need another year or two to complete an analysis of the results of all laps around the 50-foot course. If the results do not change, it will be considered a great discovery, Venanzoni said.

Separately, in the world’s largest atomic breaker at CERN, physicists knocked protons against each other to see what would happen next. One of several separate particle collision experiments measures what happens when particle collisions are called beauty or lower quarks.

The standard model predicts that these beauty quark crashes should result in equal numbers of electrons and muons. It’s kind of like tossing a coin 1,000 times and getting about the same number of heads and tails, said the head of the Great Hadron Collider beauty experiment Chris Parkes.

But that did not happen.

The researchers compared data from several years and several thousand declines and found a difference of 15%, with significantly more electrons than muons, said experiment researcher Sheldon Stone of the University of Syracuse.

None of the experiments is yet called an official discovery because there is still a small chance that the results are statistical miracles. Performing more experiments – planned in both cases – could, in a year or two, reach incredibly stringent statistical requirements for physics to welcome this as a discovery, the researchers said.

If the results are maintained after all, they would execute “every other calculation” in the world of particle physics, Kaplan said.

“This is not a factor of stupidity. This is something wrong, “Kaplan said. That something can be explained by a new particle or force.

Or these results may be errors. In 2011, a strange discovery appeared that a particle called a neutrino travels faster than light threatens the model, but this turned out to be the result of a problem with loose electrical connections in the experiment.

“We checked all our cable connections and we did what we could to check our data,” Stone said. “We’re kind of confident, but you never know.”

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