Particle physics experiments strengthen evidence for a new force of nature
A recently completed experiment at the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory (Fermilab) on the outskirts of Chicago produced strong data suggesting that a new force of nature may have been discovered. If this result is ultimately confirmed, it would require a revision of the Standard Model of particle physics, which currently postulates the existence of only four laws that govern interactions at the subatomic level: electromagnetism, gravity, weak nuclear force, and strong nuclear force. Obligate. The seemingly new force of nature discovered in Fermilab and CERN’s Large Hadron Collider is creating a huge buzz in the world of quantum physics.
Evidence accumulates for a fifth force
The anomalous results recently reported by Fermilab are consistent with experimental results obtained in other high energy physics research facilities. Just last month, physicists working at CERN’s Large Hadron Collider, the world’s most powerful particle accelerator, claimed to have found evidence of a fifth force at work in nature and their results correspond to those obtained at Fermilab vitally.
Dr Maggie Aderin-Pocock, co-host of the BBC’s science show Sky at Night, called Fermilab’s announcement “quite mind-boggling”.
“It has the potential to turn physics upside down,” Aderin-Pocock added. “We have a number of these mysteries that remain unsolved. And that could give us the key answers to solving these mysteries.
The first results of the Muon g-2 experiment at Fermilab have confirmed the discovery of a new force of nature. This awe-inspiring experiment operates at less than 450 degrees Fahrenheit and studies the precession (or oscillation) of muons as they pass through the magnetic field. (Reidar Hahn / Fermilab)
Strange muon wobble leads to new discovery of the force of nature
The experiment that yielded potentially life-changing results and the idea of a new force of nature involved subatomic particles known as muons.
A muon is a negatively charged particle with a profile similar to an electron (both are classified as leptons). But the mass of the muon is 200 times that of its ethereal cousin the electron. In nature, muons are produced by high-energy interactions involving particles of matter, including those that occur when molecules in Earth’s upper atmosphere are bombarded by cosmic rays.
Since they can also be reliably created inside powerful particle accelerators, muons are ideal experimental “subjects” for physicists studying the nature of reality and those looking for new forces of nature. Very often high energy physics projects are designed to find or produce anomalies, which then require modifications or additions to known laws or scientific principles.
In the Fermilab Muon-2 experiment, muons were accelerated around a 45-foot (14-meter) ring, before being passed through a magnetic field. Muons passing through such a field are expected to oscillate at a certain speed, in accordance with predictions derived from conventional four-force interactions (calculated with the effects of electromagnetism, gravity, weak nuclear force, and strong nuclear force.) But the muon experiment suggests a fifth force of nature.
To the surprise and delight of the physicists at Fermilab, measurements of the muons in this experiment showed that they were wobbling faster than expected. This means that another force of nature must have been at work that impacted muon oscillation rates. Therefore, in this experimental environment, a new, previously undetected force of nature would be the most logical way to explain the inconsistency of muon oscillation.
According to current calculations, there is a one in 40,000 chance that this result is a statistical coincidence. While this may sound impressive, scientists are cautious of these questions, and it is customary not to classify a new discovery as a true discovery until the chance of a coincidence can be reduced to just one in 3.5 million.
More data is needed to reach a definitive conclusion. But a knowledgeable source is brimming with optimism. “My sense of Spidey tingles at me and tells me this is going to be real,” exclaimed Ben Allanach, a professor of theoretical physics at the University of Cambridge who was not directly involved in the experiment. “I’ve searched all my career for forces and particles beyond what we already know, and that’s it. This is the moment I was waiting for and I’m not getting much sleep because I’m too excited.
It was only recently that CERN’s Large Hadron Collider produced its own muon oscillation results, which were the same as those measured by Fermilab. ( CC BY 2.0 )
CERN muon anomalies add fuel to the fire
Less than three weeks ago, physicists assigned to CERN’s Large Hadron Collider released their own announcement claiming the possible existence of a fifth subatomic force, which was also influenced by the results of an experiment involving muons .
In this case, it was inexplicable inconsistencies in quark decay rates that sparked enthusiasm. Quarks are the basic building blocks of particles such as protons and neutrons, and under certain circumstances they can decay into negatively charged leptons (electrons and muons).
In the Standard Model of quantum physics, all quarks that undergo this type of decay should produce an equal number of electrons and muons. But a new quark discovered by scientists at CERN in 2014, known as the beauty quark, appeared to produce fewer muons than expected when monitored.
In 2019, CERN scientists working at the Large Hadron Collider developed experimental protocols that could definitively prove whether this anomaly was real or not. After more than a year of looking at the results, the scientists finally presented their results to the public last month.
Confirming their initial finding, they found that beauty quarks in decay produced more electrons than muons at a rate of 100 to 85. This deviation from the Standard Model predictions cannot be explained by the known laws of la physics, which led CERN experts to conclude that another unknown force of nature was modifying the behavior of beauty quarks.
“This force is said to be extremely weak, which is why we have seen no signs of it so far, and interacts differently with electrons and muons,” scientists involved in the experiment told interviewers on The Conversation podcast. Weekly.
CERN researchers believe that a theoretical fundamental particle called “Z prime” could be responsible for the results they measured. This ghostly entity is believed to be responsible for transmitting the new force between more conventional particles of matter in previously undetected and unexpected ways.
High energy colliding particles. ( GiroScience / Adobe Stock)
The race is on and science may never be the same
With revolutionary changes in our understanding of physics on the horizon, experimenters in high-energy labs around the world will be looking to join in on the action.
“The race is really on to try to get one of these experiments to really get the proof that this is really something new,” said Dr Mitesh Patel, an Imperial College physicist. from London who participated in the Large Hadron Collider experiment. “It will take more data and more measurements, and hopefully show evidence that these effects are real.”
While important work remains to be done, it probably won’t take long for relevant research to begin, in several places. If indeed the laws of physics are about to change, this change may occur in the very near future.
Top Image: The force of nature can be brilliant because it is here when high energy collisions between atomic and subatomic particles produce light and energy. Source: Pierre Jurik / Adobe Stock
By Nathan Falde