First, scientists experimenting with CERN's Large Hadron Collider discovered the Higgs boson. Next came the possible discovery of pentaquarks. Now scientists may have detected a new, unknown particle. Working from June to mid-November, two teams from the European Organization for Nuclear Research, aka CERN, spotted excess pairs of gamma rays carrying 750 billion electron volts in the debris of proton-proton collisions, which could be a sign of the radioactive decay of a particle, per the New York Times. Team Atlas found 40 extra pairs of photons, while team CMS found 10 after some 400 trillion proton-proton collisions, per Nature, which reports the teams wouldn't have shared the results if both hadn't seen the same thing. "But it can happen by coincidence," says an Atlas rep.
Atlas' data has "a 1-in-93 chance of being a fluke—far stronger than the 1-in-3.5-million odds of mere chance," per the Times. If verified, the particle could be similar to the Higgs boson, but about 12 times heavier, per ScienceAlert. It could also be a graviton, the proposed quantum carrier of gravity. Should a graviton be found, the consequences could be colossal, since it would suggest the existence of extra dimensions of space-time, per the Times. "I don't think there is anyone around who thinks this is conclusive," a CERN physicist says. "But it would be huge if true." One theorist says the discovery of a new particle would be "a total game changer." If they have found a new particle, scientists expect to be able to confirm the discovery next year, when they will have 10 times as much data. (Read more physics stories.)