CERN Results Have Physicists 'Shaking'

They may have glimpsed a 'new force in nature,' according to new study
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 23, 2021 2:03 PM CDT
Physicists May Have Glimpsed 'New Force in Nature'
A file photo shows the Large Hadron Collider in its tunnel at CERN near Geneva, Switzerland.   (AP Photo/Keystone, Martial Trezzini, File)

Something strange is happening in the world of physics that might herald what scientists describe in the Conversation as a "brand new force of nature." The excitement stems from the CERN research facility in Switzerland, where physicists have been smashing particles together in the Large Hadron Collider and poring over results for a decade. One team has spotted a phenomenon that should not be occurring according to the standard model of particle physics, per the Guardian. As the newspaper describes the issue, particles called B mesons aren't decaying as expected. Instead of producing electrons and "cousin" muons at equal rates, electrons have the edge. It may not sound like much to laymen, but "I was actually shaking," says one of the particle physicists involved. "I realized this was probably the most exciting thing I've done in my 20 years in particle physics."

If the findings are confirmed, it means the standard model is wrong, and scientists will need to find a new explanation for what's happening. "Our new paper ... is likely to set physicists' hearts beating just a little faster," write researchers in the Conversation. They explain, however, that much more data is needed. They estimate a 1-in-1,000 chance that the results are a fluke—or 3.1 sigma in physicist-speak—and those odds must be more like 1 in a few million, or 5 sigma. A post at IFL sums things up: "The standard model of particle physics is one of the finest scientific theories humanity has created but it is known to be limited and incomplete," writes Dr. Alfredo Carpineti. "It is very exciting to be at the point where we might find out what’s beyond it." (One CERN scientist got into hot water for his comments on male and female physicists.)

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