future

New LHC Results Challenge Standard Model of Particle Physics

A Polish team of researchers may have uncovered a path to “new physics” at the Large Hadron Collider (LHC), due to a discrepancy that the standard model of particle physics cannot explain.

Although not an official discovery yet, scientists from the Nuclear Physics of the Polish Academy of Sciences in Krakow, Poland have revealed an inconsistency in the decay of particles called B mesons. According to the standard model, B mesons should decay at very specific angles and frequencies – however those predictions don’t match up with results in LHC experiments. The findings could lead scientists on a path to unlocking some of the mysteries of the universe, or maybe even a new particle. [Hints of New Particle Highlight 2015 LHC Results]

LHC

Image credit: CERN

“To put it in terms of the cinema, where we once only had a few leaked scenes from a much-anticipated blockbuster, the LHC has finally treated fans to the first real trailer,” said lead researcher Mariusz Witek.

Scientists know that the standard model of particle physics doesn’t explain the entire universe. Most notably, the model doesn’t actually account for gravity, so obviously there are big gaps in our understanding. Subsequently, scientists have spent decades probing the boundaries of physics for signs of any activity that the standard model can’t explain.

Enter Polish physicist Mariusz Witek and his team. Using a new measurement technique developed by the researchers, the team was able to identify discrepancies in the timing, and angle of decay in B mesons. The observed decay didn’t match up with the predictions of the standard model, indicating something else might be going on.

But what could that “something else” be? The most popular hypothesis currently, suggests that it could be the activity of a brand new particle. It’s possible that the so-called “Z-prime boson” particle is influencing the decay.

However, the truth of the matter is that scientists don’t really know what’s causing the inconsistencies. Moreover, they’re not even 100% sure that the strange decay is actually happening. Their calculations reached a standard deviation of 3.4 sigma as it relates to the abnormal decay – anything over 2 sigma indicates an interesting observation needing more research, whereas anything over 5 confirms an actual discovery.

The good news is that scientists will soon have more accurate data to probe the mystery further, since the LHC recently upgraded to higher energy levels – and we’ll be waiting anxiously for new results.

“Just like it is with a good movie: everybody wonders what’s going to happen in the end, and nobody wants to wait for it,” said Witek.

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