[source: Reidar Hahn/Fermilab, via US Department of Energy]
The great existential questions and cosmic mysteries of our existence – like what makes up the universe, what is in all that dark matter space, and why matter exists at all – might find answers in a naughty little particle called a muon.
Within the building blocks of our universe are atoms, and even smaller particles like electrons make up the atom. The muon is similar to an electron but 207 times more massive.
It is also the kind of particle that disappears very quickly, so it is a rather unlikely culprit in an upending scientific discovery.
Dr Polly and his team – a diverse group of 200 physicists from seven countries – conducted the ‘Muon g-2 experiment’ at the Fermilab (pictured above) in Illinois, and found that muons do not behave as predicted when shot through an intense magnetic field.
Who knew that a tiny little wobble could shake the foundations of everything we think we know?
The way the muon wobbles defies the Standard Model of particle physics, which explains how the universe’s elementary particles interact.
Physicists believe that this wobble may be influenced by forces not yet known to us.
The BBC reports:
The Muon g-2 experiment involves sending the particles around a 14-metre ring and then applying a magnetic field. Under the current laws of physics, encoded in the Standard Model, this should make the muons wobble at a certain rate.
Instead, the scientists found that muons wobbled at a faster rate than expected. This might be caused by a force of nature that’s completely new to science.
There are already four known forces that govern the way life works – gravity, electromagnetism, the strong force, and the weak force.
Although a fifth force is being hinted at, what it might do is still a mystery.
Prof Allanach, a very excited scientist watching this all unfold from Cambridge University, has already given the possible fifth force some interesting names in his theoretical models
Take your pick from the “flavour force” or the “third family hyperforce”.
In fact, theoretical physicists believe that this experiment could point to a new and undiscovered sub-atomic particle as well as a new force:
There is more than one concept for what this hypothetical particle might be. One is called a leptoquark, another is the Z’ boson (Z-prime boson).
Although, we have to catch ourselves before we get ahead of ourselves. The latest discovery, with experiments done since 2013, needs more time and effort to be vetted properly.
As stated by CNET, the wobble being a statistical fluke is about one in 40 000, “which, in science talk, equates to a confidence level of “4.1 sigma.”
Physicists usually aren’t satisfied until the confidence level reaches 5 sigma.
Here’s a video explaining more:
Anyway, onwards and upwards we go.
How many monsters, as Dr Polly put it, are lurking in the dark for physicists to discover?
[imagesource: Pix4Free / Creative Commons Licence] Does anyone else see that photo peop...
[imagesource: Instagram / @ivarisstic] The average South African rugby fan wouldn't hav...
[imagesource: KnowYourMeme] TikTok is precisely the place where a niche in-joke rapidly...
[imagesource: Diego Reyes / AFP / Getty Images] People, rejoice - they are finally here...
[imagesource: The Car Guide] Supercars and branded sneakers are a part of the same fami...