New Particle May Have Been Discovered by Accident

December 16, 2015 | Joanne Kennell

The Large Hadron Collider at CERN
Photo credit: Image Editor/Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

This could be a “total game changer.”

Exciting news out of Switzerland!  A team at CERN’s Large Hadron Collider (LHC) may have discovered a new particle.  This marks the first set of significant results since upgrades were completed at the LHC earlier this year.

Researchers observed large spikes in energy that could be the result of particle collisions between a new boson that is even larger than the Higgs.  Gian Francesco Giudice, a CERN theorist who wasn’t involved in the discovery, told Nature that, if it turns out that the data does indeed represent a new particle, it would be “a total game changer.”

The announcement comes after rumors circulated on social media that both Compound Muon Solenoid (CMS) and A Toroidal LHC Apparatus (ATLAS) detectors at the LHC saw unexpected, excess pairs of photons, each carrying 750 gigaelectronvolts (GeV) of energy, as the result of proton-proton collisions.  They believe this could have come from the decay of a new 1,500 GeV particle.

SEE ALSO: LHC Collides Lead Ions at Record-Shattering Energy Levels

If it is a newly discovered particle, it would be four times larger than the top quark, the heaviest particle discovered so far, and six times bigger than the Higgs boson.  “The Higgs boson pales in comparison, in terms of novelty,” said Giudice.

“It is a little intriguing,” says ATLAS spokesperson Dave Charlton of the University of Birmingham, UK.  “But it can happen by coincidence.”  A heavier particle would open an entire new chapter in the field of quantum theory.  

According to Controls Middleware (CMW) spokesman Tiziano Camporesi, the team does not know what to make of the data since they were searching for an unrelated particle at the time, called a graviton.  Although this is not the particle the LHC physicists were searching for, researchers would not “find it a big surprise it this turns out to be real,” said Maxim Perelstein, a theoretical physicist at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York.

Physicists were also hoping to discover particles, called gluinos, predicted by supersymmetry, a proposed type of spacetime symmetry that relates bosons and fermions, however they continue to come up empty handed.  The lack of evidence may push supersymmetry to the point where many physicists give up on it, said Michael Peskin of the SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory in Menlo Park, California.

As for this new particle, in 2016 the LHC should be able to establish whether the results were in fact evidence of a new particle — it is a top priority for the next round of LHC runs.  “If there is an actual natural phenomenon behind these fluctuations, we will know,” said Camporesi.

Who knows what the year 2016 will bring for new discoveries.  I for one, can’t wait!

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