Particles that do not behave in the manner predicted by the Standard Model of physics, detected during the LHCb experiment (acronym for Large Hadron Collider beauty), performed at the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN), suggest the existence of elements hitherto unknown to science.
According to the theory, the so-called quark bottom breaks down into muons and electrons, elementary particles, in equal proportion, but the analysis carried out by scientists at the Imperial College of London, the University of Bristol and the University of Cambridge revealed something completely different, putting in check one of the most successful proposals on the composition of the matter.
While providing an adequate description of various elements and forces in the Universe, the Standard Model does not clarify many mysteries of contemporary knowledge, failing to answer, for example, what makes up dark matter or the imbalance between matter and antimatter perceived there. Approaches such as the one disclosed on Tuesday (23), during a virtual conference of Moriond Electroweak Physics, is that, hope researchers, will complete such gaps.
“It is too early to say whether this is really a departure from the Standard Model, but the potential implications are so great that these results represent the most exciting thing I have done in 20 years in the field. It has been a long journey to get here,” he celebrates. Dr. Mitesh Patel, one of the leading physicists behind the measurement.
“In fact, we were shaking when we saw the results for the first time, we were very excited. Our hearts beat a little faster,” he adds.
Certainty and (less) uncertainty
In the Large Hadron Collider (LHC), equipment that provided the discovery, sub-particles are accelerated and, close to the speed of light, collide with each other, which produces a series of other particles, recorded and studied by specialists who seek to understand the behavior of the most basic “pieces” of nature – or what they are.
So, with the LHCb, the goal is to discover how the bottom quark generates electrons and muons, which differ only in mass, not in electric charge. In theory, both would interact with all forces equally. However, the new measurements indicate different rates, and the study suggests that unprecedented particles deviate from muon scales.
“The more data we have, the stronger [the hypothesis that there is something new] becomes. This measurement is the most significant in a series of LHCb results over the past decade – which seem to be aligned and may point to a common explanation. The results have not changed, but their uncertainties have diminished, increasing our ability to see possible differences with the Standard Model “, explains Dr. Paula Alvarez Cartelle, one of the leaders of the research.
A step forward
Despite the promising evidence, the method reached only three standard deviations, a measure that expresses the degree of dispersion of a data set and the possibility that it is mere chance. The gold standard is five – a chance at 3.5 million.
“The discovery of a new force in nature is the Holy Grail of particle physics. Our current knowledge of the constituents of the Universe is extremely low. We don’t know what 95% of the Universe is made of or why there is this great imbalance between matter and antimatter. “, says Dr. Konstantinos Petridis, another important member of the team.
“The most recent result of the LHCb, however, offers the first evidence that there may be something wrong with our current understanding,” he concludes.