On the outskirts of Chicago in the United States, a group of scientists have discovered that the mass of a subatomic particle is not what it should be.
This measurement is the first conclusive experimental result that does not agree with the famous Standard Model theory, which has served for years to determine the approximate mass of subatomic particles.
The team found that one of these particles, known as W bosonit weighs more than the theory predicts.
The result was described as “shocking” by Professor David Toback, a co-spokesperson for the project, as it could lead to the development of a new and more comprehensive theory of how the Universe works.
“If the results are verified by other experiments, the world will look different,” the academician tells the BBC, who also sees “a paradigm shift”.
“Famous astronomer Carl Sagan said that ‘extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.’ We think we have it, “he added.
Scientists from Fermilab collision detector (FCD) in Illinois found a small difference in the mass of the W boson from what the theory says it should be: it’s only 0.1%.
But if confirmed with other experiments, the implications are enormous.
The so-called Standard Model of particle physics has predicted the behavior and properties of subatomic particles without discrepancies of any kind for fifty years.
The CDF’s other co-spokesperson, Professor Georgio Chiarelli, told the BBC that the research team couldn’t believe their eyes when they got the results.
“Nobody expected this. We thought maybe we were wrong about something. “
But the researchers thoroughly examined their results and tried to look for errors.
They didn’t find anyone.
The discovery, published in the magazine Sciencecould be related to clues from other experiments at Fermilab and the Large Hadron Collider (LHC, for its acronym in English), located on the border between Switzerland and France.
These unconfirmed results also suggest deviations from the standard model, possibly resulting from an as yet undiscovered fifth force of nature.
Physicists have long known that the theory needs to be updated.
His postulates cannot explain the presence of invisible material in space, the so-called Dark Matter, nor the continually accelerated expansion of the Universe by a force called Dark Energy.
They also can’t explain gravity.
Mitesh Patel, an expert at Imperial College London working on the LHC, believes that if the Fermilab result is confirmed, it could be the first of many that could herald the biggest shift in our understanding of the Universe since the theories of Einstein’s relativity. does.
“The hope is that we will eventually see a spectacular discovery that not only confirms that the standard model has collapsed as a description of nature, but also gives us a new direction to help us understand who we are,” he said.
“If this holds up, there must be new particles and new forces to explain how to make this data consistent,” he added.
But enthusiasm in the physics community is tempered when past experiments are examined.
Although the Fermilab result is the most accurate measurement of the mass of the W boson to date, it does not match two of the most accurate measurements from previous experiments that are in line with the Standard Model.
“We need to know what’s going on with the measurement,” says Professor Ben Allanach, a theoretical physicist at the University of Cambridge.
“The fact that we have two other experiments that agree with each other and with the Standard Model and strongly disagree with this experiment worries me,” he adds.
All eyes are now on Large Hadron Collider, that you need to restart your experiments after a three-year update.
The hope is that these studies will provide the results that will lay the foundation for a new and more complete theory of physics.
“Most scientists will be a little cautious,” Patel says.
“We’ve been here before and been disappointed, but we all secretly hope that this is the case and that in our lives we can see the kind of transformation we’ve read about in the history books,” he says.
By Pallab Ghosh