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May 02, 2016

Speculation Runs Wild as CERN's Atom-Smashing Supercollider Detects -- Maybe -- an Unknown and Unexpected New Particle

Science -- you gotta love it.

No seriously, you have to love it. It is now legally required to Love the Shit Out of Science.

The CERN collider is the atom-smasher that detected the Higgs Boson four years ago. The Higgs boson was important, as it had been suspected/predicted for years. Certain particles should be massless, and yet tests indicated they had mass. Physicists postulated a "Higgs field" that sometimes interacted with these particles and imparted mass to them.

The Higgs boson was less important of itself than it was of proof of the Higgs field.

But CERN kept smashing the smallest building blocks of the universe to see what might pop out. They've detected a particle (they think) that was not, like the Higgs field and Higgs boson, previously speculated and predicted by physicists.

This one seems to have just showed up the party uninvited.

I have to stress the scientists aren't all that sure they've really detected something other than the limits of experimental accuracy.

Still -- you must Love Science as a legal matter, and you are required to produce at least four (4) Science-Loving memes/gifs per year. So here's one to get you started.

The LHC’s Atlas and Compact Muon Solenoid particle detectors in December turned up preliminary readings that suggested a particle not accounted for by the Standard Model might exist at 750 Giga electron Volts. This mystery particle would be nearly four times more massive than the top quark, the most massive particle in the model, and six times more massive than the Higgs, CERN officials say.

The Standard Model has worked well, but has gaps notably about dark matter, which is believed to make up one-quarter of the mass of the universe. Theorists say the December results, if confirmed, could help elucidate that enigma; or it could signal a graviton -- a theorized first particle with gravity -- or another boson, even hint of a new dimension.

The graviton is speculated to be the particle that carries the force of gravity. All the other three fundamental forces have their own force-carrier particle associated with them; photons, for example, carry electromagnetic force in its guise as light. The graviton is speculated to carry gravity -- and therefore mass -- but this has never been proven or even really hinted by evidence (as far as I know). I think it just is postulated as something that should exist, to make gravity less of the One Of These Things Is Not Like the Others force it always has been.

I don't get the "new dimension" reference exactly, but string theory postulates that every "particle" is actually a string existing in 11 (or 15, or 20) dimensional space, all but three of those dimensions sub-nanoscopic and only existing on the tiniest of scales. The strings vibrate in their 11/15/20 dimensional spaces, and what we see as "particles" in our three-dimensional space are just the loops or ends of these strings vibrating in the dimensions we can see and experience.

I suppose the string theorists are speculating they may have glimpsed something that indicates the reality of one of these speculative phantom dimensions.

String theory has very few actual evidences behind it; it is now derided by many physicists as "just math," just speculative theory, completely unmoored from science with its evidence on observable phenomena, not just theories, and testable predictions, and, you know, proof.

But who knows, maybe this is some kind of indication in that direction.

More data is needed to iron those possibilities out, and even then, the December results could just be a blip. But with so much still unexplained, physicists say discoveries of new particles -- whether this year or later -- may be inevitable as colliders get more and more powerful.

Dave Charlton, who heads the Atlas team, said the December results could just be a "fluctuation" and "in that case, really for science, there’s not really any consequence ... At this point, you won’t find any experimentalist who will put any weight on this: We are all very largely expecting it to go away again."

"But if it stays around, it’s almost a new ball game," said Charlton, an experimental physicist at the University of Birmingham in Britain.

I should mention something about the Standard Model. It is one of the most relentlessly re-proven theories in all of science; almost all of its predictions get proven some day.

And yet, it is so ugly and weird and lacking in aesthetics that many people suspect it can't really be the final word on the matter. That's part of the reason people spend so much time with their heads in 11-dimensional space, trying to figure out a more beautiful version of fundamental physics.

If this particle is real, and wasn't predicted or hinted at by the Standard Model, the aesthetes of science will be very happy to find the very-useful-but-dreadfully-inelegant Standard Model needs to be updated.

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posted by Ace at 12:58 PM

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