THE NEW PHYSICS? ATOM SMASHER GETS ANTIMATTER SURPRISE: The world’s largest atom smasher, designed as a portal to a new view of physics, has produced its first peek at the unexpected: bits of matter that don’t mirror the behavior of their antimatter counterparts.
The discovery, if confirmed, could rewrite the known laws of particle physics and help explain why our universe is made mostly of matter and not antimatter.
Scientists at the Large Hadron Collider, the 17-mile (27 km) circular particle accelerator underground near Geneva, Switzerland, have been colliding protons at high speeds to create explosions of energy. From this energy many subatomic particles are produced.
Now researchers at the accelerator’s LHCb experiment are reporting that some matter particles produced inside the machine appear to be behaving differently from their antimatter counterparts, which might provide a partial explanation to the mystery of antimatter. [The Coolest Little Particles in Nature]
Scientists think the universe started off with roughly equal amounts of matter and antimatter. (Particles of antimatter have the same mass of their twins but an opposite charge.) Somehow over the ensuing 14 billion years, most of the antimatter was destroyed, leaving a leftover universe of mainly matter.
One potential explanation for this outcome is called “charge-parity violation.” CP violation means that particles of opposite charge behave differently from one another.
The LHCb researchers found preliminary evidence that this is happening when particles called D-mesons, which contain “charmed quarks,” decay into other particles. The whimsically named charmed quarks, like many exotic particles, are so unstable, they last only a fraction of a second. They quickly decay into other particles, and it is these products that the experiment detects. (“LHCb” is short for LHC-beauty, another flavor of quark.)
From the experiment, the researchers found a 0.8 percent difference in the probabilities that the matter and antimatter versions of these particles would decay into a particular end state.
Ruling out a fluke
When it comes to particle physics, it’s all about the quality of statistics. Measuring something once is meaningless because of the high degree of uncertainty involved in such exotic, small systems. Scientists rely on taking measurements over and over again — enough times to dismiss the chance of a fluke.
The new finding ranks as a “3.5 sigma” result, meaning the statistics are solid enough that there is only a 0.05 percent likelihood that the pattern they see isn’t really there. For something to count as a true discovery in particle physics, it must reach a 5 sigma level of confidence.
“It’s certainly exciting, and certainly worth pursuing,” LHCb researcher Matthew Charles of England’s Oxford University told LiveScience. “At this point it’s a tantalizing hint. It’s evidence of something interesting going on, but we’re keeping the champagne on ice, let’s say.”
By the end of 2012, Charles said, the Large Hadron Collider should have collected enough data to either confirm or reject the result.
If the finding is borne out, it would be a big deal, because it would mean the reigning theory of particle physics, called the Standard Model, is incomplete. Currently the Standard Model does allow for some minor CP violation, but not at the level of 0.8 percent. To explain these results, scientists would have to alter their theory or add some new physics to the existing picture.
In either case, the LHC would have begun to claim its birthright.
“The whole driving purpose of the LHC is to discover and understand new physics beyond the Standard Model,” Charles said. “This sort of analysis is exactly why I joined LHCb.”
One possible example of the kind of new physics that might explain such CP violation is called supersymmetry. This theory suggests that in addition to all the known particles, there are supersymmetric partner particles that differ by half a unit of spin. Spin is one of the fundamental characteristics of elementary particles.
So far, no one has found direct evidence of supersymmetry. But if supersymmetric particles exist, they might be created instantaneously and disappear again during the particle-decay process. That way they could interfere with the decay process, potentially explaining why matter and antimatter decay differently.
Charles reported the LHCb team’s findings this week in Paris at the Hadron Collider Physics Symposium.
MYSTERIOUS, TRIANGLE-SHAPED ‘ALIEN SKULL’ FOUND IN PERU: Peruvian anthropologist Renato Davila Riquelme has discovered the remains of an unidentified creature with a “triangle shaped” skull nearly as large as its 20-inch-tall body.
Has the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull –the setting for the underwhelming 2008 Indiana Jones vehicle–finally been discovered? Well, don’t be expecting a victory lap from Steven Spielberg or George Lucas anytime soon.
The remains are most likely those of a child, though one with an unusually shaped head and frame. But that hasn’t stopped local site RPP from interviewing several anonymous Spanish and Russian “scientists” claiming that the remains are actually those of an alien:
It has a non-human appearance because the head is triangular and big, almost the same size as the body. At first we believed it to be a child’s body until Spanish and Russian doctors came and confirmed that, yes, it’s an extraterrestrial being.
Of course, five anonymous scientific authorities citing proof of extraterrestrial life would probably be generating a little more attention if their research had passed some basic scrutiny. Even if the remains are almost certainly those of a person, they are certainly unusual. You can take a look at the gallery of photos here.
‘ALIEN’ SKULL DISCOVERY TOPS SOUTH AMERICAN BONE FINDS: It wasn’t discovered by Indiana Jones and it isn’t crystal, but an elongated skull that is as long as the 20-inch body it belongs to is raising interest after it was discovered in Peru.
According to a report from The Sideshow, the remains of the unidentified “creature” was described as having a “triangle-shaped” skull and was at first believed to have been a child with a misshapen head, but according to a news report, anonymous Russian and Spanish scientists claim the remains belong to an extraterrestrial being.
While the discovery of the skull seems to be a somewhat real-life version of the popular movie “Kingdom of the Crystal Skull” in which archaeologist-adventurer Indiana Jones sets off to solve the mystery of similar triangular-shaped skulls in South America, the end result in the movie is that the crystal skulls are indeed not of this world.
As far as the most recent bone skull in Peru? No word yet on its origins.
The strange skull in Peru isn’t the only recent odd bone discovery. South America appears to be full of mystery of the skeletal kind.
In Chile’s Atacama Desert — the driest spot on Earth — scientists have discovered the fossilized bones of over 75 prehistoric whales. In another report from The Sideshow, scientists believe that the whales beached themselves on the Pacific coast of South America over 2 million years ago.
What scientists are unsure of is exactly how the whale remains got where they are now — in the middle of the desert. Theories abound — including the idea that surface shifting pushed the bones into the desert over time or that the whales were stranded in a lagoon by a storm or a landslide. Researchers who are looking into the discovery are pretty sure about one thing though — all of the whales most likely died at the same time.
The skeletons are each about 25 feet in length — about the size of a school bus — and 20 of the skeletons are intact. In addition to the whales, the excavation at the site uncovered a sperm whale, an extinct dolphin that had two tusks, an extinct aquatic sloth and a seabird that had a massive 17-foot wingspan.
The South American continent continues to offer up more wonders from the ancient past. An article on Physorg.com in early November reported the discovery of two mammal skulls discovered in Argentina. What makes these skulls unique? They are the first known mammals discovered from the Late Cretaceous period known as the “Age of Dinosaurs.”
The skulls are of a small mammal that has been dubbed “Cronopio dentiacutus.” Cronopio was a sabre-toothed squirrel much like the well-known “Ice Age” movie critter known as Scrat.
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