New Force of Nature? Tantalizing Evidence for New Physics From CERN’s Large Hadron Collider

The Large Hadron Collider (LHC) sparked worldwide excitement in March as particle physicists reported tantalizing evidence for new physics — potentially a new force of nature. Now, our new result, yet to be peer reviewed, from CERN’s gargantuan particle collider seems to be adding further support to the idea.

Our current best theory of particles and forces is known as the standard model, which describes everything we know about the physical stuff that makes up the world around us with unerring accuracy. The standard model is without doubt the most successful scientific theory ever written down and yet at the same time we know it must be incomplete.

Famously, it describes only three of the four fundamental forces – the electromagnetic force and strong and weak forces, leaving out gravity. It has no explanation for the dark matter that astronomy tells us dominates the universe, and cannot explain how matter survived during the big bang. Most physicists are therefore confident that there must be more cosmic ingredients yet to be discovered, and studying a variety of fundamental particles known as beauty quarks is a particularly promising way to get hints of what else might be out there.

Beauty quarks, sometimes called bottom quarks, are fundamental particles, which in turn make up bigger particles. There are six flavors of quarks that are dubbed up, down, strange, charm, beauty/bottom and truth/top. Up and down quarks, for example, make up the protons and neutrons in the atomic nucleus.

The LHCb experiment at CERN. Credit: CERN

Beauty quarks are unstable, living on average just for about 1.5 trillionths of a second before decaying into other particles. The way beauty quarks decay can be strongly influenced by the existence of other fundamental particles or forces. When a beauty quark decays, it transforms into a set of lighter particles, such as electrons, through the influence of the weak force. One of the ways a new force of nature might make itself known to us is by subtly changing how often beauty quarks decay into different types of particles.

The March paper was based on data from the LHCb experiment, one of four giant particle detectors that record the outcome of the ultra high-energy collisions produced by the LHC. (The “b” in LHCb stands for “beauty.”) It found that beauty quarks were decaying into electrons and their heavier cousins called muons at different rates. This was truly surprising because, according to the standard model, the muon is basically a carbon copy of the electron – identical in every way except for being around 200 times heavier. This means that all the forces should pull on electrons and muons with equal strength – when a beauty quark decays into electrons or muons via the weak force, it ought to do so equally often.

Instead, my colleagues found that the muon decay was only happening about 85% as often as the electron decay. Assuming the result is correct, the only way to explain such an effect would be if some new force of nature that pulls on electrons and muons differently is interfering with how beauty quarks decay.

The result caused huge excitement among particle physicists. We’ve been searching for signs of something beyond the standard model for decades, and despite ten years of work at the LHC, nothing conclusive has been found so far. So discovering a new force of nature would be a huge deal and could finally open the door to answering some of the deepest mysteries facing modern science.

New results

While the result was tantalizing, it wasn’t conclusive. All measurements come with a certain degree of uncertainty or “error.” In this case there was only around a one in 1,000 chance that the result was down to a random statistical wobble – or “three sigma” as we say in particle physics parlance.

One in 1,000 may not sound like a lot, but we make a very large number of measurements in particle physics and so you might expect a small handful to throw up outliers just by random chance. To be really sure that the effect is real, we’d need to get to five sigma – corresponding to less than a one in a million chance of the effect being down to a cruel statistical fluke.

To get there, we need to reduce the size of the error, and to do this we need more data. One way to achieve this is simply to run the experiment for longer and record more decays. The LHCb experiment is currently being upgraded to be able to record collisions at a much higher rate in future, which will allow us to make much more precise measurements. But we can also get useful information out of the data we’ve already recorded by looking for similar types of decays that are harder to spot.

This is what my colleagues and I have done. Strictly speaking, we never actually study beauty quark decays directly, since all quarks are always bound together with other quarks to make larger particles. The March study looked at beauty quarks that were paired up with “up” quarks. Our result studied two decays: one where the beauty quarks that were paired with “down” quarks and another where they were also paired with up quarks. That the pairing is different shouldn’t matter, though – the decay that’s going on deep down is the same and so we’d expect to see the same effect, if there really is a new force out there.

And that is exactly what we’ve seen. This time, muon decays were only happening around 70% as often as the electron decays but with a larger error, meaning that the result is about “two sigma” from the standard model (around a two in a hundred chance of being a statistical anomaly). This means that while the result isn’t precise enough on its own to claim firm evidence for a new force, it does line up very closely with the previous result and adds further support to the idea that we might be on the brink of a major breakthrough.

Of course, we should be cautious. There is some way to go still before we can claim with a degree of certainty that we really are seeing the influence of a fifth force of nature. My colleagues are currently working hard to squeeze as much information as possible out of the existing data, while busily preparing for the first run of the upgraded LHCb experiment. Meanwhile, other experiments at the LHC, as well at the Belle 2 experiment in Japan, are closing in on the same measurements. It’s exciting to think that in the next few months or years a new window could be opened on the most fundamental ingredients of our universe.

Written by Harry Cliff, Particle physicist, University of Cambridge.

This article was first published in The Conversation.

CERNLarge Hadron ColliderParticle PhysicsPopularThe ConversationUniversity of Cambridge
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  • BibhutibhusanPatel

    Biased on Standard Model present time Cosmology is established.This brings no harm or any negative effect.Basic postulates of the cosmology is that stars are formed first,then the black holes and at end supermassive black holes with galaxies in the Big Bang theory for the evolution of universe.
    Now astrophysicists have little faith that few primodial super massive black holes to be originated from the big bang as it is,as come for time deficiency to formed to such a great masses within a billion of years by the process of primodal stars black holes merge formed after their death or end.
    So now controversy arìses is that,if primodial super massive black holes can able to origin stars and galaxies,hòw?

    How can these two controversial processes can be distinguòshed from one another?
    Solution and clues are present at the event horizon starting Accretion disk.
    The advancement in the field of New Physics,as extension of Standard Model in the form of Suffix;as presented here by the Authors can simply help in this direction.

  • Peter

    Couldn’t it simply be gravity in another form?

    I mean, I know it wouldn’t work out with gravity as we know it in equations at that scale, but then again, as I understand it it doesn’t work at all at that scale as far as we know. There’s mass differences involved going from first to second gen leptons. Couldn’t it just be gravity being weird and acting out at the quantum scale in some way? Maybe gravity does a lot of strange things at an infintesimal level while simultaneously being able to shape the huge stuff. A force shaped like a tipped over distorted hourglass if you will. Strong at the ends and arguably irrelevant at a microscopic level in between.

  • mullach abu

    some strong force versus weak force battle going one here
    fermions i
    up u quark plus bottom quark b pair
    2.4 mev/c2 plus 4.18 mev/c2 mass
    2/3 plus -1/3 charge
    1/2 plus 1/2 spin
    down d quark plus bottom b quark pair
    4.8 mev/c2 plus 4.18 mev/c2 mass
    -1/3 plus -1/3 charge
    1/2 plus 1/2 spin

    either decays into which a or b
    electron e lepton and muon u lepton
    0.511 mev/c2 and 105.67 mev/c2 mass
    1 and 1 charge
    1/2 and 1/2 spin

    electron ve lepton neutrino and muon vu lepton neutrino
    <2.2 ev/c2 and <1.7 mev/c2 mass
    0 and 0 charge
    1/2 and 1/2 spin

    which aye it

  • Octavio Alen

    It is NOT a new force. It is a previously unknown force.

  • Brian McKenzie

    @Octavio Alen Not new . . . new to *you*!

  • NonSatanic

    CERN it is said, is being used to for Lucifarians to try and Open the Door to Hell. When taken to full Power, Scientists have been Warning that CERN could Destroy the Earth, maybe the Universe. The People who Financed CERN are known Satanists, who don’t have our Best Interests in Mind.They are in Collusion with the Ones who Released Covid 19 and the Genocide Tools, the Vaccines. It is very Dangerous to have People like Shwaub and Soros Involved in the Construction of CERN, at least on the Financing of CERN. I am very Worried about the Future of Humanity, with these People loose and in the Positions they are in. Hopefully something will be done to Rectify the situation very soon!

    • Durandelus

      What a funny rubbish. First I you would ever read anything about satanist movement they where exactly into science and developing mind instead of blindly following church’s dogmas.

      Second. Its one of the worst conspiracy theory I ever read about 🤣 You should at least add that they are half humans half goats. Like lizardmans.

  • David Tonn

    If this is gravity, we still need the fifth force to tie gravity in. However, there is some merit to considering a gravity like force/effect. If there was a gravity like force, it could cause the mass to (statistically) prefer remaining together and ejecting to light electron. But a 15-30% effect disparity between objects with a 20000% trait disparity is a weak force indeed!

    Ironically, and to end this unhappy thought trajectory, the LHC has already disproven all the theoretical frameworks for the apocalyptic results that were discussed as it went online. The Higgs boson was found, and no runaway energy accumulations or homogenizations were detected. There is just no evidence for the feared devastating outcomes. Those satanists must be really disappointed!

  • Alext

    Let’s wait for 5 sigma and independent verification at another experiment. THEN we might start the discussion. Unfortunately physics is at an uneasy standstill for the past 30 years. I understand the desperation but we are still not out of the woods

  • TimTrippen

    What you’re seeing are the emergence anti gravity particles.
    If this experiment can be run off planet the decay rate will be be decreased.

  • Sharon ODonnell

    Your playing with things un Godly. Ur T the door to hell. GOD won’t forgive thus. He is God not u.

    • Sharon ODonnell

      ELIOHIM SEES ALL!!!!! What gives you the right to do this??? I know the Bible says man will bring hell on earth at the end times!! That’s what you are doing. I saw your weird video of ritual sacrifice. And bizarre behavior. I AN THE LORD YOUR GOD SAYS ELIOHIM!!!! NO ONE ELSE IS. YOUR GOING TO SEND A SHIT STORM TO US ALL. My guess is that’s the purpose. Pray save yourselves repent now . Stop this. Your following satan. He is smarter than u. And has had thousands of years to develope his plan. How do you have the right to play with God’s creation????? May u listen and may God have mercy on your souls. CERN is evil!!!!!