A tiny subatomic particle called the W particle may be heavier than scientists previously thought and it could shake up physics theory of everything†
Scientists at the US Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory have spent 10 years analyzing mass measurements of the W boson, a lesser-known “sister particle” of the Higgs boson that plays a role in radioactive decay. They found that the particle is slightly heavier than the physics theories had expected. And that, the scientists said: in a statementis quite something, as it is at odds with the so-called Standard modela fundamental theory of physics that describes how the world fits together on a micro scale.
“It’s now up to the theoretical physics community and other experiments to follow up and shed light on this mystery,” David Toback, a physicist at Texas A&M University who is a member of the project, said in a statement. “If the difference between the experimental and expected value is due to some sort of new particle or subatomic interaction, which is one of the possibilities, there’s a good chance it’s something that can be discovered in future experiments.”
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Some critics warn that further experiments are needed to verify those results, as questioning the “bible” of particle physics is a bold prospect.
However, the scientists behind the latest measurements are quite confident in their results.
“The number of improvements and additional checks put into our result is staggering,” Ashutosh V. Kotwal of Duke University, who led the work, said in the statement. “We took into account our improved understanding of our particle detector as well as advances in the theoretical and experimental understanding of the interactions of the W boson with other particles.”
The scientists based their calculations on measurements from Fermilab’s Tevatron collider taken between 1985 and 2011. Then they analyzed the data over the next decade. A total of 4.2 million observations of W boson candidate particles were included in the analysis, which is about four times the number used in the earlier estimates published by the team in 2012.
The new estimate is accurate to 0.01%, the scientists said in the statement.
The results have been published in a paper (opens in new tab) in the journal Science on Thursday (April 7).
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