Discovery of New Particle May Break Laws of Physics

Physicists have discovered increasingly strong evidence that suggests a subatomic particle known as muon disobeys the known laws of physics.

Fermilab and Robert R. Wilson's "Acqua Alle Funi" sculpture.

Image via Getty/Raymond Boyd

Fermilab and Robert R. Wilson's "Acqua Alle Funi" sculpture.

In a new report from the New York Times, mounting evidence is presented suggesting a tiny subatomic particle known as muon is breaking the laws of physics. The findings from the experiments done by the physicists involved open the door to the possibility that there are more elementary particles that have yet to be discovered.

The physicists also found that muons behave in an unpredictable manner when shot through an intense magnetic field, challenging their understanding of the Standard Model, a theory that explains how particles interact. If you don’t quite follow it’s cool! Neither do we. 

But maybe this’ll help. When presenting their findings at a virtual seminar and news conference Wednesday, Dr. Chris Polly, physicist at Fermilab, highlighted a graph displaying white space where the particle deviations from their theoretical prediction. “We can say with fairly high confidence, there must be something contributing to this white space,” Dr. Polly said. “What monsters might be lurking there?” We’re right there with you, Dr. Polly. Sort of. 

While further data from experiments involving muons are expected in the coming years, the six percent of information that they have learned so far is apparently an encouraging sign of what’s to come. “This is our Mars rover landing moment,” Dr. Polly told NYT. That’s good enough for us. 

So, about those muons. Referred to as “fat electrons,” muons resemble the more commonly known particle electron, but are 207 times as massive, and have been proven to be unstable. Scientists have determined that there is still a one in 40,000 chance that their measurements can be considered a fluke, falling short of the threshold needed for a claim to an official discovery by physics standards.

Despite the uncertainty surrounding their findings, many physicists have yearned to look past what is known in the Standard Model. The muon findings support this belief that deeper exploration could lead to greater, eye-opening discoveries. 

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