Elusive magnetic monopoles may be lurking high above us

(ORDO NEWS) — Somewhere in space there is the physical equivalent of a unicorn. Even a glimpse of this strangeness, which looks like an isolated tip of a magnet, would be like a beacon in the night, pointing the way to the great, unifying theories of absolutely everything.

But with one tiny exception, in the early 1980s no one saw anything that remotely resembled the legendary beast of particle physics, the magnetic monopole.

Of course, physicists could simply be looking for them in the wrong places. A new analysis by an international team of researchers has narrowed down search areas by simulating the creation of magnetic monopoles in the chaos of collisions high in the atmosphere.

Their work uses the results of highly sensitive experiments that are already looking for signs. magnetic monopoles in particle collisions in high-powered accelerators, suggesting that they would also find the same clues raining down from the collisions above.

By simulating the formation of magnetic monopoles in the fragments of atoms torn apart by cosmic rays, the team can confidently place some hard limits on the amount of energy needed to create them.

It’s not quite the exciting announcement we’d like to make about the existence of a particle, but that’s how science works. And to be honest, its discovery would have been worth the wait.

If magnetic monopoles are unicorns, then electric charges are horses. They are hardworking, easy to find, and no one will argue with the fact that they do not exist.

Deriving the equations of electromagnetism in the 19th century, the Scottish mathematician James Clerk Maxwell modeled the motion of an electron. negative charge. From here we get electric currents and the attraction and attraction of the magnetic field.

The point is that we can also swap the elements of this equation and use the magnetic equivalent of the negative charge. Magnetic monopole. Curiously, the same equations now show how moving magnetic fields induce electric currents.

Physics is built on such symmetries, although in and of itself it may be just a shadow cast by mathematics that doesn’t do much. to prove that the magnetic monopole really exists.

It wasn’t until the dawn of quantum physics that the theorist Paul Dirac rethought this symmetry in a new light, reasoning by more sophisticated means that if there were a single magnetic monopole in the universe, electric charges would have to be discrete.

The fact that the charges are indeed “quantized” again proves nothing. But little by little, as quantum field theories developed, nothing ruled out the existence of a magnetic monopole.

In fact, in the 1970s, when physicists began to realize that quantum fields had become indistinguishable at high enough energies, it became clear that a wave would emerge that, for all purposes, would behave exactly like a magnetic monopole.

Half a century later, the hunt for this unicorn of physics continues in the hope that perhaps – if we catch it – we will also have clues about how physics could emerge from a single, high-energy theory.

For the most part, despite a long search, this search has yielded no results. A single outburst in an experiment at Stanford briefly sparked controversy, but without much recurrence, it has since been seen as “just one of those things” that happens in science.

Most of the search has been focused on weeding out magnetic monopoles that might have been created in the furnaces of the early universe. But the models that explain their creation are frustratingly sparse in detail, meaning we can only hazard a guess as to what they will look like.

Particle accelerators can push one of them out of the darkness, but only if magnetic monopoles can be created from relatively low energies. And even then, only when the accelerator is running.

Cosmic rays, on the other hand, are always throwing streams of fat, exotic particles onto the surface, many of which have energies that colliders cannot yet reach. .

If in the future one of them releases a sufficiently thick magnetic monopole, we need to be on the lookout. According to the results of this study, experiments such as the IceCube neutrino observatory at the South Pole could be a reasonable bet to detect them if they have enough mass.

There aren’t many corners of physics in physics, after all, a unicorn can hide.


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