(ORDO NEWS) — After a decade of careful measurements, scientists announced on Thursday that a fundamental particle, the W boson, has a much larger mass than thought, shaking the foundations of our understanding of how the universe works.
These foundations are based on the Standard Model of particle physics, which is the best theory scientists have for describing the most basic building blocks of the universe and the forces they govern.
The W boson governs the so-called weak force, one of the four fundamental forces of nature and therefore one of the pillars of the Standard Model.
However, a new study published in the journal Science has found that the most accurate measurement of the W boson ever made directly contradicts the model’s prediction.
Ashutosh Kotwal, a physicist at Duke University who led the study, told AFP that more than 400 scientists scrutinized four million W boson candidates from a “dataset of roughly 450 trillion collisions” over 10 years.
These collisions, caused by particles colliding with each other at breathtaking speeds to study them, were made by the Tevatron collider in the US state of Illinois.
It was the world‘s highest-energy particle accelerator until 2009, when it was superseded by the Large Hadron Collider near Geneva, which was known to observe the Higgs boson a few years later.
The Tevatron went out of business in 2011, but scientists at the Collider Detector at Fermilab (CDF) have been processing the numbers ever since.
“Cracks” in the model.
Harry Cliff, a particle physicist at the University of Cambridge working at the Large Hadron Collider, said the Standard Model is “probably the most successful scientific theory ever put forward.”
Diagram showing the main particles of the Standard Model
For example, it does not take into account dark matter, which, together with dark energy, is thought to make up 95 percent of the universe. It also states that the universe should not have existed from the beginning because the Big Bang should have destroyed itself.
CDF scientists said they have determined the mass of the W boson to within 0.01 percent, twice as accurate as previous attempts.
They compared this to measuring the weight of a 350-kilogram gorilla to within 40 grams.
The scientists found that the boson differed from the Standard Model’s prediction by seven standard deviations, also called sigma.
If you flip a coin, “the odds of getting a five-sigma result by chance are one in three and a half million.”
If this is true, and not some systematic bias or misunderstanding of how to do the calculations, then this is a huge problem, because there is a new fundamental ingredient in our universe that we do not know about.
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