CERN Detects Exotic Particles Amid Rumors Of New Physics

A view of the LHCb experimental cavern. Claudia Marcelloni/CERN

The world of particle physics is buzzing with discoveries of new particles, and there are discussions and speculation on whether CERN will soon confirm new and unexpected physics.

The LHCb experiment at CERN has detected four new tetraquark particles called X(4140), X(4274), X(4500), and X(4700), which are between four and five times heavier than a proton. They were found by detailed study of the data produced at CERN between 2010 and 2012, and two papers describing the discoveries are available here and here

Quarks are the fundamental building blocks of particles, and a combination of three specific quarks make up protons and neutrons. Quarks can never be found by themselves, they’re usually found in pairs (mesons) or in triplets (hadrons). Tetra (four) and pentaquark (five) particles have been observed in the last few years.

The particles are defined as "exotic" due to their unusual quark content, although it is not clear at the moment if their complete theoretical interpretation is truly exotic.

The behavior of quarks is part of the more general Standard Model of particle physics, which describes the fundamental particles found in the universe as well as how they interact. It’s the greatest tool we have in our understanding of particles physics, and yet has many limitations. One, above all, is that the standard model doesn’t include gravity.

There’s a lot of speculation if we are about to witness a particle that clearly violates the standard model, and a potential candidate is the mysterious signal detected at CERN last year.

People are hoping to hear something about the potential new discovery at the at the beginning of August at the 38th International Conference on High Energy Physics (ICHEP), since the discovery of the Higgs Boson was announced at the same conference series.

"We're analysing these data very carefully at the moment, but we do not yet have any official findings to announce," said Dr Fabiola Gianotti, the director of CERN, at the Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting last week.

No matter the potential announcement, CERN continues to demonstrate its crucial role in scientific advancement, and apart from weasels, nothing seems to stand in our way to learn the fundamental structure of the universe.

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