April 6, 2011

Fermilab Produces Potential Elementary Particle

According to an AFP report, data from the U.S. Department of Energy's Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory (Fermilab) may have revealed a new elementary particle, or potentially a new force of nature.

The new find offers clues to the persistent riddle of mass and how objects obtain it, which is one of the most sought-after answers in all of physics.

Experts, however, caution that more analysis is needed to uncover the true nature of the discovery.

"There could be some new force beyond the force that we know," Giovanni Punzi, a physicist with the international research team that is analyzing the data, told AFP.

"If it is confirmed, it could point to a whole new world of interactions," he said.

Researchers say that this is not the "God Particle" that has been discovered.  This Higgs-boson particle is a hypothetical elementary particle that has physicists on their toes at the Large Hadron Collider looking for it to help explain why objects have mass.

"The Higgs-boson is a piece that goes into the puzzle that we already have," Punzi told AFP. "Whereas this is something that goes a little bit beyond that -- a new interaction, a new force."

Punzi said the new observation behaves differently than the God Particle.

AFP reported that the new discovery "is decaying in normal quarks," Punzi said.   "It has different features," he added.

"One thing we know for sure -- it is not the Higgs-boson. That is the only thing we know for sure."

Physicists have been studying what appears to be a "bump" in the data from the Fermi lab for over a year. 

"These results are certainly tantalizing," said Nigel Lockyer, director of Canada's national laboratory for particle and nuclear physics, TRIUMF.

"It is too early to say for sure what the Fermilab team has observed," he added in an email to AFP.

"On the one hand, there is clear evidence for something unexplained, and on the other, there is a long list of alternative explanations for what might be causing this subtle observation," he said.

"My personal judgment is that this excitement is adding fuel to the fire for the next generation of results and discoveries that will be made at the LHC and elsewhere. We are so close to learning something profound.

The Tevatron was once the most powerful machine in the world for such research until 2008, when the Large Hadron Collider became operational at the European Organization for Nuclear Research.


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