The mad scientists over at CERN’s Large Hadron Collider announced today the discovery of a brand new particle: the pentaquark.
According to the official press release, up until today the existence of the pentaquark was purely hypothetical. Earlier experiments “proved inconclusive.” However, the magic of the Large Hadron Collider and the LHCb experiment has allowed scientists to see things in a whole new way:
“Where the LHCb experiment differs is that it has been able to look for pentaquarks from many perspectives, with all pointing to the same conclusion. It’s as if the previous searches were looking for silhouettes in the dark, whereas LHCb conducted the search with the lights on, and from all angles.”
A pentaquark is composed of four quarks and an antiquark. Or, as LHCb physicist Tomasz Skwarnicki tells us, “More precisely … two up quarks, one down quark, one charm quark, and one anti-charm quark.”
That’s a lot of quarks (disclaimer: I know next to nothing about quarks).
But what can we learn from all this? LHCb spokesperson Guy Wilkinson holds the answer:
“It represents a way to aggregate quarks, namely the fundamental constituents of ordinary protons and neutrons, in a pattern that has never been observed before in over fifty years of experimental searches. Studying its properties may allow us to understand better how ordinary matter, the protons and neutrons from which we’re all made, is constituted.”
The Large Hadron Collider, located in Geneva, Switzerland, reawakened earlier this year after a two-year hiatus. No word yet on when it will create a black hole and swallow the earth. I’ll keep you posted.