Scientists working with data from CERN’s Large Hadron Collider have discovered a possible anomaly that may overturn our Standard Model of particle physics.
The scientists, comprised of a team at the University of Maryland, studied data collected during the LHC’s initial run back in 2011-2012. More specifically, they looked at the decay of B mesons, which produce tau leptons and muons. What they found was that this decay happened at different and unexpected rates.
The Standard Model tells us that all leptons are treated equally by the fundamental forces, and decay at the same rate. But this new discovery, if true, could change that model.
“The Standard Model says the world interacts with all leptons in the same way. There is a democracy there. But there is no guarantee that this will hold true if we discover new particles or new forces. Lepton universality is truly enshrined in the Standard Model. If this universality is broken, we can say that we’ve found evidence for non-standard physics.” – University of Maryland professor Hassan Jawahery, co-author
Study co-author Brian Hamilton also points out that this new finding is in line with results from another experiment at the Stanford Linear Accelerator Center, so there is some corroboration. Nonetheless, new measurements will have to be made to confirm the results.
As for what all this means for our understanding of the universe, co-author Hassan Jawahery suggests that this may be a path toward unraveling the mysteries of dark matter: “…we know that dark matter and dark energy exist, but we don’t yet know what they are or how to explain them. Our result could be a part of that puzzle.”
On the other hand, scientists have meanwhile found the Higgs boson – observed at CERN in 2012 – to behave as predicted using the Standard Model.