After twenty years, confirming research conducted in 2001 has found that a tiny subatomic particle may be challenging the best theory scientists have about how physics works, titled the Standard Model.
At the Department of Energy’s Fermilab in Batavia, Illinois, scientists sent a beam of muons into a massive 50-foot-wide storage ring controlled by superconducting magnets. Muons are about 200 times larger than electrons and occur when cosmic rays hit Earth’s atmosphere.
Muons appear to have an internal magnet that wobbles, also known as “precesses,” like the shaft of a spinning top. The rate of precession is determined by the apparent internal magnet strength. The muons circulating within the storage ring come into contact with a quantum foam of subatomic particles that appear and disappear, slowing down or speeding up. That’s called the “magnetic moment,” which is “represented in equations by a factor called g,” as The New York Times explained.
The Standard Model should be able to predict “magnetic moment” accurately, but if there are additional forces or particles within the quantum foam that the Standard Model cannot explain, the muon’s g-factor would be affected.
“The predecessor experiment at DOE’s Brookhaven National Laboratory, which concluded in 2001, offered indications that the behavior of the muon was not in accordance with the Standard Model. The new measurement from the Muon g-2 experiment at Fermilab is in strong agreement with the value found at Brookhaven and differs from theory with the most accurate measurement to date, ”Fermilab stated.
In 2006, the final result of the 2001 investigation was announced at Brookhaven National Laboratory, and there was a discrepancy with the Standard Model prediction. As Jennifer Ouellette of Ars Technica explained:
The measured magnetic moment of the muon had a lower value. Even more intriguing, that result was considered a 3.7 sigma effect. (The strength of a signal is determined by the number of statistical standard deviations, or sigmas, from the expected bottom in the data, producing a telltale “hit.” This metric is often compared to a coin that lands on heads several tosses in a row. The three sigma result is a strong clue. The gold standard for claiming discovery is a five sigma result, comparable to rolling 21 heads in a row, for example).
She continued: “That said, three sigma results, while tempting, show up all the time in particle physics, and most of the time, they disappear once more data is added to the mix. So Fermilab revived the Muon g-2 experiment in hopes of confirming or refuting the discrepancy once and for all. “
The latest results were in close agreement with the Brookhaven results: “Taken together, they increase statistical significance to 4.2 sigma, teetering just to the edge of the threshold required for discovery,” Ouelette noted, adding: “That means there is only a 1 in 40,000 chance this is due to statistical fluctuation. “
Chris Polly, a physicist at Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory who was a graduate student at Brookhaven and has been studying the subject for decades, declared: “This is our landing moment on Mars. … After the 20 years that have passed since the Brookhaven experiment ended, it is very gratifying to finally be able to solve this mystery. “He added:” So far we have analyzed less than 6% of the data that the experiment will eventually collect. these first results tell us that there is an intriguing difference from the standard model, we will learn much more in the coming years. “
Renee Fatemi, a physicist at the University of Kentucky, echoed: “This is strong evidence that the muon is sensitive to something that is not in our best theory.”
Polly looked at a graph that shows a blank where the latest results differ from the standard model, then said, “We can say quite confidently that there must be something contributing to this blank. What monsters could be lurking there? “
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