Standard Model of particle physics rules on the line

Jun 19, 2012
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This week it appears that the universe will be hanging together with a bit different set of rules than we've been lead to understand for the past 40 years may be disproven in a variety of ways thanks to the SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory. This location has scientists in Menlo Park, California researching collisions between electrons and the antimatter that love them. What they've done here is to suggest that a subatomic particle (a B-bar meson) decays more often than it should according to the Standard Model.

The actual finding has these B-bar mesons, made of both antimatter and matter, breaking apart into three other particles too often. These other three particles are a D meson, an antineutrino, and a tau lepton, making this process one which gets the name "B to D-star-tau-nu." The B-bar mesons are made specifically of a bottom quark and an antiquark, and because they've been observed decaying in this way so often at the lab where they're being researched, the Standard Model does not currently compute, so to speak.

BaBar spokesperson Michael Roney of the University of Victoria in Canada sent out a statement which explained the situation in part:

"The excess over the Standard Model prediction is exciting, but before we can claim an actual discovery, other experiments have to replicate it and rule out the possibility this isn't just an unlikely statistical fluctuation." - Roney

This announcement was spoken on as well by BaBar physics coordinator Abner Soffer of Tel Aviv University, who noted that everyone was, for lack of a better word we're sure, rather excited about the prospects:

"If the excess decays shown are confirmed, it will be exciting to figure out what is causing it. We hope our results will stimulate theoretical discussion about just what the data are telling us about new physics." - Soffer

The current tests on the BeBar experiment have been in the works and being observed between 1999 and 2008 - a massive amount of time by most science experiments standards: but this is no average experiment. To move forward from this point, the project will have to be expanded to other experiments. CSMonitor suggests that the Belle project at the High Energy Accelerator Research Organization (KEK) in Tsukuba, Japan, which also produces B mesons, could be used.

We'll be following along with this story until it breaks our basic understanding of space, and we hope it'll happen soon! It's always exciting to find that everything we know is wrong, wouldn't you say?

[concept art via Greg Stewart, SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory]


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