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CERN's Large Hadron Collider Detects New Particle Heavier Than A Proton

7 July 2017, 10:16 am EDT By Luan Chan Tech Times
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CERN physicists announce the unambiguous detection of long-theorized baryon particle. The Large Hadron Collider observes a particle containing two charm quarks and one up quark.  ( Daniel Dominguez | CERN )

Scientists from the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) have announced that the Large Hadron Collider (LHCb) finally detected a new particle that physicists have been searching for in the past few years.

According to the team of scientists who made the successful observation, the new particle is composed of two heavy quarks and is nearly four times heavier in mass than the proton, the most commonly known baryon.

Physicists have dubbed the new subatomic particle "Xi cc++."

Discovering The New Particle

Physicists have long theorized that such a particle combination exists but have failed to detect any signs of a doubly heavy particle before this observation. What makes this discovery more exciting is that the new particle was detected unambiguously, removing any doubt of human error.

"We have seen 313 interactions in data collected in 2016 and 113 interactions in data collected in 2012. Our observation has a [high] statistical significance ... and is unambiguously real," Patrick Spradlin confirms. Spradlin is one of the lead scientists in the collaboration.

As a bit of disclaimer, the new particle does not really have a long life and was not detected in its complete state. Rather, the heavy particle was identified from its remains — or the particles which it broke down into.

However, since physicists usually target a statistical significance of 5 sigma with particle discoveries and the Xi cc++ discovery has a 7 sigma significance, so we can only assume the detection was valid.

"Finding a doubly heavy-quark baryon is of great interest as it will provide a unique tool to further probe quantum chromodynamics ... Such particles will thus help us improve the predictive power of our theories," LHCb collaboration spokesperson Giovanni Passaleva said.

Opening Up New Worlds

The Xi cc++ discovery is definitely a major discovery that would allow scientist to gain more knowledge on how the world around us works.

In the Standard Model, scientists theorize that the basic building blocks of matter incorporate four fundamental forces: electromagnetism, strong interaction, weak interaction, and gravity. However, most observable things in the universe leave out gravity in their interaction, so scientists theorized that the missing force may be observed in heavier particles.

If anyone is wondering how the new particle differs from standard three-quark models, the doubly heavy particle now puts gravity into play. This is because scientists expect to observe a binary star system-like interaction among the quarks.

"[A] doubly heavy baryon is expected to act like a planetary system, where the two heavy quarks play the role of heavy stars orbiting one around the other," former LHCb collaboration spokesperson Guy Wilkinson reveals.

Of course, that means the lighter quarks would orbit around the heavier ones, mimicking a planetary system orbit.

Since the existence of doubly heavy quarks has finally been confirmed, physicists will now look into detecting other heavy baryons with the help of the LHCb facility.

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