The laws of physics may need rewriting as researchers within the Collider Detector at Fermilab collaboration have taken the most precise measurements ever made of an elementary particle.
The particle, called the W boson, has been reported as heavier than expected under the Standard Model of particles.
This new and much more precise finding could have an impact on how we understand the laws of physics, as the elementary particle plays a role in mediating weak force – a fundamental reaction in physics.
But before we get into the ins and outs of this unexpected discovery, what exactly is weak force?
Weak force is important in developing our understanding of physics as it underlies different forms of radioactive decay and nuclear fusion processes that occur on stars, such as the sun.
To better understand the process of weak force, researchers have tried to calculated the mass of the W boson, using data from high-energy particle physics experiments, like those recorded from Tevatron, the second-most powerful particle accelerator in the world, in 1985.
And now, researchers have found in their latest data-based estimate that the particle is heavier than first thought, as reported by the Express.
The new estimate is based on 4.2 million W boson candidates that were recorded from collisions using Tevatron from 1985 to 2011, when the accelerator was shut down.
This data set is around four times larger than any previously used, with leader of the study Professor Ashutosh V. Kotwal of Duke University, weighing in on the findings.
“The number of improvements and extra checking that went into our result is enormous,” Kotwal explained. “We took into account our improved understanding of our particle detector as well as advances in the theoretical and experimental understanding of the W boson’s interactions with other particles.
“When we finally unveiled the result, we found that it differed from the Standard Model prediction,” he continued.
Prior to the findings, the Standard Model linked the mass of the particle to the masses of two other particles. These particles were the top quark and the Higgs boson.
These masses were used as a jumping off point, to predict the mass of the W boson, which was thought to initially be 80,357 ± 6 MeV/c2, with new findings estimating this amount to sit at around 80,433 ± 6 MeV/c2.
However, professor Chris Hays, of Oxford University, has said: “The CDF measurement was performed over the course of many years.”
According to the professor, the value was ‘hidden from the analysers until the procedures were fully scrutinise.’
“When we uncovered the value, it was a surprise,” he added.
This means that the theoretical physics community may have to conduct further experiments surrounding the laws of physics to better understand why this difference occurred.