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New findings could rewrite scientists' model of how universe hangs together (+video)

An experiment led at the SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory suggests that the Standard Model, which describes how subatomic particles interact, may have some flaws.

The Standard Model Of Particle Physics. This film was produced as part of the CERN/ATLAS multimedia contest internship.
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The reigning theory of particle physics may be flawed, according to new evidence that a subatomic particle decays in a certain way more often than it should, scientists announced.

This theory, called the Standard Model, is the best handbook scientists have to describe the tiny bits of matter that make up the universe. But many physicists suspect the Standard Model has some holes in it, and findings like this may point to where those holes are hiding.

Inside the BaBar experiment at the SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory in Menlo Park, Calif., researchers observe collisions between electrons and their antimatter partners, positrons (scientists think all matter particles have antimatter counterparts with equal mass but opposite charge). When these particles collide, they explode into energy that converts into new particles. These often include so-called B-bar mesons, which are made of both matter and antimatter, specifically a bottom quark and an antiquark. If that wasn't too much of a headache, this process has the impenetrable moniker "B to D-star-tau-nu."

The BaBar researchers were looking for a particular decay process where B-bar mesons decay into three other particles: a D meson (a quark and an antiquark, one of which is "charm" flavored), an antineutrino (the antimatter partner of the neutrino) and a tau lepton (a cousin of an electron). [Graphic: Nature's Tiniest Particles Explained]

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