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Physicists Might Have Found Evidence Of A New Fundamental Force

Science has always shown an uncanny affinity towards oneness, or what physicists call ‘unification’. Although, our predecessors had been receptive to the idea of multiple Gods and turned to worship the different forces of nature, the quest of modern science is to bring apparently distinct entities under a common roof, most commonly, one underlying mathematical theory. One of the main areas of modern research in theoretical physics includes the unification of the three forces, namely the strong interaction, the weak interaction and the electromagnetic interaction. Such a theory replacing these three distinct forces by a single force is what we call a ‘Grand Unified Theory’. Going one step further, if we could possibly also incorporate gravity in the single framework, we would achieve a ‘Theory of Everything’. The popular String Theory is one such attempt to unify all forces.

So, what are these forces? Well, two of these forces are very commonly dealt with in everyday life. The most famous and also the weakest of the forces is the Gravitational force. It is the force which makes the apple fall to the ground and also lets the planets go in orbit around the sun. To people acquainted with magnets and electricity, the electromagnetic interaction is no stranger. The strong interaction is responsible for holding together the protons and neutrons in the nucleus and at a smaller level, the quarks which make up the protons and neutrons.

The poorly understood weak force plays a key role in radioactive decays and nuclear fission. As different as they may sound, science attempted to blend them into a single theory that could work in unison and provide a single solution, that in a way establishes that all four forms are just different manifestation of a single force. However, little attention was paid to whether all the physical phenomena can be described by these four forces alone? What if we found a new force? Would physics break down? Not quite.

forces-of-nature_abstract

Last year, a group of scientists from the Hungarian Academy of Sciences had reported in a well-known journal, that their experiment involving striking Lithium-7 with a proton, had resulted in the detection of an extremely light boson having a mass 34 times less than that of the electron. Although, the results created a buzz, it was neglected by the vast majority of the scientific community. Very recently, a US based team consisting of researchers from the University of California, Irvine and the University of Kentucky have managed to revise the earlier findings, which led them to a new bosonic particle that could hold the key to a previously unknown fundamental force. This is not the first time that physicists have speculated the presence of a ‘fifth force’, but this could go on to be the first one to be backed by concrete proof.

Science has been quite baffled by the existence of the elusive dark matter and dark energy, which together fills about 96% of the entire universe. Scientists believe that there could exist a "dark photon”, which ultimately bears this dark energy. Team leader, Attila Krasznahorkay, from the Hungarian Academy of Sciences tried to achieve such a goal through a highly sophisticated experimental set up. The team targeted a proton towards a thin film of lithium-7, which ought to have created the unstable beryllium-8 nuclei, and ultimately disintegrated into electron-positron pairs. According to the Standard Model of particle physics, the number of observed particle-antiparticle pairs should decrease as the angle between the trajectory of the electron and positron increases. However, the actual results differed from this speculation. At about 140 degrees’ angular position, the number of pairs increased asymmetrically, only to decrease at higher angles. The group feels that this ‘bump’ could be a signature of a new boson, having a mass of 17 mega electron volts. This however is very unlikely to be due to the hypothesized ‘dark photon’ and could herald the arrival of some ‘new physics’.

This potentially ground-breaking research is however yet to be peer reviewed and will have to undergo a lot of tests in order to get scientific acknowledgment, as the results didn’t match with what the team had expected. The recent research was published in the Physical Review Letters journal.


Source: Physical Review Letters
Ankita Katdare
Ankita Katdare • May 29, 2016
Most interesting news I read all last week! ^
Debasmita Banerjee
Scientists believe that there could exist a "dark photon”, which ultimately bears this dark energy.

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