18 Nov 2011

Giant Magnet part of the LHCb experiment at the Large Hadron Collider
CREDIT: CERN/LHCb

The Large Hadron Collider (LHC) was created in 2008 to give physicists a glimpse into the mystery of the universe.  The question of why there is an abundance of normal matter, but hardly any opposite matter, called antimatter.  Back then, some groups believed this atomic smasher would usher the end of the world and create a black hole swallowing the Earth.  Everything is still holding together, years later, but what may not be intact is our understanding of modern physics.

New information, possibly explaining why there is more normal matter in the universe could be coming as the result of recent experiments.

The birth of antimatter and matter

Eons ago, there was the big bang, or so the theory goes, which should have created equal matter and antimatter.  When matter and antimatter collide they destroy each other.  In this universe, as there could be many other universes, which is a whole other topic, matter won this battle, but how and why is the big question. 

A possible explanation is the "charge-parity violation" (CP).  This means that particles of opposite charge behave differently from one another.

New findings

Researchers at the LHC collider, the 17-mile, underground particle accelerator, near Geneva, Switzerland collide protons at extreme speeds creating bursts of energy.  As a result many subatomic particles are generated.  Researchers at the LHCb experiment have reported that some of the particles are behaving differently than their antimatter versions, possibly giving us a glimpse into the mystery of antimatter itself.

During these collisions, researchers found evidence of the charge-parity violation, due to particles called D-mesons, which also contain "charmed quarks," decay into yet other particles.  These charmed quarks are unstable and last only for a fraction of a second.  Those decay into other particles and these are what were detected by the LHCb.  The "b" in the name refers to LHC-beauty, another type of quark. Researchers found a 0.8 percent difference in the probabilities that matter and antimatter versions of these particles would decay into a certain end state.

Quarks are considered elementary particles that make up matter.  Quarks combine to form composite particles called hardrons.  The most stable hadrons being protons and neutrons, all part of an atom.

Confirming the accuracy of the results

Scientists state that the findings discovered are a "3.5 sigma" result.  This means there is enough evidence that there is only a 0.05 percent chance this pattern isn't there.  In particle physics, for a discovery to be considered true, it must be at a level 5 sigma in confidence. 

Scientists should have enough data by the end of 2012 to confirm or reject their findings.

The Standard Model

The leading theory of particle physics is called the Standard Model.  If these findings hold, it means that the Standard Model is incomplete.  This model does allow for some minor CP violation, but not at 0.8 percent.  Scientists would need to alter their theories or even add new physics to explain things.

Such an example of a new physics is supersymmetry.  This theory states that in addition to all the known particles there are "supersymmetric partner particles" differing by half a unit of spin, spin being one of the fundamental characteristics of elementary particles.

To date, no one has found evidence of supersymmetry.  Its possible that if they exist they get created and destroyed at the same time, this would explain why matter and antimatter decay differently, as they could interfere with the decay process.

Source: Space.com


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