The muon and its oscillation
There’s a lot of suspension on the unintended wobble. Muons, heavier cousins of electrons, don’t behave as expected when thrown through a strong magnetic field, an Illinois lab reports. By teetering faster than expected, scientists say, they raise tantalizing questions about the accepted understanding of the fundamental laws of particle physics, the “standard model” that describes particles (currently 17) and the forces that govern the subatomic world. .
Mainstream thinking suggests that all the forces we experience can be reduced to just four categories: gravity, electromagnetism, and, shaping the behavior of subatomic particles, the strong force and the weak force. The muon wobble suggests a fifth force that could provide an explanation for mysteries such as the accelerating expanding universe and the nature of dark matter, the invisible matter that astronomers say makes up a quarter of the mass of the universe.
Results announced last week from the Muon g-2 experiment at the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory, or Fermilab, in Batavia – a team of 200 physicists from seven countries – appear to have successfully replicated a 20-year-old experiment on the strange behavior of muons and their deviation from the standard model remained unexplained. Separately, reports from the CERN Large Hadron Collider on the Franco-Swiss border of the decay of unstable B mesons into muons and electrons this week have also raised doubts about the model.
During a seminar and press conference last week, Fermilab physicist Dr. Chris Polly pointed to a graph displaying white space where their findings deviated from the theoretical prediction. “We can say with fairly high confidence that there must be something contributing to this white space. What monsters could be hiding there?
The work and its promising implications are far from conclusive, but scientists have likened it to the much-heralded 2012 discovery of the Higgs boson, a particle that impregnates other particles with mass. The ephemeral quantum world of the muon may be revealing its secrets.