Jul 10, 2017

Physicists detect elusive particle

A detector unit from the Large Hadron Collider Beauty Experiment. Credit: LHCb collaboration

Physicists have observed a type of heavy particle for the first time from collisions in the Large Hadron Collider. The Standard Model of physics predicted the particle's existence but until now it eluded physicists.

Why it matters: The particle offers scientists an avenue for studying how fundamental parts of matter interact with one another to form the strong force holding together protons and neutrons in atoms. In other words, what holds everything together.

The details: Xi-cc++ is made up of three quarks (elementary particles that come in six different "flavors" determined by their mass and charge): an "up" quark (the lightest of the bunch) and two heavier ones known as "charm" quarks. The team working on the Large Hadron Collider's beauty (LHCb) experiment detected 300 of the particles in collisions carried out last year.

In 2002, physicists at Fermilab reported finding a similar particle (that one was made up of two "charms" and one "down" quark) but it hasn't been confirmed by subsequent experiments. The LHC physicists are now searching their data for that particle. "We should be able to see it with the data we have," lead researcher Patrick Spradlin told the NYT. "I think we are very close to resolving this controversy."

Go deeper: More broadly, the LHC is searching for confirmations of physicists' most powerful theories — or for altogether new physics. Brian Greene recently told Axios what he hopes to see from the collider in its current run. Read more here.

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