Published On: Sun, Dec 20th, 2015

LHC’s latest data indicate possibility of discovery of new particle

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The biggest particle accelerator in the world might have found a hint of an entirely new fundamental particle — or it might be seeing ghosts.

But even if it turns out to be nothing, particle physicists have written a spate of studies to coincide with the new experimental results, proposing different ideas about what might have been found. Theories in the new research papers range from positing new flavors of the Higgs boson (the particle thought to explain how other particles get their mass) to proposing candidates for dark matter. The studies were posted to the ArXiv, a repository where scientists can get feedback from others in their field ahead of publication or submission to a journal. Nine have been posted so far.

On Dec. 15, LHC collaborators met at CERN (the European Organization for Nuclear Research), the laboratory that manages the LHC located just outside Geneva, Switzerland. This was the first major meeting since the particle accelerator was upgraded earlier this year to accommodate higher energy collisions — a new phase called “Run 2″. The LHC is now accelerating particles around its 17-mile circumference ring of supercooled electromagnets at 13 teraelectronvolts (TeV) — an energy nearly double that of the energies physicists used to discover the Higgs boson in 2012.

Around the ring of electromagnets, several experiments are housed. These experiments are huge, building-sized detectors that are highly sensitive to finding particles that are generated after two counter-rotating “beams” of hadrons (such as protons or heavy ions, like lead nuclei) are forced to collide. These counter-rotating beams are traveling at relativistic speeds, so when they smash into one another, for the briefest of moments, the conditions that the universe hasn’t seen since the Big Bang are created.

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