Could the LHC really disprove the standard model of physics? What has it taught us about the Big Bang, quarks, and the multiverse theory?
5 Discoveries Made by the LHC (so far)
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*By the early 20th century, physicists seemed to have the universe pretty much figured out, in an understanding of the universe called the standard model. There was just one nagging problem: how to explain radioactivity. Addressing it sparked a scientific revolution that revealed the amazing truth about little things: Sometimes they contain universes. And the Large Hadron Collider might be the key to finding these universes. This 16.8-mile (27-kilometer) ring of superconducting magnets slams particles together at near light speed in an ultrahigh vacuum – and it’s shown us some fascinating stuff.
*The Higgs Boson In our macro world, we assume all particles have mass. But in the micro world, electroweak theory predicts that special particles called mediators should have no mass at all. But that’s a problem, because some of them do. In 1964, physicist Peter Higgs and the team of François Englert and Robert Brout independently proposed a solution: an unusual field that conveyed mass based on how strongly particles interacted with it. If this Higgs field existed, then it ought to have a mediator particle, a Higgs boson. In 2013, physicists at the LHC confirmed they'd found a Higgs boson with a mass of roughly 126 giga-electron volts (GeV) -- the total mass of about 126 protons.
*Tetraquarks Hadrons are subatomic particles affected by the strong force, and for a long time we thought they came in six types, or flavors: up, down, strange, charm, top and bottom. physicists divided hadrons into two categories based on ways that quarks made them: baryons were composed of three quarks, whereas mesons were formed by quark-antiquark pairs. But were these the only possible combinations? In 2003, researchers in Japan found a strange particle, X(3872), that appeared to be made of a charm quark, an anticharm and at least two other quarks. While exploring the particle's possible existence, researchers found Z (4430), an apparent four-quark particle. The LHC has since discovered evidence for several such particles, which break -- or at least bend -- the established model for quark arrangements.
*Coordinated Motion - When scientists calibrating LHC instruments tried ramming protons into lead nuclei, they noted a surprising phenomenon: The random paths that the subatomic shrapnel usually took had been replaced by an apparent coordination. One theory says that the impact created an exotic state of matter called quark-gluon plasma (QGP), which flowed like liquid and produced coordinated particles as it cooled. QGP is the densest form of matter outside of a black hole, & could significantly affect ideas how scientist view conditions immediately following the Big Bang. Although most physicists favor this idea, some have argued for a second explanation involving a theoretical field created by gluons, the particles that mediate strong force and paste quarks and antiquarks into protons and neutrons. The hypothesis says gluons zipping along at near light speed form fields that cause them to interact.
*Signs of New Physics After All ... or Not As weird as it might sound, many physicists hoped that the LHC wouldn’t poke too many holes in the standard model. However, the LHC has dealt repeated blows to exotic physics while reconfirming the standard model at every turn. The results are not all in, & there's an awful lot of data to analyze. Nevertheless, chances don't look good for disproving the standard model. Or maybe they do. A 2013 report on B-meson decay showed the particles decaying into a K-meson (aka a kaon) and two muons (particles similar to electrons). That’s a pattern the standard model didn’t predict. This odd pattern of decay could offer the first glimpse of the new physics so many experts are looking for.
*What do you think? Is the LHC worth the $10 billion price tag? What will we learn next? Let me know in the comments, and for more information, check out our article “5 Discoveries Made by the LHC (So Far)” on HowStuffWorks.com.
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