Scientists find ‘strong’ evidence of ‘fifth force of nature’ that could rewrite laws of physics

Scientists believe they may have discovered a fifth force of nature, after observing tiny subatomic particles behaving in an unusual way.

A new experiment sent tiny muon particles, which are similar to an electron, through a 15-ton electromagnet in an attempt to measure how they ‘wobble’ over time.

Called the Muon g-2 experiment, as the particles travelled along the 50-foot long magnetic track, they wobbled 0.1 per cent off the Standard Model that has been used for 50 years.

The Standard Model of physics suggests that everything in the universe is made from a few basic building blocks called fundamental particles, governed by four fundamental forces, the strong force, the weak force, the electromagnetic force, and the gravitational force.

The latest discovery by Fermilab suggests the muon could be interacting with undiscovered particles or forces, not featured in the Standard Model as we know it, and as muons form naturally when cosmic rays strike Earth’s atmosphere, these results could change how we believe the universe works.

The UK’s Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC) said the result ‘provides strong evidence for the existence of an undiscovered sub-atomic particle or new force’.

However, they caution that there is a one in a 40,000 chance that the result could be a statistical error.  

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The first results of the Muon g-2 experiment that used a 15-ton electromagnet (pictured) to study the behaviour of fundamental particles showed the behaviour of muons contradicts the basic way physicists think the universe works

The first results of the Muon g-2 experiment that used a 15-ton electromagnet (pictured) to study the behaviour of fundamental particles showed the behaviour of muons contradicts the basic way physicists think the universe works

 The first results of the Muon g-2 experiment that used a 15-ton electromagnet (pictured) to study the behaviour of fundamental particles showed the behaviour of muons contradicts the basic way physicists think the universe works

Called the Muon g-2 experiment, as the particles travelled along the 50-foot long magnetic track, they wobbled 0.1 per cent off the Standard Model that has been used for 50 years

Called the Muon g-2 experiment, as the particles travelled along the 50-foot long magnetic track, they wobbled 0.1 per cent off the Standard Model that has been used for 50 years

Called the Muon g-2 experiment, as the particles travelled along the 50-foot long magnetic track, they wobbled 0.1 per cent off the Standard Model that has been used for 50 years

What is Muon g-2? 

Muon g-2 (pronounced gee minus two) uses Fermilab’s powerful accelerators to study the interactions of short-lived particles known as muons with a strong magnetic field that simulates space. 

Scientists know that even in a vacuum, space is never empty. 

Instead, it is filled with an invisible sea of virtual particles that in accordance with the laws of quantum physics pop in and out of existence for incredibly short moments of time, which experts call quantum foam. 

The Muon g-2 experimenters examine the precession of muons that are subjected to a magnetic field. 

The main goal is to test the Standard Model’s predictions of this value by measuring the precession rate experimentally to a precision of 0.14 parts per million. 

If there is an inconsistency, it could indicate the Standard Model is incomplete and in need of revision.

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Prominent English particle physicist Professor Brian Cox called the result ‘important and exciting’. 

‘It is getting close to the discovery of new physics beyond the Standard Model –new fundamental particles basically,’ he tweeted.

‘It would be the biggest discovery in Particle Physics for many years – certainly up there with The Higgs Boson.’ 

The Muon g-2 experiment searches for signs of new particles and forces by precisely examining the muon’s interaction with a surrounding magnetic field.

The muon, when placed in the magnetic field, itself acts like a tiny magnetic compass and like a gyroscope, this compass rotates at a certain precise frequency, predicted by the Standard Model.

However, the g-2 collaboration has measured this rotation to be faster than predicted – suggesting that our current understanding of physics is incomplete.  

‘It is an exciting time to be a particle physicist,’ said Professor Mark Thomson, executive chair of STFC.

‘We know that our current understanding of the universe is incomplete.

‘What we are now seeing from leading experiments, such as g-2, could be the first glimpses behind the curtain into a new world of physics.’ 

The peculiar behaviour challenges the Standard Model developed about 50 years ago – the collection of equations that catalogues the fundamental particles in the universe and how they interact. 

This model is currently our best understanding of how these particles and three of the forces are related to each, suggesting that all matter around us is made of elementary particles.

These particles occur in two basic types called quarks and leptons and each consists of six particles, which are related in pairs, or ‘generations’.

All stable matter in the universe is made from particles that belong to the first generation. Any heavier particles quickly decay to the next most stable level. 

There are also four fundamental forces at work in the universe: the strong force, the weak force, the electromagnetic force, and the gravitational force. They work over different ranges and have different strengths. 

FOUR FUNDAMENTAL FORCES  

The current working model of physics states that there are four fundamental forces of nature:

1. Gravity

Universal force of attraction acting between all matter

2. Electromagnetism

Binds molecules together 

3. The strong force 

The force that holds the nuclei of atoms together

4.  The weak force

Allows the radioactive decay of certain atoms

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Michio Kaku, a world leading string theorist, says the discovery that muons ‘wobble’ in an unexpected way could be the clue needed in the search for a universal theory of everything, that he calls the ‘God Equation’.

‘Is this a signal of the Final Theory? Many physicists hope so. Einstein once said that if you see a lion’s tail, perhaps there might be a lion attached to it. Any tiny deviation from the Standard Model would be a tail pointing to the true theory.’ 

Chris Polly, a physicist at the at the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory (Fermilab), told The New York Times: ‘This is our Mars rover landing moment.’

The point of the experiments, explained Johns Hopkins University theoretical physicist David Kaplan, is to pull apart particles and find out if there’s ‘something funny going on’ with both the particles and the seemingly empty space between them.

‘The secrets don’t just live in matter. They live in something that seems to fill in all of space and time. These are quantum fields,’ Kaplan said. ‘We’re putting energy into the vacuum and seeing what comes out.’  

The current working model of physics states that there are four fundamental forces of nature – gravity, electromagnetism, and the weak and strong forces between atoms. 

Experiments performed over decades affirmed over and again that its descriptions of the particles and the forces that make up and govern the universe were pretty much on the mark – until now.

‘When viewed together with the recent measurements from CERN’s LHCb experiment, there seems to be a pattern emerging of muons behaving differently than our theory predicts,’ Professor Lancaster said. 

Prominent English physicist Professor Brian Cox called the result 'important and exciting'

Prominent English physicist Professor Brian Cox called the result 'important and exciting'

Prominent English physicist Professor Brian Cox called the result ‘important and exciting’

The Standard Model isn’t perfect, says Kaku, who told MailOnline it is an ugly theory that seems to completely ignore gravity. In the model gravity is the weakest but it has an infinite range.

The electromagnetic force also has infinite range but it is many times stronger than gravity. The weak and strong forces are effective only over a very short range and dominate only at the level of subatomic particles.

The Standard Model includes the electromagnetic, strong and weak forces and all their carrier particles, and explains well how these forces act on all of the matter particles.

However, the most familiar force in our everyday lives, gravity, is not part of the Standard Model, and fitting gravity comfortably into this framework has proved to be a difficult challenge.

This is why researchers have been trying to break the Standard Model, to find any slight discrepancies that don’t fit the model, which has stood for more than 50 years. 

This new groundbreaking experiment was conducted at Fermi National Laboratory in Batavia, Illinois, which has the technology to create the muons in particle accelerators, which can produce them in large numbers. 

A muon is about 200 times as massive as its cousin, the electron, and form naturally when cosmic rays strike Earth’s atmosphere.

After it was discovered in 1936 it so confounded scientists that a famous physicist asked ‘Who ordered that?’ 

Researchers at Fermi National Laboratory in Batavia aimed to measure how magnetic muons are by watching them wobble as they travelled around the massive magnet. The study showed the magnetic wobble of muons is 0.1 percent off what the Standard Model predicts

Researchers at Fermi National Laboratory in Batavia aimed to measure how magnetic muons are by watching them wobble as they travelled around the massive magnet. The study showed the magnetic wobble of muons is 0.1 percent off what the Standard Model predicts

Researchers at Fermi National Laboratory in Batavia aimed to measure how magnetic muons are by watching them wobble as they travelled around the massive magnet. The study showed the magnetic wobble of muons is 0.1 percent off what the Standard Model predicts

As the muons travel around the Muon g-2 magnet, they also come in contact with a quantum foam of subatomic particles popping in and out of existence

As the muons travel around the Muon g-2 magnet, they also come in contact with a quantum foam of subatomic particles popping in and out of existence

As the muons travel around the Muon g-2 magnet, they also come in contact with a quantum foam of subatomic particles popping in and out of existence

Graziano Venanzoni, an experimental physicist at an Italian national lab, who is one of the top scientists on the US Fermilab experiment, said: ‘Since the very beginning it was making physicists scratch their heads.’ 

Researchers at Fermi National Laboratory aimed to measure how magnetic muons are by watching them wobble as they travelled around the massive magnet. 

Like electrons, muons act as if they have a tiny internal magnet and when placed in a a strong magnetic field, the direction of the muon’s magnet precesses or wobbles – similar to a spinning top. 

The strength of the internal magnet determines the rate that the muon precesses in an external magnetic field and is described by a number that physicists call the g-factor. 

And this number can be calculated with ultra-high precision. 

There is a one in a 40,000 chance that the result could be a statistical error and one in 3.5 million chances the observation is a coincidence, which is needed to claim a discovery

There is a one in a 40,000 chance that the result could be a statistical error and one in 3.5 million chances the observation is a coincidence, which is needed to claim a discovery

There is a one in a 40,000 chance that the result could be a statistical error and one in 3.5 million chances the observation is a coincidence, which is needed to claim a discovery

Fermilab, located in Chicago, Illinois, is able to create them in particle accelerators that can produce them in large numbers.

Fermilab, located in Chicago, Illinois, is able to create them in particle accelerators that can produce them in large numbers.

Fermilab, located in Chicago, Illinois, is able to create them in particle accelerators that can produce them in large numbers.

The strength of the internal magnet determines the rate that the muon precesses in an external magnetic field and is described by a number that physicists call the g-factor. And this number can be calculated with ultra-high precision

The strength of the internal magnet determines the rate that the muon precesses in an external magnetic field and is described by a number that physicists call the g-factor. And this number can be calculated with ultra-high precision

The strength of the internal magnet determines the rate that the muon precesses in an external magnetic field and is described by a number that physicists call the g-factor. And this number can be calculated with ultra-high precision

As the muons travel around the Muon g-2 magnet, they also come in contact with a quantum foam of subatomic particles popping in and out of existence.

Quantum foam stems from Einstein’s idea that gravity is caused by warping and curving spacetime.

Experts previously suggested that spacetime is not smooth, but similar to the frothy remains of a bottle of beer – foamy. 

The Standard Model predicts this so-called anomalous magnetic moment extremely precisely. 

But if the quantum foam contains additional forces or particles not accounted for by the Standard Model, that would tweak the muon g-factor further.

Theoretical physicist Matthew McCullough of CERN, the European Organization for Nuclear Research, said untangling the mysteries could ‘take us beyond our current understanding of nature.’

Wayne State University particle physicist Alexey Petrov, said: ‘New particles, new physics might be just beyond our research. It’s tantalising.’

Researchers need another year or two to finish analysing the results of all of the laps around the 50-foot (14-meter) track. If the results don’t change, it will count as a major discovery, Venanzoni said.

Theoretical physicist, Michio Kaku, has recently published a new book on the search for a universal theory of everything called The God Equation, and in it he suggests that the standard model is incomplete, a ‘theory of almost everything’.

‘The standard model truly describes the known sub-atomic world. The problem, however, is it is one of the ugliest theories in physics,’ he said.

Michio Kaku, a world leading string theorist, says this could be the clue needed in the search for a universal theory of everything

Michio Kaku, a world leading string theorist, says this could be the clue needed in the search for a universal theory of everything

Michio Kaku, a world leading string theorist, says this could be the clue needed in the search for a universal theory of everything

‘It has 36 quarks and anti-quarks, 20 free parameters, a large number of gauge particles, neutrinos, and Higgs bosons. It is a theory only a mother can love. 

‘But how can Nature, at the most fundamental level, create such an ugly theory. Even its creators admit it cannot be the Final Theory.’

Kaku, one of the world’s leading string theorists and professor of theoretical physics at the City College of New York, said physicists have been searching for even the tiniest deviation in the standard model.

Wobbles, new forces and changes in the way particles interact could be used to ‘give us a clue to the real fundamental theory,’ explained Kaku.  

EXPLAINED: THE STANDARD MODEL OF PHYSICS DESCRIBES THE FUNDAMENTAL STRUCTURE OF MATTER IN THE UNIVERSE

The theories and discoveries of thousands of physicists since the 1930s have resulted in a remarkable insight into the fundamental structure of matter.

Everything in the universe is found to be made from a few basic building blocks called fundamental particles, governed by four fundamental forces.

Our best understanding of how these particles and three of the forces are related to each other is encapsulated in the Standard Model of particle physics.

All matter around us is made of elementary particles, the building blocks of matter.

These particles occur in two basic types called quarks and leptons. Each consists of six particles, which are related in pairs, or ‘generations’.

All stable matter in the universe is made from particles that belong to the first generation. Any heavier particles quickly decay to the next most stable level.

There are also four fundamental forces at work in the universe: the strong force, the weak force, the electromagnetic force, and the gravitational force. They work over different ranges and have different strengths.

Gravity is the weakest but it has an infinite range.

The electromagnetic force also has infinite range but it is many times stronger than gravity.

The weak and strong forces are effective only over a very short range and dominate only at the level of subatomic particles.

The Standard Model includes the electromagnetic, strong and weak forces and all their carrier particles, and explains well how these forces act on all of the matter particles.

However, the most familiar force in our everyday lives, gravity, is not part of the Standard Model, and fitting gravity comfortably into this framework has proved to be a difficult challenge.

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