Researchers working with the Large Hadron Collider in Switzerland think they may have made a huge discovery.
Scientists working with the Large Hadron Collider have significantly ramped up the intensity of their experiments since the particle accelerator went back online last year, and according to a report from the BBC, may be on the brink of a massive discovery.
Now, after a year’s worth of data collection, physicists are honing in on a mysterious ‘bump’ that could indicate the presence of a previously undiscovered particle. The collider smashes beams of proton particles against each other and examines the scattered fragments for new particles.
Situated 100 meters below the surface of the Earth, the LHC has been responsible for a number of breakthroughs including the discovery of the Higgs boson particle in 2012. Physicists are eagerly waiting for the moment when a new particle is identified – a finding that would turn the Standard Model of particle physics on its head.
The experiments carried out in the LHC involve collisions between two particle beams traveling near the speed of light. Dipole magnets guide the proton beams around the massive circle making up the collider, crossing at various points throughout the tunnel to induce a collision. The aftermath of these collisions is then observed to look for signs of new physical phenomena, like undiscovered particles.
These experiments produce a huge volume of data; more than 10 million gigabytes each year. The LHC has been in full swing since coming back online last year, and scientists are just beginning to sift through the data produced by the experiments.
According to Professor Stefan Soldner-Rembold, the head of the particle physics department at the University of Manchester, “More data is needed to be sure the signal doesn’t go away – until then we have to be cautious. The big reason that people are excited about this bump is that both experiments (Atlas and CMS) saw a hint in roughly the same place. But even this is not completely unlikely.”
So while it may be some time before we learn about the existence of new particle, the bumps in the data across two different experiments provide hope for a breakthrough on the horizon.
A press release from CERN describing some of the recent experiments at the LHC can be found here.