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Particle Mystery Deepens As ‘Strong’ New Evidence Hints at ‘5th’ Force in Nature


Reidar Hahn/Fermilab

Like the four cardinal elements of yore, or the four cardinal directions, there are also four forces of nature—the ones which cause particles to move in different ways, like gravity and electromagnetism.

Through discoveries made while working with a fundamental particle called the muon, physicists working in Chicago have recently made the case for a fifth force of nature, something that would turn physics on its head.

Called the Muon g-2 experiment, conducted at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Fermi Laboratory, the results could either point to an undiscovered particle, or a completely new force acting in the universe—which would be far more exciting.

While smashing atoms together in a particle accelerator, an international team of researchers found that some particles were “wobbling” in ways that couldn’t be explained by the current theory of four forces: gravity, electromagnetism, and two nuclear forces: the strong force and the weak force.

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

“This quantity we measure reflects the interactions of the muon with everything else in the universe. But when the theorists calculate the same quantity, using all of the known forces and particles in the Standard Model, we don’t get the same answer,” said Renee Fatemi, a physicist at the University of Kentucky and the simulations manager in an official press release.

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Several mysteries pervade astrophysics that could be attributable to a force of nature as yet undetected, such as why galaxies spin faster than mathematical calculations suggest they should.

Professor Mark Lancaster at the University of Manchester told BBC News: “Clearly, this is very exciting because it potentially points to a future with new laws of physics, new particles and a new force which we have not seen to date.”

Nevertheless, for now the experiment currently carries a “1” instead of a “0” in the column labeled “chance this may have been nothing but a fluke.”

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The BBC reports that other experiments in Japan, the U.S., and at the Large Hadron Collider in Europe have all produced experiments of a similar nature, though, and GNN can only imagine that physicists everywhere will be revving up their particle accelerators again to find out more about this 5th force mystery—and potentially bring the discipline into a new epoch.

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