Amazed physicists at the US Department of Energy's Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory (Fermilab) in Illinois have announced the possible discovery of a "new force of nature."
The discovery goes beyond the elusive, so-called "God Particle" that's been something of a Holy Grail amongst nuclear particle theorists. That particle, formally called the Higgs-boson, is an elementary, mathematically posited fragment of reality that many researchers believe may account for objects with mass.
Higgs boson—a hypothetical massive elementary particle—is needed to fully account for the accepted "Standard Model" of modern day particle physics. Scientists at the CERN Large Hadron Collider near Geneva, Switzerland and Fermilab, located near Batavia, Illinois in the United States, are both searching for the particle.
The theoretical Higgs-boson particle is named after theorist Peter Higgs who promoted the model.
Mary and Ian Butterworth of the Imperial College London, and Doris and Vigdor Teplitz of Southern Methodist University, Dallas, Texas summed up the Higgs-boson particle in a one-page paper, part of which states:
"Peter Higgs has a model in which particle masses arise in a beautiful, but complex, progression. He starts with a particle that has only mass, and no other characteristics, such as charge, that distinguish particles from empty space. We can call his particle H. H interacts with other particles; for example if H is near an electron, there is a force between the two. H is of a class of particles called 'bosons.'"
What the scientists at the Fermilab Tevatron accelerator discovered is something new that was unexpected. The physicists weren't even looking for it and were caught by complete surprise.
Of course the history of science is rife with incidents where a major new discovery is made by virtually tripping over it.
A puzzling bump
Mystified physicists at Fermi have been researching what they called a "puzzling bump" for over a year. The strange particle signature was not that of the Higgs-boson. Scientists confirmed the bump left no evidence of decaying into heavy quarks or telltale particles in its wake.
Instead, the unknown force is decaying in normal quarks and leaving traces never before seen or even mathematically considered.
"Nobody knows what this is," Christopher Hill, a nuclear physicist theorist and researcher at Fermilab told the New York Times. Hill was not not part of the Fermilab accelerator team.
At this point, no one knows exactly what was found only that its something unaccounted for in theoretical physics.
One of the Fermilab research scientists is quoted as quipping: ""One thing we know for sure—it is not the Higgs-boson. That is the only thing we know for sure.""