Experts find new force of nature

2011-04-07 09:22

Washington - Data from a major US atom smasher lab may have revealed a new elementary particle, or potentially a new force of nature, said one of the physicists involved in the discovery.

The physics world was abuzz with excitement over the findings, which could offer clues to the persistent riddle of mass and how objects obtain it - one of the most sought-after answers in all of physics.

But experts cautioned that more analysis was needed over the next several months to uncover the true nature of the discovery, which comes as part of an ongoing experiment with proton and antiproton collisions to understand the workings of the universe.

"There could be some new force beyond the force that we know," said Giovanni Punzi, a physicist with the international research team that is analysing the data from the US Department of Energy's Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory.

"If it is confirmed, it could point to a whole new world of interactions," he said.


While much remains a mystery, researchers agree that this is not the "God Particle", or the Higgs-boson, a hypothetical elementary particle which has long eluded physicists who believe it could explain why objects have mass.

"The Higgs-boson is a piece that goes into the puzzle that we already have," said Punzi. "Whereas this is something that goes a little bit beyond that - a new interaction, a new force."

Punzi said the new observation behaves differently than the Higgs-boson, which would be decaying into heavy quarks, or particles.

The new discovery "is decaying in normal quarks", Punzi said. "It has different features," he added.

"One thing we know for sure - it is not the Higgs-boson. That is the only thing we know for sure."

Physicists were to discuss their findings further in a meeting to be webcast at 21:00 GMT.

For more than a year physicists have been studying what appears to be a "bump" in the data from the Illinois-based Fermi lab, which operates the powerful particle accelerator, or atom-smasher, Tevatron.


The Tevatron was once the most powerful machine in the world for such purposes until 2008 when the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) became operational at the European Organisation for Nuclear Research, which goes by the acronym Cern.

The US machine began its work in the mid 1980s, and is scheduled for shutdown later this year when its funding runs out.

"These results are certainly tantalising," said Nigel Lockyer, director of Canada's national laboratory for particle and nuclear physics, Triumf.

"It is too early to say for sure what the Fermilab team has observed," he added in an e-mail.

"On the one hand, there is clear evidence for something unexplained, and on the other, there is a long list of alternative explanations for what might be causing this subtle observation," he said.

"My personal judgment is that this excitement is adding fuel to the fire for the next generation of results and discoveries that will be made at the LHC (in Europe) and elsewhere. We are so close to learning something profound."

Lockyer, a former spokesperson for the Collider Detector at Fermilab (CDF), which made the announcement, said there is another major experiment going on at Tevatron, a sister project known as D-Zero, which could help confirm the data in the coming months.

"They are both multipurpose detectors. They both have the capability of seeing this," he said, predicting a rush of opinions by theoretical physicists in the coming days, and more data that could shed more light on the finding.

"It will become very much clearer in the next few months. You won't have to wait years."

  • trevb - 2011-04-07 10:00

    SCIENCE ROCKS. Always discovering something new , helping to explain how and why > awaiting all the religious nuts comments !

      Pupuzela - 2011-04-07 10:27

      "Science without religion is lame. Religion without science is blind." Albert Einstein

      Somebody - 2011-04-07 10:40

      The problem is, science doesn't need religion, but religion needs science.

      barkers - 2011-04-07 10:55

      Science IS God!!!!

      trevb - 2011-04-07 12:35

      even Einstein has been , wrong his theory of relativity suggested and expanding universe but in fear of the then more powerful say of the church said the universe was static which subsequently edwin hubble proved false , using redshift heory. Einstein even admitted was blunder

      Lanfear - 2011-04-08 09:53

      @ Pupuzela - a couple of quotes from Einstein near the end of his life on religion and science, since the christians and other religiously-minded always want to claim him as their own: Repeated attempts by the press to present Albert Einstein as a religious man provoked the following statement: "It was, of course, a lie what you read about my religious convictions, a lie which is being systematically repeated. I do not believe in a personal God and I have never denied this but have expressed it clearly. If something is in me which can be called religious then it is the unbounded admiration for the structure of the world so far as our science can reveal it." letter to an atheist [1954]. "I do not believe in immortality of the individual, and I consider ethics to be an exclusively human concern with no superhuman authority behind it." letter to a Baptist pastor, July 1953. I suggest you read ALL of Einstein's quotes and opinions on religion and note the dates as well, before you try to falsify the importance of your religion to science by claiming that Einstein was a believer. Great article and progress btw!

  • freddie van eyk - 2011-04-07 10:13

    Always something new to discover , at least the mystery of the universe keeps things interesting.

  • cromagnon - 2011-04-07 11:21

    Interresting fact for the day(I am NOT trying to steer this to religion). The term "God Particle" was coined after a scientist got frustrated and referred to the Higgs-boson as the "god damned particle" because he couldnt find it. Well, that is probably one of the stories.... All in all, fascinating stuff.

      Martin du Plessis - 2011-04-07 11:45

      hahaha, that made my day :D

      Lanfear - 2011-04-08 09:39

      lol, great story!

  • fishycraig - 2011-04-07 11:45

    People gladly pay over a tithe for predictions of the unknown - how sad there is not the funding available for this project to continue.

      No.7 - 2011-04-07 14:37

      That's why scientists are working so hard to 'prove' global warming, even tho it's a scam. By 'proving' that it exists they get more funding to continue and research for solutions ensue. Ie: They're guaranteed a job for x years. If they prove the thing does not exist they all lose the funding and then they're jobs...

  • Looter - 2011-04-07 14:15

    well mass is nothing without gravity so maybe they looking in the wrong area :P We all know all objects attract each other,all objects are mass and the greater will prevail. Mass is also relative to gravity as we know we can jump higher on the moon. Also energy is stored in the bonds of mass and what it is consisted of. Is mass then Energy....hahah i will never know, just fun to think about. Universe is a wonderful place!

      Richard - 2011-04-07 14:27

      Um.. Actually mass creates gravity. That is why 2 seperate objects in space will start to move towards each other. Perhaps we are about to learn to create/ignore gravity ^^

  • David Bapela - 2011-04-07 14:26

    GOD is watching you.

      moocus - 2011-04-07 14:48

      look busy then...

  • QuintS - 2011-04-07 14:32

    They could have saved a lot of money on these huge 'labs' that they built to find these ... particles. They can just come over and collect some of my dog's flatulence to do research on. Guaranteed they will find new elementary particles, or potentially a new force of nature, alien or otherwise that they have never seen before that will astound them indeed. But seriously, I am very interested in the results of these findings. Interesting indeed!

      fishycraig - 2011-04-07 14:43

      At three o'clock this morning my dog proved the existence of Dark Matter. And he did it with no special laboratory machines and right in my living room. No, as you say it will be very interesting to see what happens. Just imagine if the Fermilab gets all the answers and CERN becomes a multi-billion dollar white elephant. I don't think we realise what an amazing time, scientifically speaking, we live in. Maybe in time we can look back and appreciate it.

  • horst.o.muller - 2011-04-07 18:53

    So, what have they actually discovered? Sorry, I forgot, this is quantum physics which nobody understands and thus cannot explain. Sounds to me like they want more funding.

  • Steve Wonderboy - 2011-09-25 16:11

    Man has known the answer for thousands of years already. Its called God. Not only gives matter mass, but causes it to exist in the first place.

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