by Maddy Hughes
This week at the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory in Illinois, scientists found a strange bump in their data that could indicate the existence of a new sub-atomic particle.
Further research is needed to prove that the particle is indeed a kind never before seen, as stressed by Brian Greene, a physicist quoted in NPR's coverage of the event.
But though the evidence so far is not enough to say for sure if the particle is a new finding, there is great excitement over its possibility among the scientific community. This is in part because if the particle was truly something previously unknown, it could signify a new force of nature, which sounds impossible to conceive.
"If it isn't something that can be washed away through more refined data," Greene said, "it would be a huge revolution."
The unusual data was found using the Tevatron particle accelerator in the Fermi lab, as researchers were studying collisions between protons and antiprotons, BBC News reported.
These collisions produce W boson particles, and a pair of what are called "jets" of other particles. These jets contained the "bump" in the data, alerting the physicists to something that does not fit within the current Standard Model of the subatomic particle community.
While it was unclear whether the bump was an accident or a real finding, the researchers said that it was definitely not a particle called "Higgs boson," for which they have been ardently searching. According to Dan Hooper, a theoretical physicist at the Fermilab not involved with the study, if the particle was a new discovery it would be even more radical than finding the Higgs particle.
It may be the case that what the physicists are seeing is just a fluctuation in the data, but researchers only have to examine the numbers they already have, and the data from an upcoming experiment at the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) to find out.