Physicists have announced the discovery of a rule-breaking particle that will "shake the foundations" of science.
Physicists working at the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory (Fermilab) in Illinois, USA, say there is mounting evidence that an incredibly small subatomic particle, a muon, is breaking the laws of physics, and interacting with objects or energies that fit into no current scientific theory.
Dr Renee Fatemi, from the University of Kentucky, is part of a 200-strong team of researchers from seven countries who announced the breakthrough discovery on Wednesday, April 6.
They say that the results of their decades-long experiment confirmed a 2001 finding that muons were interacting with something that doesn’t fit into the current Standard Model of physics.
The enigmatic wobble, like the muons themselves, is incredibly tiny but unmistakeable.
“This quantity we measure reflects the interactions of the muon with everything else in the universe,” Dr Fatemi told the New York Times. “This is strong evidence that the muon is sensitive to something that is not in our best theory.”
Marcela Carena, head of theoretical physics at Fermilab, says the discovery will lead to a new understanding of the fundamental forces of nature.
“I’m very excited,” she said. “I feel like this tiny wobble may shake the foundations of what we thought we knew.”
The discovery was made possible by the introduction of a new magnetic “racetrack” some 50 feet across, that was added to Fermilab’s collection of scientific instruments.
When the disc-shaped device was installed it led to rumours that a UFO had landed at the facility.
But the science unveiled today could “break the Standard Model” of Physics, says Dr Carena.
Further study of the muons' mysterious wobble could offer insights into why the Universe is expanding at its current rate and in more practical terms open up whole new worlds of electronics and computing.
The results, published in a set of papers submitted to the Physical Review Letters, Physical Review A, Physical Review D and Physical Review Accelerators and Beams, have been scrutinised carefully by teams of scientists.
The measurements have about one chance in 40,000 of being a fluke – which is particularly important when researchers are looking at such tiny objects with such far-reaching implications.
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