DEC 06, 2019 12:00 PM PST

X17 - The Newest Exotic Particle May Hints a 5th Force Outside the Standard Model

WRITTEN BY: Daniel Duan

The NA64 experiment at CERN (CERN)

About four years ago, a team of Hungarian physicists at the Institute for Nuclear Research noticed something strange in their experiments with beryllium-8, an excited radioactive isotope that emits photons as it decays. 

According to the standard model of physics, if any one of the photons has high enough energy, it can transform into an electron and a positron. The particle pair is supposed to part way at an angle of 180 degrees. But in their study, scientists had consistently observed an angle of 140 degrees instead.

This year the same group discovered a second example in which the bizarre phenomenon showed up. They theorized that a previously unknown particle (likely an undiscovered boson), which they named X17, could be behind the anomaly. 

If this discovery can be confirmed by other groups and using different methodologies, scientists suggested that X17 could be an indication for the existence of a fifth fundamental force of nature, on top of the gravitational and electromagnetic interactions, and the strong and weak nuclear forces. Some even suggest that it could also help solve the dark matter problem.

While many are excited about the news, others cautioned that we should not be celebrating just yet. A single unverified result does not mean that we have a scientific breakthrough. History does not lack examples that proclaimed game-changing discoveries turned out to be results of errors in machineries, measurements, or interpretation after all.

Scientists at CERN's NA64 collaboration have also joined the searches for X17 using their Super Proton Synchrotron accelerator. They hypothesized that if X17 does exist, they would observe an electron-positron pair during the bombardment of target materials with a high-energy electron beam. But so far, the collaboration hasn't found anything yet. Only time will tell whether we are looking at a true breakthrough in science or not.

The Hungarian scientists published their latest study on the pre-print server arXiv.

Have We Found The Fifth Force Of Nature?! (Seeker)

Source: CERN

About the Author
  • Graduated with a bachelor degree in Pharmaceutical Science and a master degree in neuropharmacology, Daniel is a radiopharmaceutical and radiobiology expert based in Ottawa, Canada. With years of experience in biomedical R&D, Daniel is very into writing. He is constantly fascinated by what's happening in the world of science. He hopes to capture the public's interest and promote scientific literacy with his trending news articles. The recurring topics in his Chemistry & Physics trending news section include alternative energy, material science, theoretical physics, medical imaging, and green chemistry.
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