Has the Tevatron Discovered New Physics?

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The Tevatron particle accelerator at Fermilab, near Batavia, Ill., may have uncovered "something that goes a little bit beyond" the Standard Model, according to physicist Giovanni Punzi.
Fermilab

THE GIST

— At 4 p.m. CDT, Fermilab physicists will announce a potentially ground-breaking discovery.

— The researchers are keen to point out that this isn't the long-awaited discovery of the Higgs boson.

— The signal discovered, as a result of proton collisions, is something unexpected, possibly indicating "a new force" of nature.

Physicists will announce Wednesday that data from a major US atom smasher lab may have revealed a new elementary particle, or potentially a new force of nature, one of the researchers told AFP.

The discovery is believed to relate to mass and how objects obtain it — a persistent riddle to experts and one of the most sought-after answers in all of physics.

"There could be some new force beyond the force that we know," said Giovanni Punzi, a physicist with the international research team that is analyzing the data.

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

While much remains a mystery, one thing researchers agree on is that this is something beyond 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."

For more than a year physicists have been studying what appears to be a "bump" in the data from the US Department of Energy's Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory, which operates the powerful particle accelerator Tevatron.

Punzi said the particles behave 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 2100 GMT (4 p.m. CDT).

"Nobody knows what this is," Christopher Hill, a theorist at Fermilab who was not part of the team, was quoted as telling the New York Times.

"If it is real, it would be the most significant discovery in physics in half a century."

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