A Tiny Particle Is Defying the Laws of Physics, Scientists Reveal

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Scientists in Illinois’ Fermilab are studying the physics of a muon particle in their Muon g-2 experiment that seems to break our current models of physics, or at least extend physics beyond the standard model followed in virtually everything here on Earth.

This news comes by way of a BBC News report that explains the current model of physics forces felt on earth, which are “gravity, electromagnetism, the strong force, and the weak force,” are not necessarily being followed in an experiment on a special muon particle. This “provides strong evidence for the existence of an undiscovered sub-atomic particle or new force,” the UK’s Science and Technology Facilities Council said, according to the BBC News report.

Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory in Batavia, Illinois, Photo Credit: Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory

“We have found the interaction of muons are not in agreement with the Standard Model (the current widely accepted theory to explain how the building blocks of the Universe behave),” lead scientist on the muon experiment, Mark Lancaster, told BBC News.

According to The New York Times, physicists are saying the muon not following Earth’s standard laws of physics might be influence from, “forms of matter and energy that are not yet known to science, but which may nevertheless affect the nature and evolution of the universe.”

Physicists aren’t yet sure if the evidence is definitive enough, though. The statistical level of confidence for the experiment is at a 4.1 sigma, with sigmas being the measures of confidence scientists use to determine if something is a fluke or not, and a 5 simga is needed to call this evidence definitive, or in other words, “claim a discovery,” according to BBC News.

Just outside of Chicago, in Batavia, Illinois, scientists at the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory, or Fermilab, are subjecting muon particles, which are like electrons but 207 times bigger, to “an intense magnetic field,” according to the New York Times, and the result is surprising: the muons are wobbling like spinning tops in such a way that the laws of physics known to Earth cannot explain the phenomenon.

The BBC reports that the muons should wobble at a certain rate when subjected to the magnetic field inside the Fermilab’s particle accelerator. That rate is determined by the laws of physics as Earth knows them. However, the muons didn’t wobble at that rate at all — they wobbled faster, and physicists say this increased rate could be caused by a force of nature currently unknown and undiscovered.

Did science just unintentionally solve Christopher Nolan’s ambiguous ending to Inception?

This potential new force of nature might explain some of the universe’s biggest mysteries, such as the mystery of why the expansion of the universe is speeding up. It’s been previously attributed to something known as “dark energy,” according to BBC News, but perhaps it’s not dark energy at all and instead, an unknown force of nature at play.

“It is quite mind boggling,” BBC’s Sky at Night co-presenter, Maggie Aderin-Pocock, told BBC News. “It has the potential to turn physics on its head. We have a number of mysteries that remain unsolved, and this could give us the key answers to solve these mysteries.”

For more law-bending physics, read this story about a physics students who proved paradox-free time travel is possible and then read this story about scientists who claim evidence of a parallel universe where time runs backward. If this Muon g-2 experiment has you looking for some great sci-fi movies, check out IGN’s list of the 25 best sci-fi movies.


Wesley LeBlanc is a freelance news writer and guide maker for IGN. You can follow him on Twitter @LeBlancWes

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