The world’s largest atom smasher could be tweaked to hunt ‘dark world’ particles


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Scientists could have a brand new solution to peer into physics’ “darkish world.”

In a brand new paper, theoretical physicists say they’ve a brand new plan for looking for theoretical particles that, to date, have by no means been noticed. These particles, dubbed long-lived particles, or LLPs, could possibly be a window into darkish matter and darkish vitality, which collectively make up 95% of the universe. Darkish matter exerts a gravitational pull on peculiar matter, and darkish vitality is assumed to trigger the universe’s enlargement to speed up. However neither will be immediately noticed, as a result of any interactions they’ve with the luminous matter of the universe are feeble, stated Zhen Liu, a postdoctoral researcher on the College of Maryland.

“They do not speak to us,” Liu, one of many researchers who’s engaged on the brand new plan, advised Stay Science.

However LLPs may present a approach for that darkish world to speak with the lighter one. And Liu and his colleagues imagine that by tweaking a number of the detectors on the earth’s largest atom smasher, the Giant Hadron Collider (LHC) close to Geneva, Switzerland, physicists may be capable of discover them. [The 11 Biggest Unanswered Questions About Dark Matter]

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Parallel worlds

The “darkish world,” also referred to as the “hidden sector,” describes a set of hypothetical particles that might transcend the Commonplace Mannequin of physics. ( The Commonplace Mannequin explains protons, neutrons, electrons and all of the unusual subatomic particles that associate with them, reminiscent of quarks, muons, neutrinos and the Higgs boson.)

If all of the “regular” matter is in a single valley, the darkish world is in a parallel valley one ridge over, Liu stated. It takes an incredible quantity of vitality to climb that ridge, so particles in the dead of night world valley work together strongly with one another, however solely barely with these on the opposite aspect of the mountain. However some particles may be capable of move by that vitality barrier from the darkish world into the one we usually encounter by way of a course of known as quantum tunneling. These particles in all probability would not be the dark-matter equivalents of steady particles like protons or neutrons, Liu stated, however would maybe be extra akin to extra unstable Commonplace Mannequin particles.

It is these tunneling particles that the researchers are curious about discovering. However these particles, in the event that they exist, are uncommon, stated Liantao Wang, a theoretical physicist on the College of Chicago. The LHC flings protons at each other at a dizzying tempo, producing 1 billion collisions per second. These collisions shatter the protons into huge numbers of recognized, Commonplace-Mannequin particles. For scientists on the lookout for the hidden sector, all these particles are mere noise. The particles they’re curious about, Wang stated, may seem just a few instances a decade.

A brand new path

Wang, together with Liu and their colleague, Jia Liu, are the authors of the brand new paper, printed April three within the journal Bodily Assessment Letters, suggesting a solution to catch a glimpse of those uncommon particles.

All of it comes all the way down to timing. LLPs, Wang stated, needs to be huge and lumbering in comparison with the Commonplace-Mannequin particles that the LHC creates in bulk. Their slowness is due to the massive vitality hurdle they’ve to beat simply to make an impression on the world of regular matter, Liu stated. However their snail’s tempo can also be a helpful function for physicists. A lot of the elementary particles within the LHC journey on the pace of sunshine and decay quickly. The Higgs boson, for instance, is gone in a mere 10 to the minus 22 seconds, remodeling right into a set of extra steady particles. [Photos: The World’s Largest Atom Smasher (LHC)]

LLPs, although, ought to dwell sluggish — as much as a tenth of a second, Wang stated. Additionally they journey slower than the pace of sunshine. Due to this fact, adjusting the LHC’s detectors to search for particles that arrive late to their sensors needs to be the important thing to detecting them.

“It is a quite simple thought,” Wang stated, “nevertheless it seems to be surprisingly efficient.”

A few of these changes will come naturally with the LHC’s upgrades, that are ongoing now, Liu stated. The particle collider will open once more in 2021, with detectors that can be capable of measure the timing of a particle’s arrival 10 instances extra exactly than it at present can, he stated. From there, he stated, it is only a matter of some software program tweaks to make the most of the LHC’s capabilities, and ensuring that the experimental physicists that use the collider prioritize the search. Now, Wang and Liu stated, they and their experimentalist colleagues are having a sequence of conferences to ensure everybody’s on the identical web page.

“It should occur,” Liu stated.

Initially printed on Stay Science.

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