Scientists might have found evidence for a new force of nature – that could solve the universe’s deepest mysteries.
There are four known forces of physics that supposedly govern the behaviour of every particle and planet but experts have long suspected there must be more.
And in an experiment at the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory outside Chicago, scientists may have discovered a fifth force after tiny particles known as muons were found to wobble at faster rates than expected.
Here, particle physicist Dr Harry Cliff, left, who was not involved in the Muon g-2 study, explains what the excitement is all about.
Gravity holds the universe together and keeps our feet on the ground.
Electromagnetic force is responsible for electricity, magnetism, light, radio waves, and holds atoms together.
The strong force holds quarks at the nucleus of an atom together and the weak force causes radioactive decay and also transforms particles.
What are muons?
There are three particles that make up everything we see in the universe – electrons and the up and down quarks .
And for reasons we don’t understand there are also exotic fundamental particles, one of which is the muon.
It is an unstable copy of the electron but only lives for about a millionth of a second and it’s 200 times heavier.
What happened at Fermi?
The purpose of the experiment was to measure the magnetic strength of the muon. It didn’t agree with the precise calculation made using current theories and this means there’s something else affecting the muon’s behaviour , which could be a new force of nature.
Why does it matter?
This discovery could point towards an explanation to unanswered questions – why is the universe here, what is it made of, what is dark matter made of. It might answer questions we haven’t thought of .
How might it change lives?
We don’t know yet but it might have some amazing applications in the future.
Similar discoveries in the past have had a huge impact technologically, and quite often in unpredictable ways.
All of our technology, computer chips, communications etc would be impossible without understanding electrons.
What’s the next step?
The experiment has analysed 6% of the data and will stimulate experiments where we look for signs of new particles. We’re on a journey that may bring us closer to understanding the universe .