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The Mysterious CERN Detection Might Be More Than One Particle

Since last December, the world of particle physics has been awash with speculation about the nature of a potential new particle that might have been seen in the CERN collisions.

Although CERN director Fabiola Gianotti stated that there’s no scheduled announcement, theoretical physicists have been producing many different explanations to explain December’s bump in the data.

Among them, a Korean-American collaboration suggests a very different approach. In a paper, published in Physical Review Letters, the researchers explain that instead of having a particle at that specific mass, it is possible that a series of particles – a cascade – could generate a similarly observed signature.

The CERN announcement discussed the detection of an excess at 750 GeV (the mass of about 800 protons), although they didn’t have enough certainty in the result to confirm a discovery.

“This was a very surprising announcement and a puzzle at the same time, because the lifetime and mass of the particle could reveal something else beyond simply one extra particle, if it turns out to be a real signal,” said co-author Kyoungchul Kong, associate professor of physics and astronomy at the University of Kansas, in a statement. “Yet we do not claim this as a discovery, and we need more data.”

Although the physics is very complex, there’s a simple reason why physicists are excited about the 750 GeV excess. If it turns out to be a new particle, it would be the first one not predicted by the Standard Model, which is the most complete theory of particle physics we currently have. It would herald a new era of physics.

CERN will provide an update on the 750 GeV excess next week at the International Conference on High Energy Physics in Chicago. Four years ago, CERN chose the same conference to announce the discovery of the Higgs Boson.

“Theorists propose ideas, and experimentalists perform experiments to test the ideas, then publish their results – and we try to understand,” Kong added. “We explore ideas. Probably most of the ideas are wrong – but we learn from them, and we propose better ideas.”

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