CERN Confirms New Exotic Subatomic Particle

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The magnet core of the world's largest superconducting solenoid magnet at the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN)'s Large Hadron Collider (LHC) particle accelerator. Credit: AP

A new form of exotic subatomic particle that upends particle-physics tradition was announced on Wednesday by scientists at CERN, the European Organization for Nuclear Research. The particle is a new type of hadron, which is a particle in the atom nucleus typically consisting of three quarks, or one quark and one anti-quark (which has the same mass as a quark, but the opposite charge). The form of hadron announced today has two quarks and two anti-quarks, said the scientists with great certainty.

Team leader Tomasz Skwarnicki stated that they had confirmed the "unambiguous observation of a very exotic state — something that looks like a particle composed of two quarks and two antiquarks."

Until today, there had been two basic hadrons: baryons (protons and neutrons), which have three quarks; and mesons, which have one quark and one anti-quark. Exotic hadrons, called that because their existence doesn't fit within that theory of traditional particle physics, had been postulated for decades, but not proven until this year.

Then, just last week, the folks at the CERN Large Hadron Collider collaboration announced confirmation of an exotic meson named Z(4430) .

Exotic hadrons had been postulated for half a century, but proof proved elusive. It took the LHC collaboration to find the evidence, which was published in the journal Physical Review Letters.

What the LHC does is accelerate beams of protons to almost the speed of light, then collide them at tremendous force, with the idea of smashing them into the smallest bits conceivable, which are then, hopefully, detected. The collaboration, which involves scientists from more than 60 countries, including Israel as of this January, also announced the discovery of the Higgs boson, the so-called God particle, in 2012.

It bears noting that nobody can see these subatomic particles: their existence is statistically inferred. In today's case, the scientists note an unprecedented degree of statistical certainty that they had discovered a new particle, consisting as said of two quarks and two anti-quarks.

And will this bring back the $1 cup of coffee? It will not; but it brings man closer to understanding the Big Bang that created the universe, and that coffee; the nature of matter; and if not why we are here, then at least how.

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