Physi­cists find new par­ti­cle with dou­ble dose of charm

Kuwait Times - - TECHNOLOGY -

WASH­ING­TON: Sci­en­tists have found an ex­tra charm­ing new sub­atomic par­ti­cle that they hope will help fur­ther ex­plain a key force that binds mat­ter to­gether. Physi­cists at the Large Hadron Col­lider in Europe an­nounced Thurs­day the fleet­ing dis­cov­ery of a long the­o­rized but never-be­fore-seen type of baryon.

Baryons are sub­atomic par­ti­cles made up of quarks. Pro­tons and neu­trons are the most com­mon baryons. Quarks are even smaller par­ti­cles that come in six types, two com­mon types that are light and four heav­ier types. The high-speed col­li­sions at the world’s big­gest atom smasher cre­ated for a frac­tion of a second a baryon par­ti­cle called Xi cc, said Ox­ford physi­cist Guy Wilkin­son, who is part of the ex­per­i­ment. The par­ti­cle has two heavy quarks - both of a type that are called “charm”- and a light one. In the nat­u­ral world, baryons have at most one heavy quark.

It may have been brief, but in par­ti­cle physics it lived for “an ap­pre­cia­bly long time,” he said. The two heavy quarks are in a dance that’s just like the in­ter­ac­tion of a star sys­tem with two suns and the third lighter quark cir­cles the danc­ing pair, Wilkin­son said. “Peo­ple have looked for it for a long time,” Wilkin­son said. He said this opens up a whole new “fam­ily” of baryons for physi­cists to find and study. “It gives us a very unique and in­ter­est­ing lab­o­ra­tory to give us an in­ter­est­ing new an­gle on the be­hav­ior of the strong in­ter­ac­tion (be­tween par­ti­cles), which is one of the key forces in na­ture,” Wilkin­son said.

Chris Quigg, a the­o­ret­i­cal physi­cist at the Fer­mi­lab near Chicago, who wasn’t part of the dis­cov­ery team, praised the dis­cov­ery and said “it gives us a lot to think about.” The team has sub­mit­ted a pa­per to the jour­nal Phys­i­cal Re­view Let­ters.

The Large Hadron Col­lider, lo­cated in a 27-kilo­me­ter (16.8-mile) tun­nel be­neath the Swiss-French bor­der, was in­stru­men­tal in the dis­cov­ery of the Higgs bo­son. It was built by the Euro­pean Or­ga­ni­za­tion for Nu­clear Re­search, known by its French acro­nym CERN. —AP

— AP

A worker puts in the fi­nal touches on the col­lider equip­ment in this 2007 photo. Sci­en­tists at the Large Hadron Col­lider in Europe have dis­cov­ered a new sub­atomic par­ti­cle.

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