Why scientists are concerned about W Boson: ‘Something is not right’


Particle detector inside the collision hall.


You may have heard of protons, which are positive points that prove atoms. You’ve likely come across electrons, negative flashes wandering around those protons. You may have thought about the photons and things coming out of the lamps in your room.

But for now, we have to worry about a strange little particle escaping the spotlight: the W boson.

Together with her partner in crime, Z boson, W boson dictates the so-called “weak force”. I’m going to save you from the rabbit hole of how the weak force works because it involves physics that will blow our minds. Believe me. Just know that without weak strength, The sun will stop burning.

Anyway, there is drama with W boson. according to A paper published Thursday in the journal Science, 10 years of unimaginably accurate data indicate that the particle is even more massive than our physics might expect. Unless you’re a physicist, at first glance this may seem trivial. But it’s actually a big problem for… kind of everything.

More specifically, it raises a paradox of the Standard Model of particle physics, a well-established and evolving theory that explains how all the particles of the universe behave – protons, electrons, photons and even those we don’t really hear about like gluons, muons, I can go on. The W boson is there, too.

“It’s one of the cornerstones of the Standard Model,” said Giorgio Chiarelli, director of research at the Istituto Nazionale di Fisica Nucleare in Italy, and co-author of the study.

But this is the essence of the Standard Model. It’s like the realm of symbiotic particles. Think of each part in the model as a string, perfectly organized to tie everything together. If one of the threads is too tight, things start to shake – it doesn’t matter which string. As such, the Standard Model predicts some parameters for each “string” or particle, and one very important factor is the mass of the W boson.

Simply put, if this particle is not equal to that mass, then the rest of the model will not work perfectly. And if that’s true, we’ll have to change the paradigm – we’ll have to change our understanding of how All particles in the universe work.

Well, do you remember the new paper? We’re pretty much entering this worst-case scenario.

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An image of particles in the Standard Model.


A decade of calculations, measurements, cross-examination, head-scratching and deep breathing from nearly 400 international researchers concluded that the W boson is slightly heavier than the standard model predicts.

“It’s not a huge difference, but we can really see clearly that it’s different,” said David Tobak, a particle physicist from Texas A&M University and co-author of the study. “there is something wrong”.

You may be wondering if we are sure of that. The scientific community had the same reaction, which is why researchers are now focusing on lasers in confirming that this large mass of the W boson really is.

“We could have done it wrong,” Tupac said. But he quickly added, “We don’t think so.”

Because, Tupac explains, the team “measured this tiny difference with incredible accuracy that it sticks out like an achy thumb.” Surprisingly, these measurements are somewhat similar to the crime scene style inference.

Watch what’s missing

To get the W boson in the first place, you literally have to smash two protons together.

This results in a host of other Standard Model particles, and scientists only have to hope that one of these particles is the one they want to examine. (In this case, this is the W boson).

For the new measurements, the researchers used collision data from the now decommissioned particle accelerator at Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory in Illinois. Fortunately, I made some W-bosons, and in fact, kept enough W-boson data to get about four times the amount used in previous measurements. Jackpot win.

But there is a complication. The W boson is disappearing. It quickly splits into two smaller particles, so you can’t measure it directly. One of these is either an electron or a muon, which Could you It can be measured directly, but the other is arguably stranger than the W boson itself: a neutrino.

Neutrinos are aptly called “ghost particles” Because they don’t touch anything. They’re zooming in on your photos now, but you can’t tell because they don’t touch the atoms your body is made of. Strange, I know.

This ghostly hurdle means that scientists have to be creative. Enter the art of deduction.

Once the neutrinos are gone, they leave behind a kind of hole. “The neutrino effect lacks energy,” Chiarelli said. “This tells us where the neutrino went and how much energy was transferred away.”

It’s kind of the same concept as X-rays. “The X-rays go through, but to the point where there’s a piece of metal, you can see the shape,” Chiarelli said. ‘Shape’ is ‘missing energy’.

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An aerial view of the collider from 1999.


Then, after deciphering the neutrino, the scientists used a set of complex equations to combine it with the electron or muon data. This leads to the total mass of the W boson. This measurement was done many times to make sure everything was as accurate as possible. In addition, all data was backed up by theoretical calculations that have matured since the last time the W boson was measured.

Yet… there is another complication.

As with all scientific endeavors, there is no right or wrong answer. There is only a file Answer. But as with all human thought, there is potential for bias, and the team doesn’t want to fall victim to such a personal mistake. Tupac quotes Sherlock Holmes as an explanation of the team’s mentality: “One must find theories that fit facts, not facts that fit theories.”

“Is it more stressful?” Note. “Yes, but nature doesn’t care about my pressure. What we want is to know the answer.”

So, not only did the team check their data two, three, or four times, they did so completely exempt from the final answer. When the box containing the result of the boson mass W was opened, everyone was looking at it for the first time.

Fast forward to 2020, when tensions are high, the box finally opens and the mass of the W boson is in marked contrast to the predictions of the Standard Model.

“It wasn’t a Eureka moment,” Chiarelli said. “It was a fairly realistic moment. We were skeptical. The science is organized in skepticism.”

But over time, that doubt faded and here we are.

It all looks very solid. What now?

In a sense, this information has been coming for a long time. “We knew from the start that the Standard Model could not be the ultimate theory,” Chiarelli said.

For example, the well-known Standard Model cannot explain gravity, dark matterand many other shuffles aspects of our universe.

One idea is that this new information about the mass of the W boson could mean that we need to add some particles to the Standard Model to account for the change. This, in turn, could affect what we know about the famous Higgs boson, or “God particle,” which was finally discovered in 2012 and met With amazing applause.

“But we’re not there,” Tupac said. That would be just a guess.”

Rather than speculate, Tupac and Chiarelli agree that we should just follow the facts, even if we know that the facts will one day lead us to a new fundamental theory of particle physics.

“It’s like moving in the dark,” Chiarelli said. “You know there’s only one right way, but you don’t know where…maybe our measurement can give us the right direction to move.”

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