I’m going to take a quick (sort of) timeout to throw in some science that’s right in my wheelhouse today – high energy particle physics. According to a recent paper, scientists over at the Large Hadron Collider in Geneva – you know, that place that discovered the Higgs boson finally – has confirmed yet another prediction made by the standard model, helped out by researchers from Purdue University.
This discovery has something to do with the rates of some particle called a B-sub-s disintegrating into a pair of muons. I honestly have almost no idea what this means. There are so many particles that can decay in so many ways, it’s difficult to keep track of. In the end, it’s not about discovering new technologies here, it’s about figuring out how the universe works on the most basic levels.
Even though I don’t really know what this particular decay is indicative of, I’d like to take the moment to spit some truth about the state of physics today.
The Standard Model is a set of equations and predictions about the way the universe works on the subatomic level that’s been around for several decades. As researchers built bigger and bigger machines to crash particles together with such energy that it creates new particles out of thin air – remember that Energy = mass x speed of light squared – the Standard Model has stood the test of time. Surprisingly few surprises have been found in the past 50 years, the Standard Model instead predicting accurately just about every discovery that’s been made.
So what’s the problem?
It’s been sort of boring. Scientists and physicists in particular thrive on making weird, new discoveries. When something doesn’t jive with the way we think the world works, it makes theorists go back to their equations to come up with new ideas and new theories. When every test of their ideas comes back with no surprises, it’s just not very exciting.
Take, for example, the recently discovered Higgs boson. There were a whole bunch of theories as to how big the particle should be, how it should decay, and how it should react with other particles. There were exotic theories that included incredibly imaginative scenarios that, if proved to be true, would keep theorists busy trying to explain it for years – perhaps decades.
But instead, the tests have shown that the Higgs is the most vanilla, bland, boring version that had been predicted. It fits incredibly well in the already established Standard Model without the need to try to come up with any new theories.
What’s more, the Large Hadron Collider has failed to find anything else of interest, either. There haven’t been any signs of super massive particles that mirror the lighter ones we already know of, no hints of extra dimensions, not a glimpse of what dark matter might be made of. And here is yet another measurement that fits squarely within the Standard Model.
I mean, come on Universe! Surprise us!
The paper, “Measurement of the Bs0→μ+μ– Branching Fraction and Search for B0→μ+μ–with the CMS Experiment,” was published in Physical Review Letters by a whole shitton of scientists, because high energy physics takes a ton of people a lot of time on really powerful computers to work out the statistics.