Our current understanding of physics could be turned on its head by the possible discovery of a new particle dubbed X17. Researchers at Hungary’s Institute for Nuclear Research believe they have discovered a new fundamental force. Physicists have been working under the assumption that there are four fundamental forces: gravity, electromagnetism, and the strong/weak nuclear interactions. Could there be a fifth?
The study published to the arXiv suggests just that. The study has yet to be peer reviewed. But, if the discovery isn’t just some anomaly in the equipment, we could be looking at the key to understanding the mysterious Dark Matter.
What is Dark Matter?
The existence of Dark Matter is still up for debate but it is generally accepted as a substance which is thought by many physicists to account for up to 85% of the total matter in the universe. So why can’t we see it? Scientists don’t know yet as it does not appear to interact with normal matter in any detectable way. They do, however, theorise that we can see its influence all around us in the cosmos through gravity. One of the prominent examples being how galaxies are able to form and remain cohesive despite their large size and the relative weakness of the gravitational force.
In simple terms, there’s not enough gravity to hold our galaxies together. So Dark Matter may just be the invisible glue that does.
What is X17?
In 2016 the same group of researchers detected similar results with radioactive beryllium atoms. As they broke down, they measured the particles and light that were released. The angles of the released light and particles didn’t line up with current models of physics.
They concluded that the beryllium atoms must have decayed into an unknown particle before it released the light and particles. They named this particle, X17 (X because it’s unknown, 17 because it has a mass of approximately 17 megaelectronvolts).
This new study, which was released on October 23rd 2019, states they have reproduced these results with decaying helium atoms. The particle that it decays into is claimed to be a boson – a particle that conveys energy as well as forces at times. So this X17 particle may be carrying some undiscovered fifth fundamental force.
Most scientists are awaiting the results of the peer review before they go shouting from the rooftops and most are skeptical about its findings. Though if it’s proven to be true, it could open up a whole new branch of particle physics. These new experiments don’t require the astronomical energy of something like the Large Hadron Collider. So no risk of creating those black holes people were freaking out about in 2010.
For something a little more down to earth, read about a possible UFO sighting on Google Earth!