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Physicists discover a never-before-seen particle sitting on a table

By: April Carson

A new particle that is a magnetic relative of the Higgs boson has been discovered. This novel particle, known as the axial Higgstion boson, was discovered using an experiment that could be performed on a tiny kitchen countertop and required no huge particle-accelerating capability like the Large Hadron Collider did with the discovery of the Higgs boson.

"This is a really exciting discovery," said lead researcher Dr. James Beacham of the University of Oxford. "It's like finding a new type of atom, or a new type of molecule."

The axial Higgstion boson could help explain some long-standing mysteries in physics, such as why there is more matter than antimatter in the Universe. It could also pave the way for new technologies, such as ultra-fast and energy-efficient computer chips.

This particle's existence may also be thanks to the Higgs boson, which is a kind of subatomic particle discovered by CERN. This variant of the Higgs boson — which causes other particles to acquire mass — could also be an option for dark matter, which accounts for 85% of the universe's overall mass but only shows itself through gravity.

But for now, the new particle's discovery is more like a starting point for physicists to investigate further. "It's a new piece in the puzzle," said study author David Miller, a professor of physics at University College London. "We don't quite know where it fits yet."

"When my student presented me with the data, I couldn't believe it," said Kenneth Burch, a physics professor at Boston College and one of the project's leaders, in an interview. "It's not every day that you stumble upon a new particle on your coffee table."

The axial Higgs boson differs from the Higgs boson that was discovered by the ATLAS and CMS detectors at the LHC ten years ago in 2012 because it has a magnetic moment, a strength or orientation of magnetism. As such, it must be explained using a more complicated theory than its non-magnetic mass-granting sibling.

Particles arise from diverse fields that pervade the cosmos in the Standard Model of particle physics, and some of these particles shape the fundamental forces of nature. Photons, for example, mediate electromagnetism, and hefty particles such as W and Z bosons mediate the weak nuclear force, which governs nuclear decay at subatomic levels. When the universe was young and hot, however, electromagnetic radiation and the weak force were separate things; all of these particles were nearly identical. As the cosmos cooled, the electroweak force fractured, causing the W and Z bosons to gain mass and act very differently from photons, a phenomenon known as "symmetry breaking." But how did these weak-force-mediating particles acquire such a high weight?

These particles, it turns out, interacted with a separate field known as the Higgs field. The Higgs boson and the heft of the W and Z bosons were created by disturbances in that field.

"Whenever a symmetry is broken, the Higgs boson is produced in nature. However, usually only one symmetry is broken at a time, and as a result, the Higgs boson can simply be characterized by its energy," Burch added.

The axial Higgs boson was discovered in a more complex way.

Taking the previous interpretation of "many symmetries" to its natural conclusion, it's clear that if there is a Higgs-like excitation in the axial gauge boson, there will be many parameters describing it: specifically, energy and magnetic momentum.

The new magnetic Higgs cousin, which was discovered by Burch, his colleagues, and published in the journal Nature on Wednesday (June 8), must be produced via smashing other particles together with huge magnets and powerful lasers while also cooling samples to extremely cold temperatures, according to Shelly Heinonen of CMS. It's the decay of those original particles into others that pops momentarily into existence that reveals the presence of the Higgs.

The axial Higgs boson appeared when quantum materials were made to replicate a specific set of vibrations, known as the axial Higgs mode. The particle was subsequently detected through light scattering.

"Using a tabletop optics experiment that sits on a table measuring about 1 x 1 meters and focuses on a material with a distinct combination of properties, we discovered the axial Higgs boson," Burch said. "We used uncommon-earth Tritelluride (RTe3) [a quantum material with a highly 2D crystal structure] to do so."

The size of these charge density waves, which appear above room temperature and are generated by modulating the frequency over time, is referred to as the axial Higgs mode.

The researchers' new study demonstrated the axial Higgs mode by exciting laser light of one color into the RTe3 crystal. The light was scattered and transformed to a lower-frequency color in Raman scattering, with energy being lost as a result of the color change, resulting in the axial Higgs mode. After then rotating the crystal, the researchers found that, like before, the axial Higgs mode also governs electrons' angular momentum or how fast they travel around in a circle, suggesting that it is magnetic as well.

"This is the first experimental demonstration of the axial Higgs mode," said study lead author Takashi Taniguchi, a condensed matter physicist at the University of Tokyo. "It's an important discovery because this mode is related to some of the most intriguing phenomena in physics."

“We originally set out to examine the light scattering properties of this material. When carefully analyzing the symmetry of the response—how it changed as we rotated the sample—we discovered abnormal changes that were the first indications of something new,” Burch said. “Thus, it is the first such magnetic Higgs to be found and indicates that RTe3's electrons act collectively unlike any natural phenomenon previously observed.”

The researchers behind the discovery are now working to figure out what causes the Higgs mode and how it came to be. This is also the first time that scientists have witnessed a state with multiple broken symmetries. Previously, particle physicists predicted an axial Higgs mode and even utilized it to explain dark matter, but this is the first time it has been observed. This is also the first time scientists have seen a state with several fractured symmetries.

When a symmetric system that appears identical in all directions becomes asymmetric, symmetry breaking occurs. The coin metaphor Oregon University uses is one of a spinning coin with two possible outcomes. Energy is released and the system becomes asymmetrical when the coin falls onto its head or tail side as a result of this.

This finding's double symmetry-breaking is exciting since it may be a method of producing previously unseen particles that might account for dark matter.

The approach is to develop a theory that is compatible with current particle research while simultaneously producing new particles that have not previously been observed. "The fundamental idea is to make a concept consistent with present particle experiments yet create new particles that haven't been discovered before," Burch added.

Adding extra symmetry-breaking via the axial Higgs mode is one approach to do so, he added. Despite physicists' expectations, the discovery of the axial Higgs boson came as a surprise to researchers, who spent a year verifying their findings.

"It was a Eureka moment," Burch said. "We didn't expect to find it, but there it was, sitting on the table."

The new particle is just one step in understanding the mysteries of dark matter, he added. Now that physicists have confirmed the existence of an axial Higgs boson, they can begin to investigate its role in the universe.

"This is really the beginning of a new era of physics," Burch said. "There's a lot more work to be done, but we're making progress."

This study was originally published on Live Science.

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About the Blogger:

April Carson is the daughter of Billy Carson. She received her bachelor's degree in Social Sciences from Jacksonville University, where she was also on the Women's Basketball team. She now has a successful clothing company that specializes in organic baby clothes and other items. Take a look at their most popular fall fashions on

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