5 Discoveries Made by the Large Hadron Collider (So Far)

Signs of New Physics After All ... or Not
Six hundred million particle collisions per second can generate a lot of data and, consequently, analysis. It's probably safe to say that LHC data will yield many more surprises. Fabrice Coffrini/AFP/Getty Images

As illogical as it might sound, many physicists hoped that the LHC would poke a few holes in the standard model. The framework has problems, after all, and maybe an earthshaking discovery or two would confirm supersymmetry, or at least point toward new avenues of research. As we mentioned, though, the LHC has dealt repeated blows to exotic physics while reconfirming the standard model at every turn. Granted, the results are not all in (there's an awful lot of data to analyze), and the LHC has yet to hit its full energy of 14 tera-electron volts (TeV). Nevertheless, chances don't look good for making the standard model look bad.

Or maybe they do, if a 2013 report on B-meson decay is any indication. It shows B-mesons decaying into a K-meson (aka a kaon) and two muons (particles similar to electrons), which wouldn't raise any eyebrows, except that the decay followed a pattern not predicted by the standard model. Unfortunately, the study currently falls below the dancing-in-our-lab-coats threshold. Still, it's high enough to raise hopes, and analysis of additional data could inch it from the red zone to the end zone. If so, the odd pattern of decay could offer the first glimpse of the new physics so many are looking for [sources: Johnston; O'Neill].

Author's Note: 5 Discoveries Made By the Large Hadron Collider

Following the completion of the LHC, some wondered what it would mean for physics if the Higgs boson failed to show up. It wasn't just the massive atom-smasher's primary raison d'ĂȘtre; it was a sort of lynchpin for the standard model.

Now there's a bigger problem, and it involves the cosmic background radiation measurements made by the second generation of the Background Imaging of Cosmic Extragalactic Polarization (BICEP2). If BICEP2's observations prove correct, then the Higgs field should have been energetic enough during the Big Bang to cause an immediate Big Crunch. In other words, if both ideas hold true, then we shouldn't be here to argue about why they can't possibly both be true.

Related Articles


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CERN Wants to Build a Bigger, Badder Particle Collider

CERN Wants to Build a Bigger, Badder Particle Collider

CERN's proposed Future Circular Collider would dwarf the Large Hadron Collider. HowStuffWorks looks at whether the $22 billion price tag is worth it.