Physicists working at the European Organization for Nuclear Research, or CERN as it is more commonly known, have discovered a new kind of heavy particle. The particle, named Xi-cc++ (pronounced Ksi-CC plus-plus) was discovered during ongoing experiments involving the Large Hadron Collider (LHC). You may remember the LHC being responsible for several other discoveries and scientific advancements in the past decade, its most notable being the confirmation of the existence of the Higgs Boson, which had long been theorized to exist.
This latest discovery has updated our knowledge of particle physics and the Standard Model, which describes the fundamental forces in the universe. The particle itself is composed of three smaller elementary particles known as quarks of varying classes – one ‘up’ quark, and two ‘charm’ quarks. It is the first time that physicists have been able to observe and confirm the existence of particles with such a two ‘charm’ configuration. This makes Xi-cc++ a very heavy quark, something that hasn’t been seen before, as CERN spokesperson Giovanni Passaleva explained in a statement:
“Finding a doubly heavy quark baryon is of great interest, as it will provide a unique tool to further probe quantum chromodynamics [QCD]—the theory that describes the strong [force], one of the four fundamental forces. Such particles will thus help us improve the predictive power of our theories.”
From a particle physics standpoint, this is a very interesting discovery that could mean a number of things for the Standard Model. On one hand, it could reinforce the current school of thought as far as interactions go on a particle level, or it could lead to a different set of theories and debate over how those interactions take place. On a large scale, this new, tiny particle could have repercussions on many fields of science, including astrophysics and space exploration – after all, everything is made of atoms and is acted upon by physics!
These latest results and findings have made physicists giddy with excitement, as they continue to replicate it and study it, with future tests to find out more about the double ‘charm’ quarks. CERN confirm that they are also looking into detecting more such particles, with Xi-cc++’s discovery leading to physicists redoubling their efforts, with University of Oxford scientist Guy Wilkinson saying:
“It is statistically overwhelming and matches very nicely with the theoretical expectations. All these results can be compared against predictions to test QCD. There are exciting times ahead!”