Physics experiment suggests existence of new particle

The results of a high-profile Fermilab physics experiment involving a University of Michigan professor appear to confirm strange 20-year-old findings that poke holes in the standard model, suggesting the existence of a new elementary particle: a fourth flavor of neutrino.

The new results go further to describe a violation of a fundamental symmetry of the universe asserting that particles of antimatter behave in the same way as their matter counterparts.

Neutrinos are neutral elementary particles born in the radioactive decay of other particles. The known “flavors” of neutrinos are the neutral counterparts of electrons and their heavier cousins, muons and taus. Regardless of a neutrino’s original flavor, the particles constantly flip from one type to another in a phenomenon called “neutrino flavor oscillation.”

An electron neutrino might become a muon neutrino, and then later an electron neutrino again. Scientists previously believed three flavors of neutrino exist. In this Mini Booster Neutrino Experiment, dubbed MiniBooNE, researchers detected more oscillations than would be possible if there were only three flavors.

“These results imply that there are either new particles or forces we had not previously imagined,” said Byron Roe, professor emeritus in the Department of Physics, and an author of a paper on the results newly published online in Physical Review Letters.

“The simplest explanation involves adding new neutrino-like particles, or sterile neutrinos, which do not have the normal weak interactions.”

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