Magazine article Science News

Hint of Supersymmetry in Proton Collision

Magazine article Science News

Hint of Supersymmetry in Proton Collision

Article excerpt

When a proton meets an antiproton head-on in a high-energy collision, the crash can generate a variety of particles. Of the millions of such interactions observed at the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory's Tevatron collider near Batavia, Ill., one event stands out because it doesn't fit the standard theory describing the fundamental particles and forces of nature. This intriguing collision produced two electrons, two gamma-ray photons, and little else that could be detected. The four scattered particles carried away a large amount of energy at right angles to the proton beams, yet scientists have been unable to account for much of the energy that went into the collision.

To some theorists, this observation constitutes the first tantalizing hint in collider data that a so-called supersymmetry theory may provide a more complete, unified picture of nature than the widely accepted, but incomplete, standard model of particle physics.

"You don't usually get events like this," says Gordon L. Kane of the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. "To me, it's very exciting because it's what I would expect from supersymmetry."

"It's just one event, and it may never happen again, but it fits very well with a supersymmetric explanation," says Michael Dine of the University of California, Santa Cruz.

Dine and his coworkers and Kane and his group offer alternative supersymmetrical explanations of this event in two reports accepted for publication in Physical Review Letters.

According to the standard model of particle physics, there are two kinds of fundamental particles in nature: force-carrying particles called bosons, which include photons, and matter particles called fermions, which include quarks and electrons (SN: 7/1/95, p. 10). These particles all have antimatter counterparts.

Supersymmetry theory represents an extension of the standard model that brings these two types of particles and antiparticles into one framework. …

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