Physicists discover the Elusive Odderon after 50 years

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Photo: Benjamin Currie / Gizmodo

Scientists are celebrating the discovery of the odderon long ago, a strange thing that rarely appears when proteins collide at high energies, such as internal material accelerators. Although the odderon was originally thought to be in the early 1970s, it was not until recently that physicists gathered the data they needed at CERN’s Large Hadron Collider to confirm a true discovery.

The discovery contributes to physicists’ understanding of how all objects in the universe interact at the smallest levels. Unlike the famous Higgs boson, officially discovered in 2012, is definitely not the odderon. Instead, it is the name given to a combination of three gluons that are exchanged between proteins (or proton and its antimatter pair, the antiproton) when they hit violently but are not destroyed. Gluons are subatomic grains so named because they “glue” together other particles called quarries; Quarries are the tiny particles that make up the large particles such as proteins and neutrons that make up the atoms we all know and love.

Gluons are funny because they don’t like to be alone; they are always available together. When it is a group with equal numbers of gluons (two, four, etc.), it is called a pomeron. When the number of gluons is in the odd group (three, five, etc.), well, you overcame it: That’s odderon. The odderon, for mysterious reasons, is seldom carried out, and although suggestions of it have emerged over the decades, the evidence has never been strong enough to say its existence for sure. But the generally accepted theory of quantum physics says odderons ought to there, so scientists have kept hunting for them.

An international team of physicists announced earlier this month that their data reached a level of statistical significance known as the “five sigma,” a threshold that most scientists agree means you can be 99.999 +% sure you actually did a search. After all, it’s not like physics can just look inside their ugly machine and see an expert smile back at them. Instead, they have to go through staggering amounts of recorded data as proteins and antiprotons kick into the walls of their detectors.

Putting all that data on CDs and piling them on top of each other will “cover more of the distance between the Earth and the Moon,” said Christophe Royon, a professor of physics and astronomy at the University of Kansas. part of the team is behind the new research. “You’re collecting a lot of data. And then you have to do some analysis to find out, among all this data, what interests you. ”

Where the proteins and antiprotons hit the detector after they collide tell the researchers how the grains interacted when they collided. Physicists sort records of millions and millions of these crashes, looking for plenty of the right data points to say with confidence that what they see could only be explained if the odderon is there. If they sustained this research for years and never found evidence of the odderon, they would have to go back to the design board and create a new theory about how the universe is working.

Comments on finding the odderon were made at Fermi National Acceleration Laboratory before its Tevatron grain accelerator closed in 2011.

Comments on finding the odderon were made at Fermi National Acceleration Laboratory before its Tevatron grain accelerator closed in 2011.
Photo: Fermilab, Reidar Hahn

Fortunately, the researchers were able to collect their results from the beaters before the covid-19 pandemic disrupted human activity, and then the analysis was able to perform data remotely. But they have not yet been able to celebrate together.

“With the strong situation, it’s a bit difficult – everyone works from home and so on,” Royon said in a video call. “But when we’re back to normal, I think we deserve a party. ”

The research involved a careful comparison of datasets: One was created ten years ago at the now-closed DØ test at Fermilab in Illinois and others taken in 2015, 2019 , and 2020 (before the adoption of loose locks) at the TOTEM Large Hadron Collider test. Fermilab’s test hit protons and antiprotons, while LHC’s work looked at proteins hitting proteins. It was only by comparing the data from these two different crashes that they were able to be so sure about being in odderon.

Although the team, which included researchers in countries around the world, suspected they had something big last year, they did not want to put down a message. They asked independent researchers in the field to review their work for possible biases or problems before making their paper public. The article is now published as a introduction by CERN and Fermilab and was submitted to Physical Review Letters magazine.

“The odderon is a strong predictor of a strong interaction theory, made nearly fifty years ago,” said physicist Yuri Kovchegov of Ohio State University, who was not involved in the new work. “At the same time, it has been avoiding experimental detection for decades. The new DØ and TOTEM product, if it continues, seems to indicate that the odderon has finally been discovered. ”

Kovchegov said in an email that the paper appears to be “the first strong experimental evidence for the existence of the odderon,” although he would still like to see more tests confirm the finding. He said what was to come Electron-Ion Collider, a major new test to be built in New York and set to open in the early 2030s, may be able to answer ongoing questions about the odderon.

Royon agrees that the task of exploring the odderon is far from over. “It’s not something we close and say we’re happy, ready, done,” he said. “In physics, when you discover something new, it’s usually a door that opens up completely new areas.”