Physics

Scientists may have found 'fifth force of nature'

(ESA/Hubble & NASA)

(ESA/Hubble & NASA)

Scientists at the University of California, Irvine (UCI), believe they have identified a “fifth force of nature.”

“If true, it’s revolutionary,” said Jonathan Feng, professor of physics and astronomy, in a press release. “For decades, we’ve known of four fundamental forces: gravitation, electromagnetism, and the strong and weak nuclear forces. If confirmed by further experiments, this discovery of a possible fifth force would completely change our understanding of the universe, with consequences for the unification of forces and dark matter.”

The physicists cite a “protophobic X boson” recently found by physicists at the Hungarian Academy of Sciences. The mysterious particle, which interacts only with electrons and neutrons at a very limited range, dazzled scientists. “There’s no other boson that we’ve observed that has this same characteristic,” said Timothy Tait, professor of physics and astronomy at UCI. “Sometimes we also just call it the ‘X boson,’ where ‘X’ means unknown.”

The Hungarian physicists found the “protophobic X boson” during a search for “dark photons.” Space.com notes that dark photons are hypothetical indicators of dark matter, which is thought to make up 85 percent of all matter in the universe. However, dark matter’s inability to absorb or emit light makes it undetectable.

The 2015 study by the Hungarian physicists revealed a mysterious “radioactive decay anomaly that points to the existence of a light particle just 30 times heavier than an electron,” according to UCI.

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At the time of its discovery, the Hungarian researchers couldn’t claim that they had found a new force, according to Feng. “They simply saw an excess of events that indicated a new particle, but it was not clear to them whether it was a matter particle or a force-carrying particle,” he said.

The team at UCI updated the discovery using data from the Hungarian Academy of Sciences reseach and all previous experiments. After the evidence went against matter particles and dark photons they proposed a new theory that indicates a fifth fundamental force.

Feng added that there could be a separate dark sector with its own matter and forces. “It’s possible that these two sectors talk to each other and interact with one another through somewhat veiled but fundamental interactions,” he said.

The team’s initial analysis was published in late April on the public arXiv online server. An update was released Friday on the same website.