a particle that oscillates between matter and antimatter can help us understand the origin of the universe

CERN continues to add new milestones to its already long list of achievements. This week a group of researchers from the University of Oxford announced the result of the experiment they have carried out in the LHCb detector, and confirms observations made by other scientific teams more than a decade ago.

In 2007, a group of researchers from Stanford University, in California (United States), realized for the first time that there is a type of inn known as ‘charm’ (charm) that has the peculiar ability to spontaneously change state, altering its structure between matter and antimatter.

The key lies in the oscillation of the ‘charm’ countertops

Mesons are subatomic particles belonging to the hadron family which are composed of the same number of quarks and antiquarks, which are held together thanks to the mediation of the strong nuclear force.

When antimatter comes into direct contact with matter, they both annihilate, releasing a large amount of energy.

On the other hand, antimatter is nothing more than a form of matter made up of antiparticles, which are particles with the same mass and spin as the particles with which we are familiar, but with opposite electrical charge.

We call matter that is made up of antiparticles antimatter, and it has a surprising property: when it comes into direct contact with matter both are annihilated, releasing a large amount of energy in the form of high-energy photons, as well as other possible particle-antiparticle pairs.

Once this small paragraph is done, let’s go back to the inns. Physicists have known for five decades that there are subatomic particles that can ‘jump’ from matter to antimatter, or vice versa. In reality, this behavior is caused by the effect of quantum superposition, and, causes a particle to be simultaneously, regardless of redundancy, a particle and its own antiparticle.

What Oxford researchers have observed for the first time is that charm counters oscillate between both states. This simply means that they can take the form of a particle, jump to the antiparticle state, and regain the particle state again. All this spontaneously.


This finding has been possible thanks to an experiment carried out in the LHCb, the LHC detector designed expressly to investigate the physics of quark b.

The strategy they used to identify this process during their LHCb experiment is surprising because, roughly, it has consisted of measuring the mass of the particles with astonishing precision. And is that the inn it does not have the same mass when it adopts the particle state and the antiparticle state. The difference is very small (1 x 10 ^ -38 g), so to be able to measure it it is necessary to develop an extraordinarily precise technology. But these researchers have succeeded.

An unknown mechanism that could take us beyond the standard model

The implications that this discovery could have are much deeper than it may seem if we contemplate it superficially. The Standard Model, which is our most robust theory, does not explain how this mechanism works, so it is possible that unknown particles that cannot be predicted by this model.

Understanding how the oscillation of the ‘charm’ mesons works may be the key to understanding the mechanism that explains the matter-antimatter asymmetry of the universe

Finding a possible fissure in our most advanced theory is not bad news. Quite the opposite; This is great news because it gives scientists clues about which way they can go to develop new physics. And this finding invites us to peek into the very origin of the universe for a compelling reason: understanding how the oscillation of the charm mesons works may be the key to understanding the mechanism that explains matter-antimatter asymmetry of the universe.

According to the standard model, the same amount of matter and antimatter must have been produced during the Big Bang, but if so both would have annihilated mutually upon contact, and the universe would have been extinguished.

Obviously this has not been the case, so there must have been some mechanism that caused the production of a greater amount of matter than antimatter. This is the asymmetry we are talking about, and perhaps this discovery is the first step towards solving this great enigma.

Images | CERN

More information | Oxford University

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