There’s been a lot of reporting recently on a puzzle in particle physics that I haven’t previously written about. There have been two attempts, a preliminary one in 2010 and a more detailed one reported just this month, to measure the size of a proton by studying the properties of an exotic atom, called “muonic hydrogen”. Similar to hydrogen, which consists of a proton orbited by an electron (Figure 1), this atom consists of a proton and a short-lived heavy cousin of the electron, called the muon (Figure 2). A muon, as far as we have ever been able to tell, is just like an electron in all respects except that it is heavier; more precisely, the electromagnetic force and the strong and weak nuclear force treat electrons and muons in exactly the same way. Only the first two of these forces should play a role in atoms (and neither gravity nor any force due to the Higgs field should matter either). So because we have confirmed our understanding of ordinary hydrogen with very high precision, we believe we also understand muonic hydrogen very well also. But something’s amiss. Continue reading
First Time Visitor?This site addresses various aspects of science, with a current focus on particle physics. I aim to serve the public, including those with no background knowledge of physics. If you're not yourself an expert, you might want to click on "New? Start Here" or "About" to get started. If you'd like to watch my hour-long public lecture about the Higgs particle, try ``Movie Clips''.
- The New York Times Remembers A Great Physicist
- A Catastrophic Weekend for Theoretical High Energy Physics
- A Ring of Controversy Around a Black Hole Photo
- The Black Hole `Photo’: Seeing More Clearly
- The Black Hole `Photo’: What Are We Looking At?
- A Black Day (and a Happy One) In Scientific History
- A Non-Expert’s Guide to a Black Hole’s Silhouette
- LHCb experiment finds another case of CP violation in nature