Quantum physics is an endeavour to explain the nature and the interactions between subatomic particles. In the quantum realm, particles act weird. Sometimes they appear to maintain the properties of particles, by occupying a definite point in space. At another time, they distribute all over space exhibiting wave properties. They may even seem to be at several places at once. What’s even more bizarre – the way they appear to us, seems to depend on the way we choose to measure them.
Matter can be broadly divided into three basic categories of subatomic particles – Leptons; the Exchange particles and the Hadrons. Leptons(e.g. electrons ,muons) are called the fundamental particles as they are considered indivisible. Exchange particles are the carriers of the four known forms of forces – the strong and weak nuclear forces, electromagnetic forces and the gravitational force. Hadrons are made up of particles called quarks, which combine to form the protons and neutrons that make up living cells and all other matter.
According to research, cells in our body regenerate on an average, around every ten years. Some of our vital organs are refurbished even more rapidly. But the particles that make up those cells are believed to have been in existence for millions of years. In that sense, Quantum physics is the probe into the most primordial and fundamental truths about our existence.
More than five decades of dedicated research have collated the interaction of matter with the three fundamental forces ( Strong and weak nuclear forces and electromagnetic forces) into the ‘Standard Model’ of particle physics. Yet, particle physics cannot explain our material world, in the way we experience it. Rules of the world, as we experience it, seem to revel under the umbrella of Einstein’s ‘General Theory of Relativity’, which takes into consideration the interaction of matter with the fourth form of force – the gravitational force.
It is in this context that we need to look at the Muon g-2 experiments conducted by theoretical physicists at Fermilab in Batavia, Illinois, USA. The magnetic properties of muons observed during the experiment was different from the predictions of the Standard Model.
Particle colliders, like that in Fermilab, are highly specialised scientific instruments where subatomic particles like muons and protons can be accelerated close to the speed of light and their interactions can be observed and measured. Each muon acts like a magnet with a north and a south pole. Inside a collider, muons interact with many quantum particles that flit in and out of existence. Under their influence, the orientation of muons’ magnetic poles wobble. Mathematical models in theoretical physics can predict the extent of this anomaly and take into consideration the contributions of all known particles in causing this anomaly.
If any fundamental particle that is unknown to us is bursting in and out of existence inside the collider, then it’s transient presence will be revealed by the unexplained additional effect on the muons’ magnetic anomaly. It is this unexplained deviation from the expected anomaly that the scientists have recently observed at the Fermilab experiment.
Although closer examinations and more experiments are needed, what this essentially means is that we might have stumbled upon a new particle or a form of force that is not predicted by the Standard Model. Understanding it might open a gateway into solving mysteries like dark matter or to finally find that elusive link between the Relativity Theory and the Standard Model of particle physics. We might even be on the verge of a breakthrough – the Theory of Everything.
As we are delving deep into the mysteries of subatomic particles, take a moment to envision the implications. Most Covid related deaths are not because of the attack of the virus, but due to the overzealous response of our immune system. If we know the behavioural patterns at a subatomic level, we might be able to devise a cure to all the ailments. The solve to some of the major enigmas of science might lie in here – Where is our mind-body interface? Can meditation actually improve health? How to master quantum computing?
It’s only just a matter of time; or may be not – warping of the boundaries of past, present and future is a concept I still cannot comprehend.
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