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CERN Experiment reveals rare particle decay events

Scientists at the European Organisation for Nuclear Research (CERN) have been running an experiment for several years to record billions of particles breaking apart. They finally have some interesting results to share with the world. 

The experiment named NA62 has involved scientists creating and destroying quark pairs known as kaons hoping for an event with a probability of one in a billion to verify the predictions of the Standard Model in particle physics. They managed to find one last year and now they have added two more. These findings were presented in the CERN Seminar and it was based on the data collected in 2017, ten times more than the amount which was collected the year before. 

The start has been positive for NA62 but for verification of results, researchers need some more examples of positively charged kaon decaying to form a positively charged pion and neutrino-antineutrino pair.

There are two possible results of this massive accelerator experiment. The first is that the immensely rare K+ decay occurs according to the prediction of the Standard Model essentially verifying it. The second possibility is that after the statistical calculation on the recombination of positively charged quark pairs to other particles, researchers find that things do not add up.

The Standard Model does not explain phenomena such as dark matter, antimatter and the mass difference in the fundamental particles. If some events occur which cannot be predicted by it then it can lead to the second version of the Standard Model. 

Kaons played an important role in the physics of the Standard Model. So discovering some irregularities about its behavior could have some serious consequences. Cristina Lazzeroni, NA62 spokesperson and physicist at the University of Birmingham said that the kaon decay process is named as “the golden channel” as it is ultra-rare and also predicted very well in the Standard Model. 

These experiments require huge efforts. A powerful synchrotron is used for shooting protons at high speeds into a target made of beryllium metal. Amidst the billion particles, around 60,000,000 are converted to kaons. They are channeled off for analysis of their decay and identify if any rare transformation occurred. To avoid any risk bias, the researchers go through a blind phase where they analyze the entire field of particles before turning to the areas where they expect to find the important signal. To understand how the rare event occurs and to find its frequency, a high amount of math is involved in its extreme precision. 

Till now, the evidence suggests that K+ will turn to a pion, neutrino, and antineutrino a maximum of 24.4 out of one hundred billion decays which is in fair range with the prediction of Standard Model, 8.4 times out of a hundred billion. 

The hunt is not yet finished as only three unusual K+ decay events have been identified. Many more particle collisions have to be analyzed but this will wait till 2021 when the super proton collider will be again started by CERN. 

Lazzeroni said that the results have limited statistics but have helped in putting constraints on new models. 


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