New Research Reveals Possible Fifth Force of Nature |
In a breakthrough for the field of particle physics, Professor of Physics Larry Hunter and colleagues at Amherst College and The University of Texas at Austin have established new limits on what scientists call “long-range spin-spin interactions” between atomic particles. These interactions have been proposed by theoretical physicists but have not yet been seen. Their observation would constitute the discovery of a “fifth force of nature” (in addition to the four known fundamental forces: gravity, weak, strong and electromagnetic) and would suggest the existence of new particles, beyond those presently described by the Standard Model of particle physics.
The new limits were established by considering the interaction between the spins of laboratory fermions (electrons, neutrons and protons) and the spins of the electrons within Earth. To make this study possible, the authors created the first comprehensive map of electron polarization within Earth induced by the planet’s geomagnetic field.
Hunter — along with emeritus Amherst physics professor Joel Gordon; postdoctoral fellow Stephen Peck; student researcher Daniel Ang ‘15; and Jung-Fu “Afu” Lin, associate professor of geosciences at UT Austin — co-authored a paper about their work that appears in this week’s issue of the journal Science. The highly interdisciplinary research relies on geophysics, atomic physics, particle physics, mineral physics, solid-state physics and nuclear physics to reach its conclusions.
The paper describes how the team combined a model of Earth’s interior with a precise map of the planet’s geomagnetic field to produce a map of the magnitude and direction of electron spins throughout Earth. Their model was based in part on insights gained from Lin’s studies of spin transitions at the high temperatures and pressures of Earth’s interior. continue reading