Physicists think they’ve just discovered a fifth force of nature, and if so, it could totally redefine how we understand the workings of the universe. Physics can be a pretty daunting subject, especially for the layperson, but one of the field’s most straightforward fundamentals is that everything in the universe is controlled by four fundamental forces of nature: gravity, electromagnetic force, and weak and strong nuclear forces. If physicists in Hungary are correct, this most “straightforward” of all aspects of physics may not be straightforward at all
As Science Alert explains, before you can grasp the fifth force of nature physicists believe they have discovered, you have to understand the first four. To put it lightly, the four forces of nature are pretty important when it comes to science’s understanding of the workings of the universe. They are the foundation of the standard model of physics, which scientists use to explain all of the particles we observe in the universe as well as the behavior that governs them.
Lets look at the macro end of the physics scale first. The first two of the accepted four forces of nature deal with the big stuff. Gravity is the force that keeps planets and galaxies and such “together” and synchronized. The electromagnetic force keeps our molecules “stuck” together in proper formation.
When it comes to the subatomic level of physics or particle physics, the weak and strong forces come into play.
“At the smallest level are the two other forces: the strong nuclear force is the glue for atomic nuclei, and the weak nuclear force helps some atoms go through radioactive decay.”
Together, these four forces of nature collectively seemed to explain observable physics — for the most part at least.
That is until evidence of a fifth force of nature was spotted in 2015 by a team of physicists from the Hungarian Academy of Science. The physicists observed what they believe to be the fifth force of nature when they bombarded lithium-7 with protons. In the fallout, the physicists observed a new, super-light boson only 34 times heavier than an electron.
While that sounds super cool, unfortunately for the Hungarian physicists, their research paper was largely ignored by the scientific community. That is until a U.S. team published their own analysis of the Hungarian data last month. According to the team of American physicists, led by University of California’s Jonathan Feng, the data didn’t actually conflict with previously undertaken experiments.
Rather the U.S. physicists determined that the never-before-observed boson could be carrying and utilizing an undiscovered fifth fundamental force. When the scientific community read about this conclusion, it started buzzing with interest and even excitement.
The paper hasn’t yet been peer-reviewed, so the interest and excitement are tampered with restraint and a bit of hesitation and doubt. However, now that it’s been uploaded, other physicists are analyzing the results and adding their own findings to the theory of the discovery of a fifth force of nature. In addition, and not surprisingly, physicists the world over are also vying to recreate the Hungarian experiment and conduct follow-up tests of their own to verify or disprove the results.
According to reports, the scientific community can expect an answer as to whether or not a fifth force of nature has been discovered within the year.
Physicists are right to be wary; scientists have claimed to have discovered a fifth force of nature before, but they were mistaken. However, the search for a fifth force has intensified over the last 10 years or so, with many physicists on the hunt for what they call a “dark photon.” Quite a few in the field believe the dark photon could carry a new, undiscovered force of nature. A fifth force of nature that could, maybe, explain dark matter.
It’s believed that the universe’s mass is made up of about 80 percent dark matter; however, that’s almost all physicists understand about the enigmatic substance.
In fact, that’s precisely what the Hungarian physicists were looking for when they potentially discovered a fifth force of nature utterly unlike anything they could have imagined.
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