Heavier W boson may upend standard model + Usable wormhole if extra dimensions apply

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Particle’s surprise mass threatens to upend the standard model

INTRO: From its resting place outside Chicago, Illinois, a long-defunct experiment is threatening to throw the field of elementary particles off balance. Physicists have toiled for ten years to squeeze a crucial new measurement out of the experiment’s old data, and the results are now in. The team has found that the W boson — a fundamental particle that carries the weak nuclear force — is significantly heavier than theory predicts.

Although the difference between the theoretical prediction and experimental value is only 0.09%, it is significantly larger than the result’s error margins, which are less than 0.01%. The finding also disagrees with some other measurements of the mass. The collaboration that ran the latest experiment, called CDF at the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory (Fermilab), reported the findings in Science on 7 April.

The measurement “is extremely exciting and a truly monumental result in our field”, says Florencia Canelli, an experimental particle physicist at the University of Zurich, Switzerland. If it is confirmed by other experiments, it could be the first major breach in the standard model of particle physics, a theory that has been spectacularly successful since it was introduced in the 1970s. The standard model is known to be incomplete, however, and any hint of its failing could point the way to its replacement, and to the existence of new elementary particles. “We believe there is a strong clue in this particular measurement about what nature might have in store for us,” says Ashutosh Kotwal, an experimental particle physicist at Duke University in Durham, North Carolina, who led the CDF study.

Some physicists strike a note of caution. Generating a W boson mass measurement from experimental data is famously complex. Although the work is impressive, “I would be cautious to interpret the significant difference to the standard model as a sign of new physics,” says Matthias Schott, a physicist at the Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz in Germany, who works on the ATLAS experiment at CERN, Europe’s particle-physics lab near Geneva, Switzerland. Physicists should prioritize working out why the value differs from the other recent results, he says... (MORE - details)

We can build a real, traversable wormhole … if the universe has extra dimensions

EXCERPTS: It may be possible to build a real, traversable wormhole, but only if our universe has extra dimensions, a team of physicists has found.

To make a wormhole, you need to glue together different parts of the universe, connecting them by a bridge or a tunnel, usually called a "throat." This throat can be as big or as long as you want, but typically, you want it to be shorter than the normal distance to your destination. In Einstein's theory of general relativity, making a wormhole is pretty straightforward: You just build a black hole and connect it to a white hole (which is the exact opposite of a black hole), and boom, there you have it: a tunnel through space-time.

Unfortunately, the biggest problem with wormholes is that they are fantastically unstable. As soon as they form, their enormous gravitational strengths (they are literally made of black holes, after all) rip them apart faster than the speed of light, which makes them rather useless as actual shortcuts through the universe.

The only known way to stabilize a wormhole is to use some form of exotic matter. Exotic matter can take the form of matter with negative mass, which doesn't appear to exist in the universe, or some other scenario that violates what are known as the energy conditions of general relativity [...] There are some physical scenarios that lead to violations of some of the energy conditions some of the time. However, physicists do not know of a single instance in which all of the energy conditions are violated, on average, over long periods of time — which is exactly what you need to do to build a wormhole.

Gravity is extremely weak; it's billions upon billions of times weaker than any other force of nature. This fact troubles many physicists, because when something is so strikingly different from the rest of the universe, there's usually some interesting physical explanation behind it.

[...] some theories propose that there are additional spatial dimensions to reality, besides the usual three. In these theories, our three dimensions are just a "brane," a relatively thin membrane that exists within a higher-dimensional "bulk."...

Because these brane-based ideas are attempts to understand gravity, they open up new opportunities to explore the nature of wormholes. Our knowledge of wormholes is governed by general relativity, but perhaps the presence of extra dimensions changes how general relativity operates, thus making wormholes possible, an Indian research team proposes in a new paper posted to the preprint database arXiv... (MORE - missing details)

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