Nov 27, 2020

Unprecedented accuracy in quantum electrodynamics: Giant leap toward solving proton charge radius puzzle

Posted by in categories: particle physics, quantum physics

Physicists at the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics have tested quantum mechanics to a completely new level of precision using hydrogen spectroscopy, and in doing so they came much closer to solving the well-known proton charge radius puzzle.

Scientists at the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics (MPQ) have succeeded in testing quantum electrodynamics with unprecedented accuracy to 13 decimal places. The new measurement is almost twice as accurate as all previous hydrogen measurements combined and moves science one step closer to solving the proton size puzzle. This high accuracy was achieved by the Nobel Prize-winning frequency comb technique, which debuted here for the first time to excite atoms in high-resolution spectroscopy. The results are published today in Science.

Physics is said to be an exact science. This means that predictions of physical theories – exact numbers – can be verified or falsified by experiments. The experiment is the highest judge of any theory. Quantum electrodynamics, the relativistic version of quantum mechanics, is without doubt the most successful theory to date. It allows extremely precise calculations to be performed, for example, the description of the spectrum of atomic hydrogen to 12 decimal places. Hydrogen is the most common element in the universe and at the same time the simplest with only one electron. And still, it hosts a mystery yet unknown.

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