May 10, 2021

Are We on the Brink of a New Age of Scientific Discovery?

Posted by in categories: computing, nuclear energy, particle physics

In 2001 at the Brookhaven National Laboratory in Upton, New York, a facility used for research in nuclear and high-energy physics, scientists experimenting with a subatomic particle called a muon encountered something unexpected.

To explain the fundamental physical forces at work in the universe and to predict the results of high-energy particle experiments like those conducted at Brookhaven, Fermilab in Illinois, and at CERN ’s Large Hadron Collider in Geneva, Switzerland, physicists rely on the decades-old theory called the Standard Model, which should explain the precise behavior of muons when they are fired through an intense magnetic field created in a superconducting magnetic storage ring. When the muon in the Brookhaven experiment reacted in a way that differed from their predictions, researchers realized they were on the brink of a discovery that could change science’s understanding of how the universe works.

Earlier this month, after a decades-long effort that involved building more powerful sensors and improving researchers’ capacity to process 120 terabytes of data (the equivalent of 16 million digital photographs every week), a team of scientists at Fermilab announced the first results of an experiment called Muon g-2 that suggests the Brookhaven find was no fluke and that science is on the brink of an unprecedented discovery.

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