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Boffins cross atom-smasher streams, 'excited' beauty pops into being

Like Weird Science on a sub-atomic scale

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Topflight scientists operating vast, difficult-to-comprehend machines located in an underground cavern laboratory say that an "excited beauty" has been called into existence after they crossed the streams emanating from two unprecedentedly powerful particle accelerators.

Sadly for devotees of such films as Weird Science, the beauty in question – though describable in scientific terms as quite hefty, and also exceedingly hot – was sub-atomic in size. The excitement arises because the "excited beauty baryon" is a new, never-before-detected type of particle, created in the mighty particle-punishing facilities of the Large Hadron Collider at CERN, deep beneath the French/Swiss border. Baryons, as any fule kno, are hefty sub-atomic particles with mass equal to or greater than that of a proton (mainly found as common-or-garden protons and neutrons, together accounting for most of the known mass of matter in the universe).

According to a CERN statement issued last week:

The Standard Model of particle physics predicts the existence of Ξb baryons in charged, neutral or excited states. Though charged and neutral Ξb baryons have been seen in detectors before, this is the first time the an excited Ξb beauty baryon has been observed. CMS measured the mass of the new particle to be 5945.0 ± 2.8 MeV.

CMS physicists found the Ξb*0 [excited beauty baryon] signal in a sample of about 530 trillion proton—proton collisions (an integrated luminosity of 5.3 inverse femtobarns) which were delivered by the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) operating at a centre-of-mass energy of 7 TeV in 2011.

b is pronounced "Csai - bee", we're informed, should you be reading this out over the breakfast table or similar.)

The detection was made at the Compact Muon Solenoid experiment, one of several massive underground detector complexes situated around the 28km subterranean track of the great Collider. At these experiments, the twin streams of contra-rotating charged particles which howl around the LHC's two supercryogenic superconducting magnetic tunnel tracks at a whisker less than light speed are crossed over each other. This results in large numbers of unbelievably violent head-on collisions between protons (as we have here) or sometimes lead ions when the directing boffins fancy a bit of a change.

CMS scientists have submitted a paper describing their discovery, readable here (as ever, we recommend that non-physicists peruse this only after donning a sturdy, snugly-fitting hat of some type in case of incipient brain explosion).

Meanwhile the quest to overturn the whole of physics as we know it continues at the LHC, which has now been turned up to 4 Tera-electron-Volts per beam for shattering collision energies of up to 8 TeV, eight times more powerful than any other accelerator built by humanity.

The LHC was originally built to deliver 7 TeV per beam for truly outrageous collision energies of 14 TeV. However it was found that turning up the Big Knob to such levels tended to cause disastrous electrical blowouts followed by cataclysmic liquid-helium explosions, resulting in the painting of much less ambitious red lines on the dial – though these have gradually crept upwards in recent years.

Future discoveries may yet include the Higgs Boson, aka "the God particle", whose appearance or non-appearance will not merely upset but completely pulverise applecarts up and down the entire street market of physics. There's also the chance of a portal opening up to the fifth (or indeed some other) dimension at CERN, though it seems this would be so tiny and short-lived as to pretty much rule out any tragic but nonetheless excitingly newsworthy interdimensional invasions, wars, visitations etc. (See "Related Stories" below for previous Reg coverage of these and other exciting LHC contingencies and events.)

It's all highly satisfactory. ®

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