By Michael R. Bloomberg
The most extraordinary event of the year — and perhaps the 21st century — made few national headlines. But it may just alter the future of the human race, and it should lead both parties in Congress to support a major investment increase in the nation’s research and development infrastructure.
The event happened in Batavia, Illinois, about 35 miles west of Chicago, at the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory. Rarely does a single experiment threaten to upend the known laws of the universe. But so it was on April 7, when a group of more than 200 physicists published a paper with a deceptively modest title: “Measurement of the Positive Muon Anomalous Magnetic Moment to 0.46 ppm.”
The anomaly in question could be a momentous one. Starting in 2018, researchers measured how subatomic particles called muons — heavier, more transient cousins of electrons — interacted with a strong magnetic field. They found that the muons’ “precesses,” or wobbles, differed from what the reigning Standard Model of physics would predict, and seemed to cohere with a similar deviation detected in 2001.
If accurate, those results would indicate that some previously unknown force or particle is acting on the muons — and suggest that the Standard Model, which physicists have relied on for half a century, could have a significant problem.
Why does this matter to anyone besides physicists — and those who dropped physics as a college major, like I did? (There was a German language requirement — I lasted three days.) Well, for starters, it might hold the key to explaining the deepest mysteries of the universe. It could also help elucidate the nature of dark matter, inform new quantum-mechanical models, or even shed light on perhaps the biggest quandary of all: Why is there something rather than nothing? As a group of eminent particle physicists once put it, the quest to understand such questions is “a defining characteristic of the human spirit.”
A worthwhile read. Perhaps, equally beneficial to those who remain superstitious enough to believe that something comes from nothing.