October 23, 2018

Cosmic Rays and Supersymmetric Particles in Antarctica

“There’s something strange happening beneath the surface of Antarctica and it’s got nothing to do with Nazi UFOs. Rather, researchers are arguing that a decade-old experiment may have furnished the first evidence of a new type of particle that has evaded detection by some of the most sophisticated particle accelerators for years. If they turn out to be correct, it would change physics as we know it.

In 2006, NASA-affiliated researchers launched Antarctic Impulsive Transient Antenna (ANITA), a balloon experiment meant to observe high energy particles that shower the Earth from space, also known as cosmic rays. During ANITA’s flight, however, its instruments observed something that physicists couldn’t explain. In addition to detecting cosmic rays from space, ANITA also detected cosmic rays shooting from the ground as the high altitude balloon drifted over the Antarctic ice sheet.

Physicists have long known that high energy particles can penetrate deep into Earth, but none of the particles predicted by the Standard Model—the most accurate model of physics that has ever existed—should be able to pass all the way through the planet.

On Tuesday, a group of researchers led by the Pennsylvania State University physicist Derek Fox posted a new theory of these upward-shooting cosmic rays to arXiv that suggests they could be evidence of a particle that lies beyond the Standard Model. If Fox and his colleagues are correct, it would be the first evidence of a particle beyond the Standard Model of physics, the most accurate description of the universe humans have ever known.”

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