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August 19, 2016 at 5:07 pm

Sky & Telescope Quotes Clowe on Report of Fifth Force

Sky & Telescope quoted Dr. Douglas Clowe, Associate Professor of Physics & Astronomy at Ohio University, in an article titled “Does a Fifth Force Permeate the Universe?

Last year nuclear physicists in Hungary were running an experiment, watching excited beryllium-8 atoms’ radioactive decay, when they saw something strange. These atoms shed their extra energy by releasing high-energy photons, which in turn immediately produce an electron and a positron traveling in the same direction. But for every millionth decay, the team noticed the two particles sputtering out in opposite directions.

The team couldn’t explain the data using any known physical phenomena. So instead the scientists speculated that excited beryllium-8 nuclei every now and then release a new particle — one not included in the Standard Model of physics — rather than a photon. That new particle then produces the electron-positron pairs that speed away in opposite directions.

DR. Douglas Clowe

Dr. Douglas Clowe

… Even if you accept the data, the latest theory isn’t favored from a purely philosophical point of view. “Whenever you encounter something that you can’t explain, you want to make the fewest number of changes,” says Douglas Clowe (Ohio University), who wasn’t involved in the study. “So if we just create a new particle that is consistent with the standard model that’s easier than trying to introduce a fifth force.” WIMPs, for example, are a simple extension of the standard model. But a fifth force is a tad more dramatic, he says.

Still, it’s plausible, Clowe says. “There’s nothing in the physics that I see that’s wrong. It just isn’t necessarily correct.”

Read the entire article in Sky & Telescope.

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