According to the Standard Model of physics there are four fundamental forces in our universe, but now scientists believe that they may have found a fifth.

The existing four forces, gravitational, electromagnetic, strong nuclear and weak nuclear may be joined by a new fundamental force, causing a revision of the Standard Model, according to a new study published in Physical Review Letters.

Force, Standard Model, Science
Photo by WikiImages (Pixabay)

Data shows evidence of new kind of particle

The results of the study suggest that an additional fundamental force may exist. If it does, scientists would have to revise the way in which we understand the universe.

Data for the study was provided by experiments undertaken by nuclear physicists at the Hungarian Academy of Sciences last year. The team were trying to find “dark photons,” the latest attempt in decades of research into the elusive dark matter.

That data appeared to provide evidence of a new kind of particle which is around 30 times more massive than an electron. The team believed that the particle could be a dark photon, but a second team, led by Jonathan Feng, professor of physics and astronomy at the University of California, Irvine, re-analyzed the results.

Second team of scientists reinterprets results

“The [first team of] experimentalists weren’t able to claim that it was a new force,” Professor Feng said, according to University of California, Irvine (UCI) News. “They simply saw an excess of events that indicated a new particle, but it was not clear to them whether it was a matter particle or a force-carrying particle.”

Feng and his team concluded that the Hungarian scientists had discovered a “protophobic X boson” instead of a dark photon. A protophobic X boson is a particle that interacts exclusively with electrons and neutrons, and only when they are extremely close. A normal electric force affects protons and electrons with positive and negative charge.

The existing Standard Model does not explain the interaction with any of the four fundamental forces. The existence of a protophobic X boson would suggest that there is a fifth fundamental force, one which is so weak that it has not been detected before.

Possible for massive reconsideration of Standard Model

“The particle is not very heavy, and laboratories have had the energies required to make it since the ’50s and ’60s,” Timothy Tait, co-author of the second team’s paper, told UCI News. “But the reason it’s been hard to find is that its interactions are very feeble. That said, because the new particle is so light, there are many experimental groups working in small labs around the world that can follow up the initial claims, now that they know where to look.”

The research is about to enter a critical stage of follow-ups, where we will find out if the exciting claims stand up to examination. There is a possibility that the results are simply a statistical anomaly, or that the data has been interpreted badly.

There was another bout of speculation relating to the discovery of a new fundamental particle recently, but it ultimately turned out to be nothing. The particle would have caused a major revision of the Standard Model, but results were not replicable despite months of research.

This time around the scientific community has got excited once again. If the protophobic X boson does exist, it could lead to massive new investigations into dark matter and particle physics, as well as a major questioning of the Standard Model.