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Baffling but undead physics results

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Ghost Smiley - Free Halloween Vector Clipart Illustration From Nature:

When a scientific result seems to show something genuinely new, subsequent experiments are supposed to either confirm it — triggering a textbook rewrite — or show it to be a measurement anomaly or experimental blunder. But some findings seem to remain forever stuck in the middle ground between light and shadow.

Here’s one of the six:

Diabolical proton discrepancy

Given that protons are among the most common and well-studied particles in the Universe, one would expect physicists to have a solid grasp of their size. But in 2010, Randolf Pohl of the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics in Garching, Germany, and his team measured the radius of the proton and found it to be 4% smaller than previous estimates14. The team used a novel technique that involves replacing the electrons in hydrogen atoms with negatively charged particles called muons, and then measuring subtle shifts in the energy that is required to bump a muon into a higher-energy orbit around the single-proton nucleus. This shift is sensitive to the proton’s radius, and muons — which some 200 times more massive than electrons — make it millions of times easier to measure.

In 2013, a second study15 using the muon technique confirmed the discrepancy with previous estimates of proton size, which had come from determinations involving electrons rather than muons. Researchers tried to find flaws in the muon technique, but have now given up. “Nobody questions this experiment,” says Krzysztof Pachucki, a theoretical physicist at the University of Warsaw.

At the same time, no one can work out what could be wrong with the electron-based measurements either. The next suite of experiments, some of which are already running, could potentially solve the problem, says John Arrington, a physicist at the Argonne National Laboratory in Illinois. “It’s a zombie we hope to be able to put back in the ground soon.” More.

Yeh. We shoulda run this on Frite Nite. Meanwhile, relax physics heads, you have your work cut out for you, which means you have jobs.

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One Reply to “Baffling but undead physics results

  1. 1
    bFast says:

    Physicists always seem to end up with puzzles: what is dark energy, what is dark matter, what caused the big bang, how big is a proton. I love the honest puzzles that physicists bring to the table.

    Evolutionary biologists, however, never seem to be puzzled about nuthin’. First life? Don’t know how yet, but its not a problem. Cambrian explosion, wasn’t mutch,a and it had millions of years. Irreducible complexity? No deal, we did this experiment that produced two mutations to produce a single function — after 1/2 million years worth of evolving. HAR1F pulls off 18 mutations, no problem, millions of years. No issues, not problems, no puzzles. Its as settled as the earth goes around the sun.

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