Physicists discover ultra-rare ‘triple glueball’ particle

April 14 (Agencies) | Publish Date: 4/14/2021 12:51:35 PM IST

 A never-before-seen particle has revealed itself in the hot guts of two particle colliders, confirming a half-century-old theory.

Scientists predicted the existence of the particle, known as the odderon, in 1973, describing it as a rare, short-lived conjointment of three smaller particles known as gluons. Since then, researchers have suspected that the odderon might appear when protons slammed together at extreme speeds, but the precise conditions that would make it spring into existence remained a mystery. Now, after comparing data from the Large Hadron Collider (LHC), the 17-mile-long (27 kilometers) ring-shaped atom smasher near Geneva that’s famous for discovering the Higgs boson, and the Tevatron, a now-defunct 3.9-mile-long (6.3 km) American collider that slammed protons and their antimatter twins (antiprotons) together in Illinois until 2011, researchers report conclusive evidence of the odderon’s existence.

Finding the odderon

After those particle collisions, the scientists watched to see what happened. They theorized that odderons would appear at slightly different rates in proton-proton collisions and proton-antiproton collisions. This difference would reveal itself in a slight mismatch between the frequencies of protons bouncing off other protons and the frequencies of protons bouncing off antiprotons.

The LHC and Tevatron collisions happened at different energy levels. But the researchers behind this new paper developed a mathematical approach to compare their data. And it produced this graph, which they called the “money plot”.

A graph shows two similar lines that don’t follow the exact same path. The difference between these two lines is due to the existence of the odderon. 

The blue line, representing proton-antiproton collisions, doesn’t line up perfectly with the red line, which represents proton-proton collisions. That difference is the telltale sign of the odderon — demonstrated with 5 sigma statistical significance, meaning that the odds of an effect like this randomly emerging without odderons involved would be 1 in 3.5 million.

Why proton collisions create odderons

Protons aren’t fundamental, indivisible particles. Rather, they’re constructed of three quarks and many gluons. Those quarks are the heavy hitters of the subatomic world, relatively bulky and responsible for make up the mass of protons and neutrons and electromagnetic charge. But the gluons play just as important a role: They carry the strong force, one of the four fundamental forces of the universe, responsible for “gluing” quarks together into protons and neutrons, and then binding those protons and neutrons together inside atomic nuclei. When protons collide at super high energies inside particle colliders like the LHC, they shatter into pieces about 75% of the time. The remaining 25% of the time, they bounce off one another like pool balls on a billiards table. 

In this instance, a process called elastic scattering — the protons survive the encounter. And physicists think that is possible because the protons exchange either two or three gluons. At the brief point of contact, that set of gluons travels from the interior of one proton to the interior of the other. 

It’s important that both protons-proton collisions and proton-anti-proton collisions exchange particles, because it’s in the subtle difference between those two types of exchanges that the odderon was revealed.

Occasionally, a quasi state called a glueball, a pair or trio of gluons  emerges during a collision. Scientists had already confirmed the existence of the double glueball, but this is the first time they’ve observed with confidence the triple glueball called the odderon, the one that in 1973 was predicted to exist.          (Live Science)

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