Researchers discovered a new type of Higgs relative in the most unlikely places

Researchers discovered a new type of Higgs relative in the most unlikely places

Sometimes the discovery of new physics requires crazy levels of energy. Large machines. Stylish equipment. Countless hours of screening through amounts of data.

And sometimes the right combination of materials can open a door to invisible worlds in a space a little larger than a table top.

Take this new kind of relationship to Higgs boson, for example. It was found lurking in a room temperature piece of layered telluric crystals. Unlike its famous cousin, it did not take several years to crush particles to discover it either. Just a clever use of certain lasers and a trick to weave away the quantum properties of their photos.

“It’s not every day you find a new particle sitting on your tabletop,” says Kenneth Burch, a physicist from Boston College and lead author of the study announcing the discovery of the particle.

Burch and his colleagues saw what is known as an axial Higgs position, a quantum winding that technically qualifies as a new kind of particle.

Like so many discoveries in quantum physics, observation of theoretical quantum behaviors in action will bring us closer to revealing potential cracks in Standard model and even helps us solve some of the remaining great mysteries.

“The detection of the axial Higgs was predicted in high energy particle physics to explain dark mattersays Burch.

“However, it has never been observed. Its behavior in a system of condensed matter was completely surprising and foreshadows the discovery of a new broken state of symmetry that had not been foreseen.”

It’s been 10 years Higgs boson was formally identified in the midst of the massacre of particle collisions by CERN scientists. This not only ended the hunt for the particle but loosely closed the last box in the standard model – the zoo of basic particles that make up nature’s complement of bricks and mortar.

With Higgs fields discovery, we were finally able to confirm our understanding of how components in the model gained mass at rest. It was a huge victory for physics, a gain that we still use to understand the inner mechanics of matter.

While a single Higgs particle exists for barely a fraction of a second, it is a particle in the true sense of the word, which briefly flashes into reality as a discrete excitation in a quantum field.

However, there are other circumstances under which particles can give mass. A break in the collective behavior of a wave of electrons called a charge density wave, for example, would do the trick.

This “Frankenstein’s monster” version of Higgs, called a Higgs locationcan also occur with properties not seen in its less patchy cousin, such as a finite degree of momentum (or spin).

A spin-1 or axial Higgs position not only does a similar job as Higgs boson in very specific circumstances, it (and quasi-particles like it) could provide interesting reasons for studying the shady mass of dark matter.

As a quasi-particle, the axial Higgs position can only be seen to emerge from the collective behaviors of a crowd. Discovering it requires knowing its signature in the middle of a flush of quantum waves and then having a way to sift it out of the chaos.

By sending perfectly coherent light rays from two lasers through such material and then looking for telltale patterns in their direction, Burch and his team revealed the echo of an axial Higgs position in layers of rare earth metal tritelluride.

“Unlike the extreme conditions usually required to observe new particles, this was done at room temperature in a table experiment where we achieve quantum control of the position by simply changing the polarization of light.” says Burch.

It is possible that there may be lots of other such particles emerging from the tangle of body parts that make up exotic quantum materials. Having a way to easily catch a glimpse of their shadow in the light of a laser can reveal a whole litany of new physics.

This research was published in Nature.

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