Thursday, Oct. 15, 2015
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From the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

On the precision frontier: a new calculation holds promise for new physics

This artist rendering illustrates a rare B meson decay process, with a depiction of the strong interaction corrections. Image courtesy of Aida El-Khadra, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

A team of theoretical high-energy physicists in the Fermilab Lattice and MILC Collaborations has published a new high-precision calculation that could significantly advance the indirect search for physics beyond the Standard Model (SM). The calculation applies to a particularly rare decay of the B meson (a subatomic particle), which is sometimes also called a "penguin decay" process.

After being produced in a collision, subatomic particles spontaneously decay into other particles, following one of many possible decay paths. Out of one billion B mesons detected in a collider, only about twenty decay through this particular process.

With the discovery of the Higgs boson, the last missing piece, the SM of particle physics now accounts for all known subatomic particles and correctly describes their interactions. It's a highly successful theory, in that its predictions have been verified consistently by experimental measurements. But scientists know that the SM doesn't tell the whole story, and researchers around the globe are eagerly searching for evidence of physics beyond the SM.

"We have reason to believe that there are yet undiscovered subatomic particles that are not part of the SM," explains Fermilab scientist Ruth Van De Water. "Generally, we expect them to be heavier than any subatomic particles we have found so far. The new particles would be part of a new theory that would look like the SM at low energies. Additionally, the new theory should account for the astrophysical observations of dark matter and dark energy. The particle nature of dark matter is a complete mystery."

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Photos of the Day


nature, animal, reptile, snake, common garter snake, wildlife
A common garter snake warms itself on the sidewalk just outside of ICB's west entrance. Photo: Leslie Peters, TD
nature, animal, reptile, snake, common garter snake, wildlife
It was safely moved to a more out-of-the-way place in the grass. Photo: Leslie Peters, TD
In the News

CERN prepares to test revolutionary mini-accelerator

From Nature, Oct. 7, 2015

The home of the Large Hadron Collider (LHC), the world's largest particle accelerator, is getting a new machine — and this time, the whole point is to keep it small.

On 18 September, the council that governs CERN, Europe's premier particle-physics laboratory, near Geneva, Switzerland, approved a boost in funding for a planned experiment called the Advanced Wakefield Experiment, or AWAKE. Due to switch on next year, AWAKE will accelerate particles by 'surfing' them on waves of electric charge created in a plasma, or ionized gas. It is a method that could allow future accelerators to probe matter and the forces of nature at ever-higher energies, without the usual accompanying increase in the instruments' size and therefore cost.

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From the Office of General Counsel

Political activities at Fermilab

John Myer

John Myer, general counsel, wrote this column.

Fermilab's recently revised Interactions with Government Officials Policy lays out ground rules for interactions between Fermilab employees with elected and nonelected government officials and their staff members. All employees should read and be familiar with the policy, which states that DOE property may not be used to carry out political activities and that FRA contract funds may not be used to carry out activities that seek to influence the results of federal, state or local elections.

But what does that mean in practice?

Fermilab employees are encouraged, as responsible citizens, to participate in the electoral process. Fermilab employees are also free outside of work to support their favorite candidates and issues in any way that they choose.

However, all employees and users should be aware that it is illegal to use any Fermilab resources to support candidates or political issues or carry out any political activities.

Fermilab resources include but are not limited to:

  • The entire Fermilab site, including the portions that are open to the public
  • All Fermilab buildings and vehicles
  • Fermilab-owned phones, including cell phones
  • Fermilab computers, computer networks and computer accounts, including email accounts

Political activities prohibited at Fermilab or using Fermilab resources include, but are not limited to:

  • Interviews with reporters about political candidates or political issues
  • Photo opportunities or video footage with candidates for office
  • Displaying posters or distributing materials on behalf of candidates for office or political issues
  • Town hall meetings, rallies or speeches
  • Fundraisers or fundraising for political candidates or issues
  • Conversations with candidates for office about their views on political topics or issues

Interviews by Fermilab employees with reporters about political candidates are allowed when not on Fermilab property and not using Fermilab resources, but it is important that we avoid even the appearance of an endorsement by the laboratory. Please do not use your Fermilab affiliation when speaking with the media about political candidates.

Political figures are allowed to tour the Fermilab site if they are current officeholders and the purpose for their visit is to learn about Fermilab's activities and mission. Such visits are perfectly legitimate activities, though they are carefully handled to ensure they cannot be interpreted as or evolve into political or campaign events.

If you have any questions, or for further clarification on the Interactions with Government Officials policy, please contact me at or x3252.

In the News

What neutrinos reveal

From The New Yorker, Oct. 8, 2015

This week the 2015 Nobel Prize in Physics was awarded jointly to Takaaki Kajita and Arthur B. McDonald for their discovery that elementary particles called neutrinos have mass. This is, remarkably, the fourth Nobel Prize associated with the experimental measurement of neutrinos. One might wonder why we should care so much about these ghostly particles, which barely interact with normal matter.

Even though the existence of neutrinos was predicted in 1930, by Wolfgang Pauli, none were experimentally observed until 1956. That's because neutrinos almost always pass through matter without stopping. Every second of every day, more than six trillion neutrinos stream through your body, coming directly from the fiery core of the sun — but most of them go right through our bodies, and the Earth, without interacting with the particles out of which those objects are made. In fact, on average, those neutrinos would be able to traverse more than one thousand light-years of lead before interacting with it even once.

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