Fermilab experiment discovers a heavy relative of the neutron

Scientists of the CDF collaboration at the Department of Energy’s Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory announced the observation of a new particle, the neutral Xi-sub-b (Ξb0). This particle contains three quarks: a strange quark, an up quark and a bottom quark (s-u-b). While its existence was predicted by the Standard Model, the observation of the neutral Xi-sub-b is significant because it strengthens our understanding of how quarks form matter. Fermilab physicist Pat Lukens, a member of the CDF collaboration, presented the discovery at Fermilab on Wednesday, July 20. See: Fermilab experiment discovers a heavy relative of the neutron

Once produced, the neutral Xi-sub-b (Symbol for Xi-sub-b) particle travels about a millimeter before it disintegrates into two particles: the short-lived, positively charged Xi-sub-c (Symbol Xi-sub-c^+) and a long-lived, negative pion (π). The Xi-sub-c then promptly decays into a pair of long-lived pions and a Xi particle (Symbol pi^-), which lives long enough to leave a track in the silicon vertex system (SVX) of the CDF detector before it decays a pion and a Lambda (Λ). The Lambda particle, which has no electric charge, can travel several centimeters before decaying into a proton (p) and a pion (π). Credit: CDF collaboration and Fermi

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Cosmic rays

The LHC, like other particle accelerators, recreates the natural phenomena of cosmic rays under controlled laboratory conditions, enabling them to be studied in more detail. Cosmic rays are particles produced in outer space, some of which are accelerated to energies far exceeding those of the LHC. The energy and the rate at which they reach the Earth’s atmosphere have been measured in experiments for some 70 years. Over the past billions of years, Nature has already generated on Earth as many collisions as about a million LHC experiments – and the planet still exists. Astronomers observe an enormous number of larger astronomical bodies throughout the Universe, all of which are also struck by cosmic rays. The Universe as a whole conducts more than 10 million million LHC-like experiments per second. The possibility of any dangerous consequences contradicts what astronomers see – stars and galaxies still exist.

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Six of the particles in the Standard Model are quarks (shown in purple). Each of the first three columns forms a generation of matter.

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What do we already know?

The standard package

The theories and discoveries of thousands of physicists over the past century have resulted in a remarkable insight into the fundamental structure of matter: everything that has been directly observed in the Universe until now has been found to be made from twelve basic building blocks called fundamental particles, governed by four fundamental forces. Our best understanding of how these twelve particles and three of the forces are related to each other is encapsulated in the Standard Model of particles and forces. Developed in the early 1970s, it has successfully explained a host of experimental results and precisely predicted a wide variety of phenomena. Over time and through many experiments by many physicists, the Standard Model has become established as a well-tested physics theory.
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