News from the Tevatron collider at Fermilab today shows a ‘bump’ in their data that could be the first evidence of a previously undetected fundamental particle that doesn’t fit into the current ideas of the ‘Standard Model’ of sub-atomic particles.
If this discovery is confirmed, the theories at the very basis of particle physics will have to be re-written completely. The Standard Model, as it stands, describes a group of 16 fundamental particles and forces that are believed to be the ‘stuff’ that makes up everything. The new particle would have a mass 150 times that of a proton and would fall outside the realms of what is currently known to be possible.
The sad thing about this is that the Tevatron is currently in its last days – funding has been withdrawn and it will close down in September 2011. It’s hard to see how this can be viewed as anything but incredibly short-sighted, especially in the light of this latest news.
Fundamental scientific research is often seen as a waste of money because the goals are often undefined or ‘blue sky’. The truth is that basic research is an integral part of doing science and when it pays off, it does so in areas that were previously unimaginable and often in a big way.
Why do we find it more attractive to spend trillions on killing each other, than spending a fraction of that on understanding the universe around us?