Using the analogy of a field biologist’s expedition, we’ll show you the different ways particle physicists discover new particles. When a field biologist goes into a new area in search of unknown animals, he can use different methods to discover new species.
Say you’re a naturalist exploring a brand new island. You don’t know what new discoveries you’ll find on this island until you start your expedition. Maybe the plants and animals there are the same as your hometown, not new. However, once you spot an animal with a strange trait (like a winged unicorn) on the island, it doesn’t take you too long to realize that it’s a new species, and you know home It is absolutely absent from the species.
This was the case when physicists first discovered mu particles. Their reactions were the same: “Huh! What is that?”
Looking for circumstantial evidence
As a field biologist, if you spot brand new tracks and fur near water, then you know there must be a new breed around here. In this case, even if you don’t see it with your own eyes, it’s not a big problem. If this new species is very cautious, it may take you a long time to discover it. You can also learn more about this new species before it’s officially discovered: By studying its footprints, you can tell how much it weighs, and whether it lives alone or in groups; its droppings will also reveal that it’s carnivorous Animals are also herbivores.
This is exactly how particle physicists discovered neutrinos. The neutrino itself has yet to be seen, but circumstantial evidence has left particle physicists in no doubt about its existence.
Fossils and Remnants
No one has ever seen dinosaurs, but thanks to the discovery of their skeletons, we know they were real. If you go to a natural history museum, then you can see those skeletons with your own eyes. In addition, there is a lot of information about dinosaurs in the museum data room, so we can learn a lot of information about dinosaurs in detail.
In the subatomic world, some elementary particles live for only a billionth of a second. They are so short lived that we can’t even see them, let alone look closely. Fortunately, when they die, they decay into smaller particles. These smaller particles are stable and exist long enough that our detectors are able to observe them with ease. So, we can speculate on the existence of a subatomic particle and reproduce it from these smaller particles, just as we reconstructed dinosaurs from fossilized bones.
This technique has already helped us discover hundreds of new particles, including the Higgs boson, which was discovered in 2012.