For the first time ever, physicists at the world’s largest atom smasher have observed differences in the decay of particles and antiparticles containing a basic building block of matter, called the charm quark.
The finding could help explain the mystery of why matter exists at all.
“It’s a historic milestone”, said Sheldon Stone, a professor of physics at Syracuse University and one of the collaborators on the new research.
Every particle of matter has an antiparticle, which is identical in mass but with an opposite electrical charge. When matter and antimatter meet, they annihilate one another. That’s a problem. The Big Bang should have created an equivalent amount of matter and antimatter, and all of those particles should have destroyed each other rapidly, leaving nothing behind but pure energy.
Clearly, that didn’t happen. Instead, about 1 in a billion quarks (the elementary particles that makeup protons and neutrons) survived. Thus, the universe exists. What that means is that particles and antiparticles must not behave entirely identically, Stone told Live Science. They should instead decay at slightly different rates, allowing for an imbalance between matter and antimatter. Physicists call that difference in behavior the charge-parity (CP) violation.
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