Fermilab's Claim of New Subatomic Particle Discredited by Rival Team

Fermilab believed they hit the motherlode this past April after findings from the Tevatron particle accelerator suggested a new subatomic particle was out there. A second, independent group has analyzed that same data and claim there is no new particle.


The research team DZero has a detector of their own in a different section of the Tevatron, and have been poring over their own data from the same experiments. Originally, Fermilab pointed to a "bump" in energy levels that was inconsistent with expected behavior for particles involved in the experiment. DZero says that bump didn't exist in their findings.

One of the earliest theories attempting to explain this discrepancy is how the experiment was modeled. If the analytical equations were off from the start, then it would provide faulty results. DZero considers this a possibility. Fermilab thinks there's not much of a difference between the two sets of results, but they have yet to read DZero's paper.


The ultimate decider of this debate will likely be the Large Hadron Collider. Many in the science community expect the experiment to be replicated on the larger proton accelerator, which could provide definitive results anywhere between the next 3-18 months. [New Scientist via Slashdot]

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Nonononono... Fermilab never claimed to see a new particle, they just claimed to see an anomaly in their data that looked like it could be a new particle. We physicists only ever claim to see new particles when statistics indicate it exists at the 5-standard deviation level. (This was at 3.2.) This is how science works. They published their anomaly, conservatively, which is the correct thing to do if unable to figure out why things look they way they do. Another team checked, and couldn't verify their results. It will only be embarrassing for somebody if whoever messed up got it wrong for a stupid reason. It's still possible that the anomaly is real, it just has another explanation besides a new particle.