New Proton Size Breaks Laws of Physics

Illustration for article titled New Proton Size Breaks Laws of Physics

A new measurement of the proton particle shows that it is 0.00000000000003 millimetres smaller than previously thought. It may seem irrelevant, but physicists are freaking out. I hope this doesn't mean we are going to cease to exist anytime soon.

Since the size of the proton is used in quantum electrodynamics, it means that a lot of formulas may be fundamentally wrong. This may also affect other fields. For example, the way astronomers calculate the chemical elements of galaxies and gas clouds using spectroscopy.

And while this may not seem relevant to you and me, scientists are taking it a lot more seriously. Talking to Nature, University of Basel physicist Ingo Sick said that "it's a very serious discrepancy," pointing that "there is really something seriously wrong someplace." Jeff Flowers, a scientist with the National Physical Laboratory in the United Kingdom, said that this "is a significant shakeup and could mean a complete rethink of quantum electrodynamics, potentially opening the door to a new theory."


Previously, boffins believed a proton's radius was 0.8768 femtometers, 0.03 femtometers from the latest measurement. The new finding was made after a ten-year experiment by the Max-Planck Institute of Quantum Optics in Garching, Germany. Great. Not only the Germans rely on octopi to lose the World Cup, but they also may screw quantum mechanics for everyone.

On the positive side, now I know why my cardboard time machine doesn't work. [Nature and National Geographic]

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What's more likely? The measurements are a little off (human error), or some quantum theories... proved numerous times over and over again previously... are wrong?