Physicists are on the hunt for a mysterious particle that could totally change our understanding of the universe. Some scientists think this elusive particle is hiding in plain sight.
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The standard model of particle physics, with its quarks, leptons, and bosons, has served scientists incredibly well since it was first put forward in 1967.
For the most part, it has correctly predicted the existence of particles with such precision that it’s often hailed as the most successful scientific theory of all time. And yet scientists are not done with it, and they’re constantly probing around its edges hunting for new particles.
In fact several teams of scientists are racing to discover what’s known as a Majorana fermion, which could be a major key to settling some of the universe’s biggest mysteries.
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The vanishing neutrinos that could upend fundamental physics
These experiments have received less funding or attention than efforts to detect dark matter, but their impact across physics could be just as significant. The phenomenon of disappearing particles would suggest that neutrinos and antineutrinos, their antimatter counterparts, are one and the same — a possibility that Majorana first theorized1 in the 1930s.
Microsoft-led team retracts quantum ‘breakthrough’
But Microsoft proposed a different route – trying to create qubits with the properties of Majorana particles, whose existence was first suggested in the 1930s by Italian physicist Ettore Majorana, which it said would make them less error prone.
Majorana modes continue to elude
Not observing a theoretically predicted feature in an experiment can be frustrating, but it is also a crucial step for advancing science. This is what happened when a team of physicists in Austria, Denmark and Spain went looking for a feature that purportedly comes from Majorana bound states, which are exotic quasiparticles that might one day become the workhorses of quantum computing.
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