Break The Standard Model? An Ultra-Rare Decay Threatens To Do What The LHC Can’t
“Just by sitting around with a bunch of unstable atoms, waiting for them to decay and measuring the decay products to incredible accuracy, we have the potential to finally break the Standard Model. Neutrinos are already the one type of particle known to go beyond the original Standard Model predictions, with potential ties to dark matter, dark energy, and baryogenesis in addition to their mass problem. Discovering that they undergo this bizarre, never-before-seen decay would make them their own antiparticles, and would introduce Majorana Fermions into the real world. If nature is kind to us, a box full of radioactive material might at last do what the LHC can’t: shed light on some of the deepest, most fundamental mysteries about the nature of our Universe.”
Want to uncover the secrets to the Universe? Find out what particles and interactions there are beyond the Standard Model? The conventional approach is to take particles up to extremely high energies and smash them together, hoping that something new and exciting comes out. That’s a solid approach, but it has its limits. In particular, we haven’t seen anything new at the LHC other than the Higgs Boson, and might not even if we run it forever. But another, more subtle approach might yield heavy dividends: simply gathering a very large number of unstable atoms and looking for a special type of decay: neutrinoless double beta decay. If this decay actually occurs in nature, it would mean that neutrinos aren’t like the other particles we know of, but rather that neutrinos and antineutrinos are the same particles: Majorana particles!