CERN, the European Organization for Nuclear Research has discovered a new class of particles known as pentaquarks, which could pave the way to understand the matter that all humans or animals are made of.
LHCb spokesperson Guy Wilkinson said it represents a way to aggregate quarks, namely the fundamental constituents of ordinary protons and neutrons, in a pattern that has never been observed before in over 50 years of experimental searches. “Studying its properties may allow us to understand better how ordinary matter, the protons and neutrons from which we’re all made, is constituted,” he explained.
Pentaquarks have been in researchers’ radar ever since the first understanding of the structure of matter was made known in 1964 when American physicist Murray Gell-Mann proposed that a category of particles known as baryons existed. It includes protons and neutrons, are comprised of three fractionally charged objects called quarks, and that another category, mesons, are formed of quark-antiquark pairs.
Antiquarks are quarks of antimatter. Gell-Mann was later awarded the Nobel Prize in physics in 1969. Earlier experiments searching for pentaquarks have proved inconclusive.
But CERN’s LHCb experiment differs in the sense, it has been able to look for pentaquarks from many perspectives, with all pointing to the same conclusion. It’s as if the previous searches were looking for silhouettes in the dark, whereas LHCb conducted the search with the lights on, and from all angles.
The next step in the analysis will be to study how the quarks are bound together within the pentaquarks, said CERN. Eric Swanson, a theoretical physicist at the University of Pittsburgh said, “Every particle we’re aware of, except for a few oddballs, is made up of quark and anti-quark, or three quarks”.
Apart from Gell-Mann, another scientist George Zweig independently came to the conclusion that a group of subatomic particles or building blocks for another form of matter did exist.