Moriond and B-anomalies [2018]

The Ph-word started and lived as a newsletter for almost two years. This was its first article, about news from March 2018; the actual issue can still be read here.

Physics of elementary particles has two rounds of global-reach conferences, the winter and the summer ones. The “Rencontres de Moriond” is the winter star, held annually at the Italian ski resort town La Thuile. Here is the place of the announcement of new results, hot from the long hours of work during the dark months and the battles for who will represent their experiment in such high-profile events ; )

Nowadays the majority of research comes from the experiments at the Large Hadron Collider -which look for physics outside the Standard Model, the big framework describing elementary particles as we know them today- and from the experiments looking for particles that could be the mysterious dark matter. Now, the way particle physics works is that you either see something new in your measurements; or you usually don’t, in which case you “constraint its properties” as you collect more and more data and it still doesn’t appear (often you constraint the possible mass that a hypothesized new particle could have). This year, like all the last ones, the Moriond updates can be summarized in one sentence: the Standard Model keeps getting confirmed. That’s one small discomfort for the workers in the field, but a giant triumph for mankind (as the Standard Model is one of its crowning intellectual achievements and stuff).

Mostly for the record though, there is a discrepancy between the measurements and the theoretical expectation which attracted some attention at Moriond, the “B-anomalies”. These come from the LHCb experiment, which looks at quarks of one kind turning into another while throwing around either electrons or muons (those particles often called “heavy electrons”). Muons seem to appear less frequently than the Standard Model says, and if this persists then there might be something about the weak nuclear force. These discrepancies are rather small but do appear in five different sub-atomic processes and they’ve been noticed for a few years now; there is only one thing that will eventually say whether they are a coincidence or not: more measurements by LHCb.

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