Cosmology: And now, the minimalist … the unparticle!

Last May, the Tevatron particle accelerator in Batavia, Illinois showed a 1 per cent preference for B mesons, 40 times the predicted standard model amount. (Kate McAlpine, “Weird 'unparticle' boosted by Tevatron signal” (New Scientist, 19 May 2011) Proposed explanation here.

Two separate groups now suggest an explanation for this larger asymmetry lies in the unparticle, a hypothetical entity conjured up in 2007 by theorist Howard Georgi of Harvard University. Georgi suggested that a property known as scale invariance – seen in fractal-like patterns that remain unchanged even when you zoom in and out to different scales, like the branching of redwood trees and the jagged edges of coastlines – could apply to individual particles too.

The charge and spin of unparticles would be fixed but, counter-intuitively, their mass would somehow vary depending on the scale at which an observer viewed the particle. Such unparticles could play a role in a popular proposed extension to the standard model, known as supersymmetry.

Unparticle Definition: \un-pär-ti-cl\ n. (2007) A particle whose mass is unrelated to its energy. (a href="http://discovermagazine.com/2008/may/16-stupid-science-word-of-the-month-unparticle" target="another">Jocelyn Rice)

Some hope it will explain the prevalence of matter over antimatter in the universe.

Others are prepared to settle for establishing that the unparticle exists.

Unparticle was chosen “Stupid science word of the month” at scimag Discover (May 2008). Not fans of minimalism, apparently.

Denyse O'Leary is co-author of The Spiritual Brain.

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