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CERN Physicists Close to Discovering Why the Universe Wasn't Destroyed by Matter-Antimatter Collisions

Feb 13, 2017 10:58 AM EST

New findings from a CERN study may be able to fill one of the biggest gaps in the Standard Model of physics -- how the universe broke the rules of symmetry and why we exist. Using the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) detector at CERN, researchers are trying to discover the answer behind this paradox.

The universe has a ton of mysteries, including the mystery behind the matter-antimatter symmetry. This has puzzled scientists for a long time because despite the existence of a Standard Model, there is an asymmetry between matter and antimatter.

The matter-antimatter asymmetry contradicts the well-known notion that there are equal parts of matter and antimatter produced after the Big Bang. However, if the latter is true, then this means the two particle types should cancel each other out. However, 15 billion years later, the Earth and the universe exist. 

Science Alert explains that "asymmetry" in the Big Bang simply explains that every matter in the universe has its opposing antimatter. Electrons have positrons with positive charge, and other elements have their anti-elements. Encounters with their antimatter counterpart will destroy each other and release light.

If the Standard Model -- as in the model we base our theories on -- is right, then the universe should only have very few particles because the rest should have collided and canceled each other out. However, researchers at CERN point towards baryons as the bad boys that saved the day.

According to Ars Technica, baryons make up protons and neutrons, and it appears the Standard Model did not account for their tiny existence after the Big Bang. This tiny discrepancy may have resulted in the asymmetry as we know today, and scavenged the "matter" universe from the antimatter counterpart.

If asymmetry is true, then the universe does not work the same way for matter and antimatter. Scientists call this problem the charge-parity violation. Scientists previously used mesons, a hadron, to predict the the amount of matter in the universe, but baryons may hold a solution.

In the CERN study, the LHC detector studied a lot of baryon particles, its antiparticles and their decaying process. It seems the collisions of the baryons and their antimatter counterpart produced pions, a type of proton. They said this is very rare, as statistical differences in these variations can determine the existene of asymmetry.

The study revealed that the statistical significance of this occurrence is at level 3.3 of standard deviations (5 being the highest level where one can claim a sure discovery). Statistical significance is the measure of the probability that the result has not occurred by chance.

In an interview with Ars Technica, explained that getting this result is promising as this can prompt more studies to disprove or prove the existence of asymmetry.

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