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Evidence for 'New Physics' universe

First evidence that the universe is not as we know it has emerged from the Large Hadron Collider (LHC), the giant atom-smashing machine built to recreate conditions at the dawn of time.

Confirmation of the results, showing minute deviations in the behaviour of a sub-atomic particle, would indicate the existence of a "New Physics" model of the universe.

Until now scientists have relied on the "Standard Model", a description of the nuts and bolts mechanics of the universe - its particles and forces - that has worked well but contains serious gaps.

For instance, the Standard Model cannot explain phenomena such as dark matter, invisible material that shrouds galaxies and holds them together, or gravity.

The term "New Physics" was coined to describe more fundamental theories that go beyond the Standard Model, some of which involve strange concepts such as tiny vibrating "strings" and extra dimensions.

A Spanish and French team has now announced results that could be the first indication of a New Physics reality.

They involve data from the LHCb, one of the giant detectors that form part of the LHC on the French-Swiss border.

Scientists were measuring the decay of a fundamental particle called the B meson. They revealed deviations from what was predicted by the Standard Model that show a coherent pattern, and are consistent with New Physics.

The findings amount to a significant "proof" level of 4.5 sigmas - just under the level of five sigmas which is regarded as a bona fide discovery.

If confirmed by other teams, it amounts to a "major event" pointing to a realm beyond the Standard Model, say the physicists.

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