Physicists say they found new evidence for a mysterious fifth force of nature. It could be the bridge between dark matter and the visible universe.

Business Insider | 11/26/2019 | Mike McRae
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Physicists say they may have uncovered a new force of nature, called X17 — a reference to its unique mass.

The physicists first spotted it when they studied a decaying beryllium isotope's unexpected behavior. Scientists around the world suggested that a whole new fundamental particle, or boson, could explain it.

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The new study, which has not yet been peer reviewed, examines similar behavior in a helium atom.

If confirmed, the discovery could be the missing piece for understanding how invisible dark matter interacts with all the matter we can see.

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Everything in our universe is held together or pushed apart by four fundamental forces: gravity, electromagnetism, and two nuclear interactions. Physicists now think they've spotted the actions of a fifth physical force emerging from a helium atom.

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It's not the first time researchers claim to have caught a glimpse of it, either. A few years ago, they saw it in the decay of an isotope of beryllium. Now the same team has seen a second example of the mysterious force at play - and the particle they think is carrying it, which they're calling X17.

If the discovery is confirmed, not only could learning more about X17 let us better understand the forces that govern our universe, it could also help scientists solve the dark matter problem once and for all.

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Attila Krasznahorkay and his colleagues from the Institute for Nuclear Research in Hungary suspected something weird was going on back in 2016, after analyzing the way an excited beryllium-8 emits light as it decays.

If that light is energetic enough, it transforms into an electron and a positron, which push away from one another at a predictable angle before zooming off.

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Based on the law of conservation of energy, as the energy of the light producing the two particles increases, the angle...
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