The Standard Model of particle physics has been extremely successful in describing how the universe works. However, there are some things that it cannot explain. Physicists have, therefore, been looking for new physics in particle accelerators such as the Large Hadron Collider at CERN. At the University of Groningen, a different approach has been used: in contrast to smashing up matter at high energies, physicists wanted to study molecules that are brought to rest. These physicists set a new record by stopping molecules of strontium fluoride, using an electronic trap. Their results were published on 21 October in Physical Review Letters.
According to the Standard Model of particle physics, when the universe started in what is generally known as the "Big Bang," there should have been equal quantities of matter and anti-matter. And these would have canceled each other out. Yet, we live in a universe that is made of matter. "This shows that the fundamental laws of the universe are not as symmetrical as the Standard Model predicts," says Steven Hoekstra, associate professor of Atomic and Molecular Physics at the Van Swinderen Institute for Particle Physics and Gravity of the University of Groningen, in the Netherlands. "And we would like to investigate this asymmetry in a "table top" experiment."
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