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Is particle physics, like beauty, in the eye of the beholder? You would be forgiven for thinking that now that two teams have analysed data from Fermilab's Tevatron collider and come to the exact opposite conclusion about whether that data hints at a new particle.

A task force is being formed to figure out the discrepancy, but the final arbiter may be the Large Hadron Collider in Switzerland, which will ultimately collect more data than the Tevatron.

In April, members of the Tevatron's CDF experiment reported finding a curious signal in the debris from eight years' worth of collisions between protons and antiprotons. The signal hinted at the existence of a particle that was not predicted by the standard model, the leading theory of particle physics. Theorists scrambled to come up with possible explanations, writing dozens of papers on the topic in the following weeks.

Last week, evidence for the signal, or "bump" in the data, seemed to get even stronger. The CDF team reported that it had analysed twice as much data as in April and had still found the bump.

But now, a rival team performing an independent analysis of Tevatron data has turned up no sign of the bump. It is using the same amount of data as CDF reported in April, but this data was collected at a different detector at the collider called DZero.

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Category: Science