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The world's largest particle smasher may be sleeping, but the hunt for fresh physics continues.

Hints of what may be a brand new particle have appeared in data generated by the Large Hadron Collider at CERN near Geneva, Switzerland, before it shut down for upgrades at the start of 2013.

The standard model of particle physics says that a particle called a Z boson should decay into electrons and muons – particles with the same electric charge but about 200 times as much mass. Both particles should appear at about the same rate, aside from a small, predictable disparity due to their different masses.

Now Patrick Koppenburg at the National Institute for Subatomic Physics in Amsterdam, the Netherlands, and his colleagues have looked at data produced by the LHCb detector and spotted that Z bosons seem to decay into electrons 25 per cent more often than muons. This suggests some unknown particle may have popped up and skewed the rate.

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