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Last year, the particle physicist Lance Dixon was preparing a lecture when he noticed a striking similarity between two formulas that he planned to include in his slides.

The formulas, called scattering amplitudes, give the probabilities of possible outcomes of particle collisions. One of the scattering amplitudes represented the probability of two gluon particles colliding and producing four gluons; the other gave the probability of two gluons colliding to produce a gluon and a Higgs particle.

“I was getting a little confused because they looked kind of similar,” said Dixon, who is a professor at Stanford University, “and then I realized that the numbers were basically the same — it’s just that the [order] had gotten reversed.”

He shared his observation with his collaborators over Zoom. Knowing of no reason the two scattering amplitudes should correspond, the group thought perhaps it was a coincidence. They started calculating the two amplitudes at progressively higher levels of precision (the greater the precision, the more terms they had to compare). By the end of the call, having calculated thousands of terms that kept agreeing, the physicists were pretty certain they were dealing with a new duality — a hidden connection between two different phenomena that couldn’t be explained by our current understanding of physics.

Now, the antipodal duality, as the researchers are calling it, has been confirmed for high-precision calculations involving 93 million terms. While this duality arises in a simplified theory of gluons and other particles that does not quite describe our universe, there are clues that a similar duality might hold in the real world. Researchers hope that investigating the strange finding could help them make new connections between seemingly unrelated aspects of particle physics.

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