Reader’s Scigest – 27/11/19

By Ewan Jones, SciTech Editor

Scientists in the Hungarian Atomki Nuclear Research Institute have released a paper claiming to show evidence of a fifth ‘fundamental force of nature’.

Some of you may be aware that the other four forces include gravity, electromagnetism, and the strong and weak forces, which all work together to govern the interactions of every particle found in the universe. The new fundamental force may be the reason for an as-of-yet unexplained phenomenon involving the decay of certain elements.

When studying the radioactive decay of the unstable isotope beryllium-8, an unexpected “bump” of particles was observed, signifying electrons and positrons moving away from each other at a certain angle, in this case 140 degrees. This result was then repeated successfully in the same lab and again in America, suggesting an interaction unexplainable with the normal four forces was taking place.

It seems that as the isotope decays, an odd particle is formed, which then decays rapidly into the electron and positron which were observed. This particle has been titled “X17”, and is a boson (Higgs boson, anyone?), a type of particle related to the actions of the fundamental forces. Hopefully we’ll be seeing much more of X17 in the future!

New research that suggests the effects of sleep deprivation are even worse than we previously thought

In a study more related to our lives as students than a fundamental particle, Michigan State University’s Sleep Lab has published new research that suggests the effects of sleep deprivation are even worse than we previously thought (good to hear!). The research showed that “sleep deprivation doubles the odds of making placekeeping errors (the ability to carry out a series of steps without losing where you were in the order), and triples the number of lapses in attention”.

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