Somewhere in the universe, there is a physical equivalent of a unicorn. A glimpse of this oddity that looks like the isolated tip of a magnet will be a beacon at night, pointing the way to the great and unifying theories of absolutely everything.
Of course, physicists may simply be looking for them in all the wrong places. A new analysis by an international team of researchers has narrowed down the places to look by modeling the creation of magnetic monopoles in the chaos of high-atmospheric collisions.
Their work uses the results of highly sensitive experiments that are already looking for signs of magnetic monopoles in particle collisions in powerful accelerators, assuming they also detected the same clues raining down from the collisions above.
By modeling the production of magnetic monopoles in the debris of atoms blasted by high-speed cosmic rays, the team was confidently able to place some strict limits on the amount of energy needed to make one.
It’s not exactly the exciting announcement we’d like to make about the existence of the particle, but that’s how science works. And frankly, discovering it is well worth the wait.
If the magnetic unicorns are unicorns, then the electric charges are horseshoes. They are hard working and easy to find and no one would argue that they don’t exist.
In deducing the equations of electromagnetism in the 19th century, Scottish mathematician James Clerk Maxwell modeled the motion of the negative charge of an electron. From this we get electric currents and push and pull magnetic field.
The thing is that we can also switch the features of this equation and use the magnetic equivalent of a negative charge. Magnetic monopoly. Interestingly, these same equations now reveal how moving magnetic fields induce electric currents.
Physics is built on the back of symmetries like these, although on their own they could just be a shadow cast by mathematics, and do little to prove that magnetic monopoles actually exist.
Theorist Paul Dirac would not have reconsidered this symmetry until he blew up quantum physics in a new light, deducing by more sophisticated means that if magnetic monopoles exist in the universe, electric charges must come in discrete sizes.
The fact that the fee is “set” again is not evidence of anything. But little by little, as quantum field theories grew, nothing ruled out the existence of magnetic monopoles.
Indeed, in the 1970s, when physicists began to realize that quantum fields became indistinguishable at sufficiently high energies, it became apparent that kind of wave It will arise that for all purposes it behaves like a magnetic monopole.
Half a century later, the search for rhinos in physics has continued with the hope that perhaps – if we discover one – we will also have clues to how physics might emerge from a single, unified, high-energy theory.
For the most part, despite a lot of searching, this search came out empty-handed. one flash The Stanford experiment briefly stirred controversy, but without Lots of replicationhas since been seen as “just one of those things” that happens in science.
Most of the research has focused on sifting magnetic monopoles that would have been created in the furnaces of the early universe. But the models that explain their creation are frustratingly sloppy in the details, which means we can only risk guessing what they look like.
Particle accelerators can puncture one in the dark, but only if magnetic monopoles can be created from relatively low energies. And even then, only when the accelerator is on.
On the other hand, cosmic rays always excite showers of lipids and foreign particles on the surface, which many collisions of energies cannot yet reach.
If someone happens to spit out a suitably filled magnetic monopole in the future, we’ll need to be on the lookout. According to the results of this study, experiments such as the IceCube Neutrino Observatory in Antarctica may be a good bet for their discovery, as long as they have sufficient mass.
There are only so many corners of physics that a huge rhinoceros can hide, after all.
This research was published in Physical Review Letters.