It was one of the great hopes of fundamental physics. The LHCb detector, an experiment at the world’s largest particle accelerator, the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) at the nuclear research center CERN, has revealed strange anomalies that have eluded conventional explanations. It relates to the well-known electron and its rarer and more massive partner particles, the muon and tau, which are reckoned among the leptons. Aside from their mass, these should actually behave very similarly. At least that’s what the Standard Model of particle physics predicts, the most comprehensive and accurate theory of matter known, which includes the Higgs particle. Until now, the leptons have obediently followed the rules. Until LHCb started registering deviations. Some mesons, the short-lived particles that form during particle collisions at the LHC and consist of quarks such as protons and neutrons, appear not to have decayed according to the rules into electron-positron pairs and muon-antimony pairs in equal proportions. The electrons were in the majority, which violated lepton neutrality.
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