If you believe the Big Bang Theory to be true then you could have answered the question of why there is a misappropriate amount of matter compared to antimatter with the properties of the neutron. Until now.
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Just Too Much Matter
Our current knowledge about physics tells us that matter and antimatter should have been created at the same ratio – 50:50. On the other hand, we also know that matter and antimatter do not like each other. They annihilate whenever they touch. And that is the problem as all we can see out there in the Universe is matter. Too much matter. But physicists who were looking into the properties of neutron gave us a possible answer.
The baryonic asymmetry could have been explained by the properties of electrically uncharged elementary building blocks of the Universe. You know – neutrons. The thing is if the neutron had an electric dipole moment (EDM) with a value that isn't zero then it could've been exactly the thing we needed to explain the amount of matter existing after the Big Bang.
Two Years Of Analyzing Data
We have already known about the neutron for some time now that it behaves as a magnetic compass – it reactors to magnetic fields (it has a magnetic dipole moment). And if the neutron also had an electric dipole moment then it would be much lower and thus much harder to be measured. And measuring it precisely would be the bullseye hit astrophysicists need.
To explain this in layman's terms- we are trying to figure out whether the neutron is something like an electric compass and if it is how strong a compass it is. And some people have tried to figure this out in the past but none of the results of previous experiments told us much.
So, this time, scientists from the Paul Scherrer Institute used ultra-cool neutrons to measure the electric dipole moment. Ultra-cool neutrons have a very low kinetic energy making the measuring easier. Scientists from 18 institutes and universities in Europe and the USA (but mostly from ETH Zurich, the University of Bern and University of Fribou) cooperated on measuring and analyzing the data. But the biggest problem turned out the be keeping the local magnetic field constant. Even a truck passing by on a nearby road afflicted it. All outside influences had to be found and corrected for in the data. And that took all the cooperating teams for more than two years.
The measured values of the neutron's electric dipole moment make it less probable that the neutron is the particle that explains the surplus of matter in the universe. But, current experiments still cannot rule it out and further testing will be carried out hopefully giving us a definitive answer.
Experiments that try to find the electric dipole moment can be considered to be an attempt to find “new physics” that would go beyond the framework of the standard model. Essentially the same things are being attempted by teams at places like the Large Hadron Collider at CERN. But there they are trying to find out new particles and their properties. Scientists at the Paul Scherrer Institute decided to focus deeply on a single particle. And after years of researching Schmidt-Wellenburg essentially said – the value of the neutron is too low to be measured by tools that were used – it is too close to zero. Or perhaps it is zero and the neutron cannot be the explanation for the baryonic asymmetry of the Universe.
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