Large Hadron Collider may have detected a new particle

Unusual LHC data hints that the Higgs boson might have been just the start of major discoveries.

The rejuvenated Large Hadron Collider might have achieved another breakthrough... provided everything lines up, that is. Two teams of CERN scientists have detected an excess of gamma ray pairs that they suspect might represent the radioactive decay of a previously unknown particle. The data is far from conclusive (there's a 1 in 93 chance that it's nothing), and the researchers don't expect to have enough data until they present at a convention next summer. However, it's rare that two groups notice the same anomaly -- that's frequently a sign that something's up.

What could it be if it's not just a fluke, then? It might be a large particle that has decayed in steps, or a relative of the legendary Higgs boson. The most exciting possibility is that it's a graviton, the massless theoretical particle that governs gravity in quantum field theory. If any of these is true, the discovery could shake up our understanding of physics. The Higgs boson was the key to filling out the commonly accepted model of how the universe works. Whatever this is, if it's anything meaningful, would go beyond humanity's current understanding.

[Image credit: Harold Cunningham/Getty Images]