Scheme: University Research Fellowship
Organisation: University of Warwick
Dates: Oct 2013-Sep 2018
Summary: The laws of physics on the sub-atomic scale can behave very differently to the laws we are familiar with. In Quantum Mechanics, the branch of physics used to describe sub-atomic scales, energy conservation can be violated, but only on very short time scales and over very short distances.
Particles that violate energy and momentum conservation are referred to as virtual particles. While they cannot be seen experimentally, their influence can be seen in particle decays; a virtual W boson is responsible for nuclear beta decay.
The LHCb experiment at CERN studies the decays of a particles called B mesons, with the hope of seeing the influence of as yet unobserved virtual particles in the decays. The B mesons are produced in large numbers in the proton-proton collisions at the LHC and only live for a short time before decaying into more stable particles. Some of the B meson decays are expected to be very rare given what we know about the Standard Model but could happen more frequently if there are new particles to be discovered. By looking at the angular distribution of the particles from the decay we can learn even more.
We are starting to see tentative hints that the data doesn't match what we would expect in the Standard Model. In the coming years we will be able to make very precise measurements of these decays, measurements that are sensitive to the influence of new particles with masses ten thousand times heavier than the proton.