A fifth force of nature?
Scientists in Hungary claim they have discovered a fifth force of nature—a finding that, if confirmed, would revolutionize our understanding of the world. Physics is currently based on the theory that four forces govern our universe: gravity, electromagnetism, the weak nuclear force, and the strong force. For the new study, researchers at the Hungarian Academy of Sciences observed how an excited helium atom emitted light as it decayed. The particles split at an unusual angle that couldn’t be explained by known physics and—assuming lab equipment wasn’t faulty—indicates a fifth force of nature was in play. The scientists call it a “protophobic force” because the particles, which they named X17s, appeared to be “afraid of protons.” The same team made an almost identical discovery three years ago with a beryllium isotope, reports The Daily Telegraph (U.K.). Jonathan Feng, a physicist at the University of California who has been following their work, says that if a test on a third atom yields the same results, it would be a “no-brainer Nobel Prize.” ■