An unprecedented, close examination of the electron has opened a window into the mind-bending nature of particles, energy and forces at infinitesimal scales. The findings, showing a spherical shape for the electron's charge, emerged from the Advanced Cold Molecule Electron Electric Dipole Moment (ACME) Search, funded by the National Science Foundation. The results support the strength of the Standard Model of particle physics, a longstanding theory describing most of the fundamental forces and particles in the universe, and seem to force several alternative theories into revision. Whether the emptiness between stars or the emptiness between molecules, experiments have shown that upon close examination, any vacuum is not truly empty. All manner of subatomic particles -- and their antimatter counterparts -- constantly pop in and out of existence and annihilate each other on contact. That environment influences the electron, its round, negative charge defined by the constant interaction. Many theories involving such concepts as "supersymmetry" and "grand unification" posit that some undiscovered subatomic particles would be revealed if researchers were able to look closely at an electron and find that its spherical charge was slightly squashed. That would require an extreme observation, akin to measuring an Earth-sized sphere to a precision of a few atoms' thickness. The ACME researchers looked that closely at the electron's charge and found that the sphere appeared to be perfectly round.
Visit Website | Image credit: Nicolle R. Fuller/NSF