Astronomers are looking for a mysterious force to explain anomalies of the universe

Teams of scientists have searched for a so-called “fifth force” in the universe within the mantle of our planet, ultra-vacuum chambers and in hypothetical particles (like “X17”). Such findings could help elucidate mysteries revolving around dark energy and dark matter.

The four forces

Four forces are known in our universe: electromagnetism, gravity and the strong and weak nuclear forces. Scientists, however, are looking for proof of a new, seemingly unknown force which might explain some of the greatest mysteries in the history of mankind.

Those forces have various effects on matter, regardless of scale, but they are all well documented and mostly explainable and understood. However, when you take in consideration the fact that a staggering 95% of the mass of our universe consists of shadowy unexplained stuff commonly referred to as dark matter and dark energy it gets a bit grim. Obviously, scientists have long hypothesized that those four forces don’t really constitute the whole basis of the cosmos.

The fifth force

Scientists kept searching for the hypothetical fifth force for decades. Some of them looked for answers way below our planet’s surface, inside Earth’s mantle. Others looked for force-carrying particles which can pass undetected around dense objects (like Earth, for example).

Unfortunately, discovering unknown forces is an extremely complicated task, let alone figuring out how they might fit into our wider and well-thought conception of the universe.

Paul Hamilton, physicist at UCLA, said: “Whenever scientists come up with one of these theories, they have to think about what other predictions it would make, and does it agree with every experiment that’s been done so far.” 

“If you come up with this new force, you better make sure that you don’t mess that up at all,” he added.

Why is the fifth force so important?

If the hypothetical fifth force turned out to be real, it would mark a huge milestone in understanding the universe surrounding us. 

The discovery of a fifth force could explain why dark matter and dark energy are much more widely available in the universe in comparison to the matter and energy that found in stars and living beings.

X17

One of the latest efforts to describe a new force originates in a team led by physicist Attila Krasznahorkay from the Institute of Nuclear Research of the ATOMKI (Hungarian Academy of Sciences).

Findings of the team made the headlines when a study that was posted on the arXiv preprint server back in October showed evidence of a hypothetical subatomic structure referred to as the “X17 particle”.

In case other teams can replicate the result and form a similar conclusion, the aforementioned hypothesis will definitely confirm the existence of the so called X17 particle, which could mark the decade’s most important milestone in understanding the birth and life of the surrounding universe.

However, some scientists believe that the X17 particle isn’t backed up by solid proof. Here is what Richard Milner, a physicist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology said:

“I’m skeptical. I think, as an experimentalist, that’s my natural position when I see something like this, but I think it needs to be investigated.”

Nevertheless, scientists who are affiliated with the study are positive about their discovery and will happily spend a few years to prove (or even bust) their concept.

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