From DESY: “Solving five big questions in particle physics in a SMASH”


No writer credit found

Extension of the standard model provides complete and consistent description of the history of the universe.

The extremely successful standard model of particle physics has an unfortunate limitation: the current version is only able to explain about 15 percent of the matter found in the universe.

The Standard Model of elementary particles (more schematic depiction), with the three generations of matter, gauge bosons in the fourth column, and the Higgs boson in the fifth.
The Standard Model of elementary particles (more schematic depiction), with the three generations of matter, gauge bosons in the fourth column, and the Higgs boson in the fifth.

Although it describes and categorises all the known fundamental particles and interactions, it does so only for the type of matter we are familiar with. However, astrophysical observations suggest that the mysterious dark matter is more than five times as common. An international team of theoretical physicists has now come up with an extension to the standard model which could not only explain dark matter but at the same time solve five major problems faced by particle physics at one stroke. Guillermo Ballesteros, from the University of Paris-Saclay, and his colleagues are presenting their SMASH model (“Standard Model Axion Seesaw Higgs portal inflation” model) in the journal Physical Review Letters.

The history of the universe according to SMASH, denoting the different phases and the dominant energies of the epochs since the Big Bang. Credit: DESY


Model Tries to Solve Five Physics Problems at Once

A minimal extension to the standard model of particle physics involves six new particles.

The standard model has enjoyed a happy life. Ever since it was proposed four decades ago, it has passed all particle physics tests with flying colors. But it has several sticky problems. For instance, it doesn’t explain why there’s more matter than antimatter in the cosmos. A quartet of theorists from Europe has now taken a stab at solving five of these problems in one go. The solution is a model dubbed SMASH, which extends the standard model in a minimal fashion.

SMASH adds six new particles to the seventeen fundamental particles of the standard model. The particles are three heavy right-handed neutrinos, a color triplet fermion, a particle called rho that both gives mass to the right-handed neutrinos and drives cosmic inflation together with the Higgs boson, and an axion, which is a promising dark matter candidate. With these six particles, SMASH does five things: produces the matter–antimatter imbalance in the Universe; creates the mysterious tiny masses of the known left-handed neutrinos; explains an unusual symmetry of the strong interaction that binds quarks in nuclei; accounts for the origin of dark matter; and explains inflation.

The jury is out on whether the model will fly. For one thing, it doesn’t tackle the so-called hierarchy problem and the cosmological constant problem. On the plus side, it makes clear predictions, which the authors say can be tested with future data from observations of the cosmic microwave background and from experiments searching for axions. One prediction is that axions should have a mass between 50 and 200 μeV. Over to the experimentalists, then.

This research is published in Physical Review Letters.

“SMASH was actually developed from the bottom up,” explains DESY’s Andreas Ringwald, who co-authored the study. “We started off with the standard model and only added as few new concepts as were necessary in order to answer the unresolved issues.” To do this, the scientists combined various different existing theoretical approaches and came up with a simple, uniform model. SMASH adds a total of six new particles to the standard model: three heavy, right-handed neutrinos and an additional quark, as well as a so-called axion and the heavy rho (ρ) particle. The latter two form a new field which extends throughout the entire universe.

Using these extensions, the scientists were able to solve five problems: the axion is a candidate for dark matter, which astrophysical observations suggest is five times more ubiquitous than the matter we are familiar with, which is described by the standard model. The heavy neutrinos explain the mass of the already known, very light neutrinos; and the rho interacts with the Higgs boson to produce so-called cosmic inflation, a period during which the entire young universe suddenly expanded by a factor of at least one hundred septillion for hitherto unknown reasons. In addition, SMASH provides explanations as to why our universe contains so much more matter than antimatter, even though equal amounts must have been created during the big bang, and it reveals why no violation of so-called CP symmetry is observed in the strong force, one of the fundamental interactions.

The particles of the standard model (SM, left) and of the extension SMASH (right). Credit: Carlos Tamarit, University of Durham

“Overall, the resulting description of the history of the universe is complete and consistent, from the period of inflation to the present day. And unlike many older models, the individual important values can be calculated to a high level of precision, for example the time at which the universe starts heating up again after inflation,” emphasises Ringwald.

Being able to calculate these values with such precision means that SMASH could potentially be tested experimentally within the next ten years. “The good thing about SMASH is that the theory is falsifiable. For example, it contains very precise predictions of certain features of the so-called cosmic microwave background. Future experiments that measure this radiation with even greater precision could therefore soon rule out SMASH – or else confirm its predictions,” explains Ringwald. A further test of the model is the search for axions. Here too, the model is able to make accurate predictions, and if axions do indeed account for the bulk of dark matter in the universe, then SMASH requires them to have a mass of 50 to 200 micro-electronvolts, in the units conventionally used in particle physics. Experiments that examine dark matter more precisely could soon test this prediction too.

Javier Redondo from the University of Saragossa in Spain and Carlos Tamarit from the University of Durham in England were also involved in the study.

Read the APS synopsis:

See the full article here .

Please help promote STEM in your local schools.


Stem Education Coalition


DESY is one of the world’s leading accelerator centres. Researchers use the large-scale facilities at DESY to explore the microcosm in all its variety – from the interactions of tiny elementary particles and the behaviour of new types of nanomaterials to biomolecular processes that are essential to life. The accelerators and detectors that DESY develops and builds are unique research tools. The facilities generate the world’s most intense X-ray light, accelerate particles to record energies and open completely new windows onto the universe. 
That makes DESY not only a magnet for more than 3000 guest researchers from over 40 countries every year, but also a coveted partner for national and international cooperations. Committed young researchers find an exciting interdisciplinary setting at DESY. The research centre offers specialized training for a large number of professions. DESY cooperates with industry and business to promote new technologies that will benefit society and encourage innovations. This also benefits the metropolitan regions of the two DESY locations, Hamburg and Zeuthen near Berlin.