Have you seen this boson?

BBC News: ‘Magnetic electricity’ discovered.

Researchers have discovered a magnetic equivalent to electricity: single magnetic charges that can behave and interact like electrical ones. The work is the first to make use of the magnetic monopoles that exist in special crystals known as spin ice. Writing in Nature journal, a team showed that monopoles gather to form a "magnetic current" like electricity. The phenomenon, dubbed "magnetricity", could be used in magnetic storage or in computing. Magnetic monopoles were first predicted to exist over a century ago, as a perfect analogue to electric charges. Although there are protons and electrons with net positive and negative electric charges, there were no particles in existence which carry magnetic charges. Rather, every magnet has a "north" and "south" pole.

There are four forces in the universe: strong, weak, electromagnetic, and gravitation, in descending order of strength. Compared to the strong and weak forces, electromagnetic and gravity are puny. The strong force holds gluons and quarks together to make fundamental particles like electrons and protons, overpowering any electromagnetic repulsion that would push them apart. The weak force is responsible for radioactive beta decay, where an atom kicks out an electron or a positron.

So far there’s been no "force carrier" for the magnetic force. The electronic force uses charged particles or photons, the strong and weak forces toss around gluons and bosons, we’re still looking for a gravitational force carrier (the mythical graviton is probably hiding out on a beach in Malibu with the Higgs boson sipping mojitos). But now there seems to be a magnetic force carrier, leaving gravitation the odd one out of the Big Four.

(The Higgs boson is one of the things the Large Hadron Collider is looking for, and it is supposed to be responsible for giving mass to particles that have mass ("does this boson make my arse look big?"). The graviton is a massless particle that makes gravity work, and it’s supposedly impossible to detect with current equipment. Doesn’t stop people trying to make better equipment.)

One Comment

  1. Damn. I’d always kind of wanted to believe magentism was just an emergent property of electric charges in motion in a relativistic universe, but I guess this finally scuppers it.

    And it confuses me: We know magnetic fields *can* be produced just by taking an electric charge and moving it about, if magnetic charge can also exist independant of electric charge – rather than a pair of poles being created by an electric charge rotating – then does that mean that a rotating monopole produces an electric dipole? If it does, then do we really have one force called “electromagnetic”, or two separate forces that interact with each other, or what? Can a magnetic monopole be converted to an electric monopole by some kind of 4d (or higher) rotation, and vice-versa?

    Dagnabbit, I never could get my head around all this tiny fuzzy particle stuff. =:o Gimme some nice big rocks bumbling around in a world whether everything cancels out except gravity. =:o}

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