The determination of the radius of the proton, one of the fundamental particles that make up atomic nuclei, has been a longstanding challenge for physicists. Despite significant efforts over the years, scientists have been unable to precisely pin down the proton’s size. A breakthrough in 2010, involving laser spectroscopy of muonic hydrogen, introduced a new measurement technique that yielded a significantly smaller value for the proton radius compared to previous methods. This discrepancy has since perplexed physicists, leading them to question whether it is evidence of new physics beyond the Standard Model or simply reflects uncertainties inherent to different measurement techniques.
A group of theoretical physicists at Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz has made significant progress in refining calculations of the proton’s electric charge radius. In a recent development, they have achieved a more precise result without the reliance on experimental data. These new calculations not only favor the smaller value for the proton’s size but also provide a stable theory prediction for the magnetic charge radius of the proton. These findings have been documented in three preprints published on the arXiv server, shedding new light on the proton radius puzzle.
Quantum Chromodynamics and Lattice Field Theory
The calculations performed by the Mainz research group rely on the theory of quantum chromodynamics (QCD). QCD describes the interactions between elementary building blocks of matter known as quarks, which form protons and neutrons. These interactions are mediated by gluons, acting as exchange particles. In order to mathematically model these processes, the physicists utilize lattice field theory. In this approach, the quarks are distributed over discrete points within a space-time lattice, resembling a crystal structure. Supercomputers are then employed to perform simulations and calculate specific properties of the nucleons.
The Mainz scientists first calculate the electromagnetic form factors, which describe the distribution of electric charge and magnetization within the proton. These form factors serve as the basis for determining the proton radius. By employing improved simulation methods, refining statistics, and constraining systematic errors, the researchers have been able to eliminate the need for experimental data, enhancing the precision of their calculations.
The refined calculations conducted by the Mainz research group provide additional evidence supporting the smaller value for the proton radius. These findings align with other recent studies suggesting that the deviation observed in the 2010 measurement technique may not be indicative of new physics but rather a consequence of systematic uncertainties inherent to different experimental methods. The growing body of theoretical work serves as a significant contribution to definitively resolving the proton radius puzzle.
Advancements in Magnetic Charge Radius
In addition to refining the calculations for the electric charge radius, the Mainz group has also made progress in understanding the proton’s magnetic charge radius. Through theoretical calculations based on quantum chromodynamics, they have obtained a stable prediction for this property for the first time. This advancement further enhances our understanding of the proton and contributes to the overall understanding of atomic nuclei.
The accurate determination of the proton’s electric and magnetic charge radii has significant implications for experimental measurements involving muonic hydrogen. The Mainz research group was able to derive the Zemach radius of the proton purely from QCD, which serves as an important input quantity for these experimental measurements. This demonstrates the remarkable progress made in lattice QCD calculations and highlights the potential for further advancements in our understanding of fundamental particles.
The Mainz research group’s refined calculations have brought us closer to understanding the enigma of the proton radius. By leveraging quantum chromodynamics and lattice field theory, they have improved the precision of their calculations without relying on experimental data. These advancements support the hypothesis that the smaller value for the proton radius is more accurate, dispelling the notion of new physics beyond the Standard Model. The Mainz team’s breakthroughs in both the electric and magnetic charge radii of the proton provide valuable insights into the fundamental properties of atomic nuclei. The ongoing progress in theoretical calculations signifies a significant step forward in unraveling the mysteries of the proton radius puzzle.