The discovery of what appears to be a new subatomic particle with bizarre properties is challenging theorists' understanding of how matter behaves on the scale of protons and neutrons.
What seems especially weird about the particle, dubbed DsJ(2632), is its unexpected breakdown pattern. It produces a particle called an eta meson six times as often as the K meson that theory says should be more prevalent, explains James S. Russ of Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, leader of the experimental team.
"It's like watching a water bucket with a large hole and a small hole in the bottom. For some reason, the water is pouring out the small hole six times faster than it's coming out of the large one," Russ says.
Moreover, DsJ(2632) survives three times as long as similar but lighter mesons do. Typically, heavier mesons have shorter lives than less-massive ones. Theorist Eric S. Swanson of the University of Pittsburgh says that if the finding holds up, "it's a conundr