This is "50 times larger than the asymmetry between matter and antimatter predicted for B meson decays by the standard model of particle physics."
[S]pokesperson Stefan Söldner-Rembold of the University of Manchester in England [said] “We were very excited because it means there’s some new physics beyond the standard model that has to be within our reach for the asymmetry to be so large.”
The odds that this is just random chance are one in a thousand based on this experiment alone, and is really more rare, because the experiment was set up to replicate an earlier less statistically significant result.
What possibilities are being considered:
Theories that might account for the DZero observations include supersymmetry, which assumes that each elementary particle in the standard model of particle physics has an as-yet-undiscovered heavier superpartner, notes theorist Marcela Carena of Fermilab, who is not a member of the discovery team. Other possible theories, she notes, include a model in which gravity and other forces operate in extra, hidden dimensions, and the notion that there’s an additional, fourth family of quarks beyond the three generations (up and down, strange and charm, and top and bottom) that serve as the building blocks of atomic nuclei and some other particles.
In models with a fourth quark family, the presence of new, heavy quarks and their interaction with the three known families could lead to a larger imbalance between matter and antimatter than found in the standard model, Carena notes. In supersymmetry theory, heavy superpartners would play a role similar to that of the heavy quark in creating interactions that might slightly favor the production of matter over antimatter, she adds.
And in theories with extra dimensions, new “messenger” particles — carriers of previously unknown forces — would move in hidden dimensions. These carriers could alter the charge and another property, called flavor, of elementary particles, causing the additional imbalance between matter and antimatter.
“Still, it is difficult to find a theory that can generate this asymmetry without contradicting other experimental results,” Carena adds.
Of the theories offered, a fourth generation quark seems most plausible, but it is surprising that we would see evidence of a fourth generation quark before seeing evidence as a presumably much lighter (and hence easier to produce experimentally) fourth generation electron.
Background here about an earlier B meson decay experiment.
The B meson has a mass of about 5.279 giga-electron volts (an electron volt is a unit of mass based upon Einstein's E=mc^2 relationship commonly used for fundamental physical particles). The experimental results point to a particle that would be somewhat heavier than a B meson. Particles that heavy are also always very short lived, lasting only a tiny fraction of a second before decaying. . . .
By comparison, the heaviest weight quarks (top and bottom) have masses of 171.2 GeV and 4.2 GeV respectively, the heaviest neutrino weighs less than 15.5 MeV, the heaviest version of the electron (the Tau) weighs 1.777 GeV, the W particle weighs 80.4 GeV, and the Z particle weighs 91.2 GeV. Gluons and photons are massless.
Another interesting (just stupid me) idea that popped into my head comes from some of the last post I did on this subject. The top quark mass is much bigger than bottom quark mass. Due to its very high mass and hence very rapid decay, the top quark should theoretically have almost no impact on B meson decay. But, we don't know much about the top quark with new breakthrough research from the same lab on its basic properties being published as recently as last year, and it was first definitively observed in 1995 around the same time as B meson decay. Its decay rate has been inferred from the standard model to be very short, but has not been experimentally confirmed independently.
One possibility that would be quite modest in terms of new physics, is that the top quark is simply a lot more stable than the standard model would predict, perhaps due to something similar in some way to the island of stability phenomena seen in the periodic table. A longer lived top quark would increase the amount of CP violation we'd expect to see in B meson decay, while still remaining too short to observe directly, and it would be calculate, and then it would be possible to test this possibility by some other means. The results observed might also be the result of an exotic mode of top quark decay, predicted by the standard model but not observed.
Skeptical blog coverage here. Motls thinks the significance value is for practical purposes lower than it seems due to publication bias. I'm less skeptical.