Anomalies intrigue at Moriond

23 April 2021

The electroweak session of the Rencontres de Moriond convened more than 200 participants virtually from 22 to 27 March in a new format, with pre-recorded plenary talks and group-chat channels that went online in advance of live discussion sessions. The following week, the QCD and high-energy interactions session took place with a more conventional virtual organisation.

The highlight of both conferences was the new LHCb result on RK based on the full Run 1 and Run 2 data, and corresponding to an integrated luminosity of 9 fb–1, which led to the claim of the first evidence for lepton-flavour-universality (LFU) violation from a single measurement. RK is the ratio of the branching fractions for the decays B+→ K+ μ+ μ and B+→ K+ e+ e. LHCb measured this ratio to be 3.1σ below unity, despite the fact that the two branching fractions are expected to be equal by virtue of the well-established property of lepton universality (see New data strengthens RK flavour anomaly). Coupled with previously reported anomalies of angular variables and the RK*, RD and RD* branching-fraction ratios by several experiments, it further reinforces the indications that LFU may be violated in the B sector. Global fits and possible theoretical interpretations with new particles were also discussed. 

Important contributions

Results from Belle II and BES III were reported. Some of the highlights were a first measurement of the B+→ K+ νν decay and the most stringent limits to date for masses of axions between 0.2 and 1 GeV from Belle II, based on the first data they collected, and searches for LFU violation in the charm sector from BES III that for the moment give negative results. Belle II is expected to give important contributions to the LFU studies soon and to accumulate an integrated luminosity of 50 ab–1 10 years from now.

ATLAS and CMS presented tens of new results each on Standard Model (SM) measurements and searches for new phenomena in the two conferences. Highlights included the CMS measurement of the W leptonic and hadronic branching fraction with an accuracy larger than that measured at LEP for the branching fractions to the electron and muon, and the updated ATLAS evidence of the four-top-production process at 4.7σ (with 2.6σ expected). ATLAS and CMS have not yet found any indications of new physics but continue to perform many searches, expanding the scope to as-yet unexplored areas, and many improved limits on new-physics scenarios were reported for the first time at both conference sessions.

Several results and prospects of electroweak precision measurements were presented and discussed, including a new measurement of the fine structure constant with a precision of 80 parts per trillion, and a measurement at PSI of the null electric dipole moment of the neutron with an uncertainty of 1.1 × 10–26 e∙cm. Theoretical predictions of (g–2)μ were discussed, including the recent lattice calculation from the Budapest–Marseille–Wuppertal group of the hadronic–vacuum–polarisation contribution, which, if used in comparison with the experimental measurement, would bring the tension with the (g–2)μ prediction to within 2σ.

In the neutrino session, the most relevant recent new results of last year were discussed. KATRIN reported updated upper limits on the neutrino mass, obtained from the direct measurement of the endpoint of the electron spectrum of the tritium β decay, while T2K showed the most recent results concerning CP violation in the neutrino sector, obtained from the simultaneous measurement of the νμ and νμ disappearance, and νe and νe  appearance. The measurement disfavours at 90% CL the CP-conserving values 0 and π of the CP-violating parameter of the neutrino mixing matrix, δCP, and all values between 0 and π.

The quest for dark matter is in full swing and is expanding on all fronts. XENON1T updated delegates on an intriguing small excess in the low-energy part of the electron-recoil spectrum, from 1 to 7 keV, which could be interpreted as originating from new particles but that is also consistent with an increased background from tritium contamination. Upcoming new data from the upgraded XENONnT detector are expected to be able to disentangle the different possibilities, should the excess be confirmed. The Axion Dark Matter eXperiment (ADMX) is by far the most sensitive experiment to detect axions in the explored range around 2 μeV. ADMX showed near-future prospects and the plans for upgrading the detector to scan a much wider mass range, up to 20 μeV, in the next few years. The search for dark matter also continues at accelerators, where it could be directly produced or be detected in the decays of SM particles such as the Higgs boson.

The quest for dark matter is in full swing and is expanding on all fronts

ATLAS and CMS also presented new results at the Moriond QCD and high-energy-interactions conference. Highlights of the new results are: the ATLAS full Run-2 search for double-Higgs-boson production in the bbγγ channel, which yielded the tightest constraints to date on the Higgs-boson self-coupling, and the measurement of the top-quark mass by CMS in the single-top-production channel that for the first time reached an accuracy of less than 1 GeV, now becoming relevant to future top-mass combinations. Several recent heavy-ion results were also presented by the LHC experiments, and by STAR and PHENIX at RHIC, in the dedicated heavy-ion session. One highlight was a result from ALICE on the measurement of the Λc+ transverse-momentum spectrum and the Λc+ /D0 ratio in pp and p–Pb collisions, showing discrepancies with perturbative QCD predictions.

The above is only a snapshot of the many interesting results presented at this year’s Rencontres de Moriond, representing the hard work and dedication of countless physicists, many at the early-career stage. As ever, the SM stands strong, though intriguing results provoked lively debate during many virtual discussions.

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