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He, like Lederman, understood the importance of studying lepton pairs, and had got together a major international effort with scientists based in the US, China and Europe for a detector to analyse muons using a huge magnetic spectrometer. The experiment was approved, but no better name appeared.

Comparisons needed

US researchers also collaborated in the other three LEP experiments. However, a new development came in the s when the SPS became the scene of experiments using high-energy beams of nuclei although the initial US push had been for an alternative heavy-ion scenario. This was a natural extension of work which had been pioneered at the Berkeley Bevalac, and the Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory made vital contributions to the ion source and nuclear beam infrastructure for these experiments.

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Read previous Feature Space-time symmetry is put to the test. What we think of as particles are usually very stable: electrons, protons, quarks, neutrinos and so on.

ATLAS finds evidence of three massive vector boson production

You can hold a bunch of them in your hand and carry them around with you. Heck, your hand is literally made of them. And your hand isn't vanishing into thin air anytime soon, so we can probably safely assume that its fundamental particles are in for the long term. There are other particles that don't last long but still get to be called particles.

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Despite their short lifetimes, they remain particles. They're free, independent and able to live on their own, separate from any interactions — those are the hallmarks of a real particle. And then there is the so-called quasiparticle , which is just one step above being not-a-particle-at-all.

Quasiparticles aren't exactly particles, but they're not exactly fiction, either. It's just … complicated. As in, literally complicated. In particular, interactions of particles at superhigh speeds get complicated.

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When two protons smash into each other at nearly the speed of light, it's not like two billiard balls cracking together. It's more like two blobs of jellyfish wobbling into each other, getting their guts turned inside out and having everything get rearranged before they return to being jellyfish on the way out. In all of this complicated messiness, sometimes strange patterns appear.

Accelerator Science: Proton vs. Electron

Tiny particles pop into and out of existence in the blink of an eye, only to be followed by another fleeting particle — and another. Sometimes these flashes of particles appear in a particular sequence or pattern.

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Sometimes it's not even flashes of particles at all, but merely vibrations in the soup of the mixture of the collision — vibrations that suggest the presence of a transient particle. It's here that physicists face a mathematical dilemma.

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They can either attempt to fully describe all the complicated messiness that leads to these effervescent patterns, or they can pretend — purely for the sake of convenience — that these patterns are "particles" in their own right, but with odd properties, like negative masses and spins that change with time. Physicists choose the latter option, and thus the quasiparticle is born. Quasiparticles are brief, effervescent patterns or ripples of energy that appear in the midst of a high-energy particle collision. But since it takes a lot of legwork to fully describe that situation mathematically, physicists take some shortcuts and pretend that these patterns are their own particles.

It's done just to make the math easier to handle. So, quasiparticles are treated like particles, even though they definitely aren't. It's like pretending that your uncle's jokes are actually funny.