Fermions. Breaking the Lorenz symmetry. Shielding scientific theories from change. Breaking the tea cup.

A weird new particle imitator flouts the established rules of particle physics. The discovery could help scientists simulate how particles behaved just after the Big Bang or lead to the development of new devices with unusual electromagnetic properties.

The curious new phenomenon involves a particle-like entity called a quasiparticle, formed from a jostling mosh pit of electrons that collectively act like a single particle in a solid. Found in a compound of lanthanum, aluminum and germanium, the new quasiparticle is a bit of a renegade, physicist M. Zahid Hasan of Princeton University and colleagues report June 2, 2017 in Science Advances. Known as a type-II Weyl fermion, the quasiparticle breaks a rule called Lorentz symmetry, which states that the laws of physics are the same no matter the observer’s perspective, whether moving or stationary.

Lorentz symmetry is the foundation of Einstein’s special theory of relativity, which details the physics of observers zipping along near the speed of light. For a real particle, violating Lorentz symmetry would be an unallowable faux pas, but for quasiparticles, the rules are looser, so type-II Weyl fermions can behave in a way a normal particle wouldn’t.

In solids, Weyl fermions lead to unusual behavior. Put a normal material in a magnetic field, and resistance to the flow of electricity grows, but in a solid with Weyl fermions, a magnetic field makes current flow more easily. Type-II Weyl fermions are even stranger, due to their Lorentz-violating properties. In a material with these quasiparticles, a magnetic field in one direction can increase conductivity, while in another direction it can decrease conductivity. “This type of thing can have interesting applications,” says Hasan. “In a single material, just by changing the direction of the field, now we can get different behaviors,” flipping between insulating and conducting, for example. (1)

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The different structure was named a “particle” initially. But when it showed different properties than those defined by the theory then the name was discarded as easily as it was given.

So the process of creating a successful scientific theory today is quite simple: Create a theory based on what you know. Detect exceptions as time passes by. Name all exceptions appropriately and tag them as “non relevant”. There it is. Now you have shielded your theory from change for ever.

Our beliefs govern what we see and what we discover.

All we see it is already there. What we learn, we already knew.

Science is just a giant mixer. Nothing more.

Only non-science can produce genuinely new science.

Any new knowledge comes from the destruction of the existing one.

But this, we already know. We are just afraid to admit it…

Look at that cup of tea. Are you afraid to break it?

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