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Op-Ed: Why Congress Should Care About the Laws of Physics

By Michael R. Bloomberg

The most extraordinary event of the year — and perhaps the 21st century — made few national headlines. But it may just alter the future of the human race, and it should lead both parties in Congress to support a major investment increase in the nation’s research and development infrastructure.

The event happened in Batavia, Illinois, about 35 miles west of Chicago, at the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory. Rarely does a single experiment threaten to upend the known laws of the universe. But so it was on April 7, when a group of more than 200 physicists published a paper with a deceptively modest title: “Measurement of the Positive Muon Anomalous Magnetic Moment to 0.46 ppm.”

The anomaly in question could be a momentous one. Starting in 2018, researchers measured how subatomic particles called muons — heavier, more transient cousins of electrons — interacted with a strong magnetic field. They found that the muons’ “precesses,” or wobbles, differed from what the reigning Standard Model of physics would predict, and seemed to cohere with a similar deviation detected in 2001.

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