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A new force of nature? The inside story of fresh evidence from Cern that’s exciting physicists – podcast

Colorful atomic particle science 3D illustration
Scientists think they may have found a new clue about the subatomic world around us. Ezume Images via Shutterstock

In this episode of The Conversation Weekly, the inside story of how scientists working at Cern’s Large Hadron Collider found tantalising new evidence that could mean we have to rethink what we know about the universe. And an update on the situation for Rohingya refugees from Myanmar living in Bangladesh after a deadly fire swept through a refugee camp there.

In late March, particle physicists working at the Large Hadron Collider (LHC), a massive particle accelerator at Cern in Geneva, announced, tentatively, that they’d had a bit of a breakthrough. If what they think they’ve seen is proven correct, it could mean evidence for brand new physics – perhaps even a new force of nature.

We get the inside story on what these experimental physicists have been looking for from Harry Cliff, a particle physicist at the University of Cambridge who works on the LHCb, one of Cern’s four giant experiments. Cliff explains that what they’re doing is like looking for an animal in a jungle: “We might see a footprint and go, OK, there’s clearly something out here. We don’t necessarily know exactly what kind of animal it is just from its footprint, but it gives us a clue about where to then look next.”

And Celine Boehm, professor and head of physics at the University of Sydney, explains the bigger picture of where this all fits into the world of theoretical physics, including the ongoing hunt for dark matter. She says there are always real-world consequences for breakthroughs in fundamental physics and our understanding of the universe. If it turns out to be a new force, she predicts: “I’m sure we’re going to be able to harness it. It may take centuries, maybe more, but we will be using it eventually.”

In our second story, we find out more about the situation for hundreds of thousands of Rohingya refugees from Myanmar, living in camps in Cox’s Bazar in Bangladesh. On March 22, a devastating fire ripped through one of the camps, leaving thousands with no shelter. Rubayat Jesmin, a PhD candidate at Binghamton University in New York, explains the context behind the persecution of the Rohingya in Myanmar, what life is like in the camps, and why the issue of repatriation is so complex, particularly after the recent military coup in Myanmar.

And Nehal El-Hadi, science and technology editor at The Conversation in Toronto, gives us some recommended reading.

The Conversation Weekly is produced by Mend Mariwany and Gemma Ware, with sound design by Eloise Stevens. Our theme music is by Neeta Sarl. You can find us on Twitter @TC_Audio or on Instagram at theconversationdotcom. We’d love to hear what you think of the show too. You can email us on

A transcript of this episode is available here.

News clips in this episode are from Cern, BBC News, NBC News, Al Jazeera, DW News, CNN and WION News.

You can listen to The Conversation Weekly via any of the apps listed above, our RSS feed, or find out how else to listen here.

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