Positronium Experiment Deviates from Theory

Positronium is composed of an electron, with a negative charge, circling in orbit with a positron, with a positive charge — making what’s effectively an atom without a nucleus ( SN: 9/12/07 ). With just two particles and free from the complexities of a nucleus, positronium is appealingly simple. Its simplicity means it can be used to precisely test the theory of quantum electrodynamics, which explains how electrically charged particles interact.

The researchers pinpointed the frequency of radiation needed to make the atoms take the leap, which is equivalent to finding the size of the gap between the energy levels. While the frequency predicted from calculations was about 18,498 megahertz, the researchers measured about 18,501 megahertz, a difference of about 0.02 percent. Given that the estimated experimental error was only about 0.003 percent, that’s a wide gap.

This is an example of one of those tabletop experiments that might advance particle physics for a fraction of the cost of the large colliders. What are your thoughts @dga471?


Fascinating. Though they seem certain that it is not experimental, I’m going to play wait and see until the result is reproduced. I hope the result stands, because discrepancies are way more interesting than confirmations (usually).