The light particle could be key to understanding dark matter in universe. The light particle could be key to understanding dark matter in universe. The light particle could be key to understanding dark matter in the universe. (Photo: Courtesy photo)

Did the laws of nature just get rewritten?

Scientists make potentially groundbreaking discovery about our universe.

When we were growing up, we learned about the nine planets in space. And then scientists came along and determined that Pluto should be demoted, leaving us with only eight planets and forever confusing children in science class.

Well, today there was another new discovery that just might upend what we thought we knew. Remember learning that there are four fundamental forces of nature? Well, it turns out, there may actually be five. That's according to a new study by an international team of researchers at the University of California, Irvine. In addition to the U.S., the team included physicists from Canada, Poland and Israel.

An example of simulated data modeled for the CMS particle detector on the Large Hadron Collider.An example of simulated data modeled for the CMS particle detector on the Large Hadron Collider. (Photo: CERN)

“If true, it’s revolutionary,” said physics and astronomy professor Jonathan Feng, the lead author on the paper. “For decades, we’ve known of four fundamental forces: gravitation, electromagnetism, and the strong and weak nuclear forces. If confirmed by further experiments, this discovery of a possible fifth force would completely change our understanding of the universe, with consequences for the unification of forces and dark matter.”

Their work builds upon research done decades ago by Nobel Prize-winning physicist Albert Einstein, whose theory of a "cosmological constant" served as the basis for understanding dark energy. The theory basically states that dark energy has been steady and constant throughout time and will remain that way.

The scientists think this new force is about as strong as gravity. "In a broader sense, it fits in with our original research to understand the nature of dark matter," Feng added.

Physicists Albert Einstein (left) and Arthur Compton appear together at an event held at the University of Chicago.Physicists Albert Einstein (left) and Arthur Compton appear together at an event held at the University of Chicago. (Photo: Keystone/Getty Images)

Feng noted that further experiments are crucial. “The particle is not very heavy, and laboratories have had the energies required to make it since the ’50s and ’60s,” he said. “But the reason it’s been hard to find is that its interactions are very feeble. That said, because the new particle is so light, there are many experimental groups working in small labs around the world that can follow up the initial claims, now that they know where to look.”

Until it's confirmed, what you learned in high school remains true: we still only have four fundamental forces of nature. And if you're still unsure even what those are, have no fear. We found this video below from our friends at Discovery News that can teach you all you need to know in just under four minutes.

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Did the laws of nature just get rewritten?
Scientists make potentially groundbreaking discovery about our universe.