b is for beauty
At CERN’s Large Hadron Collider, beams of protons are accelerated close to the speed of light and smashed together, recreating the conditions that existed when the Universe was a hundredth of a billionth of a second old.
Although absent from the Universe today, particles known as ‘beauty (b) quarks’ were common in the aftermath of the Big Bang, and are generated in their billions by the LHC, along with their antimatter counterparts, anti-beauty quarks.
‘b’ and ‘anti-b’ quarks are unstable and short-lived, decaying rapidly into a range of other particles. Physicists believe that by comparing these decays, they may be able to gain useful clues as to why nature prefers matter over antimatter.
Some other experiments in this area have already met with success, but by harnessing the power of the LHC, the LHCb experiment is able to study many more b and anti-b quark decays than ever before.