“No-brainer Nobel Prize” was the title of CNN’s report on the ATOMKI Nuclear Research Institute finding evidence for the existence of a fifth fundamental natural force. Our Senior Year student, Máté Koszta took part in the research of historic importance, which is exceptional for two aspects: first, the research itself might help us understand our universe, and second, Máté could be part of it as an 18-year-old student, which is almost unique in the case of studies of this volume. The topic was lead by internationally acclaimed physicist Dr Attila Krasznahorkay, professor of Nuclear Research Institute Debrecen. Proving the research’s results might take years, but its findings have already attracted international expert and press attention. Among others, we discussed the research’s results with our student, and with the professor.
X17 and the dark matter – what was the research’s aim?
Máté Koszta: Many of us have heard of the dark matter already, but how it actually works is still a big question for physics and other natural scientists. What we know today is that the workings of the Universe is described by the so-called Standard Model (If you woke up this morning not being completely clear about what the Standard Model is, you can read about it here). This model, however, doesn’t take several decisive phenomena into account. One of those, for instance, is the operation of the dark matter. We researched that. The Krasznahorkay experiment showed that the so-called X17 particle exists, which is likely to have a major role in how the dark matter works. The experiment itself is quite complicated, and includes lots of particle physics.
Dr. Attila Krasznahorkay: In the beginning of 2016, in Debrecen, our experimental results indicated the existence of a new, neutral particle – we published our findings in one of the most prestigious periodicals. Our publication had a loud international echo not only among physicists, but also in the media, because this particle was soon linked to the 5th interaction, and to one of the greatest mysteries of our time, the dark matter. Literature named this particle X17, because its mass was found to be 17 MeV/c2.
What effects can this discovery have on the world, on the future?
M.K.: The honest answer is that I don’t know. Several further experiments will have to prove our results, and that could take years. At the moment, we cannot draw far-reaching conclusions. If our findings were proven, or other, direct evidence were found for the existence of the X17 particle, it would unquestionably be the greatest breakthrough in particle physics since the Higgs boson. (The Higgs boson, or Higgs particle is a particle predicted by the standard model of particle physics)
What was Máté’s task during the research?
A.K.: Máté has a stable knowledge of mathematics and physics. He participated in several high-school contests with good results, and during his leisure time, he has studies several topics not included in the secondary curriculum. Besides all that, he is fluent in English, and has learned C++ programming. He put all of these skills to a good use during our experiment, because first, he could only communicate in English with a colleague of mine who was working on his thesis in our group, and with whom they supervised the experiment together, and second, today, fluency in C++ is inevitable for processing our data. We have already been invited to present the results of our successful measurements we conducted in June. Máté Koszta appears as a co-author of the publications which were thus published, because he actively contributed to the experiments.
Máté, when and why did you start dealing with physics to this depth?
M.K.: I have always been interested in the workings of nature, but I hadn’t dealt with physics more deeply until high-school, I used to be much more interested in mathematics. Then, when I got to high-school, in our first year, we had to do mandatory research work, and I enjoyed it so much that ever since, I’ve always been on some sort of research project. I’ve already been interested in many things, from Bell’s inequality to magnetic material testing. I have been dealing with particle physics for roughly a year. For CERN’s “Beamline for schools” competition, with a group of Milestone students (Attila Haas, Bendegúz Szihalmi, Eperke Koppány, Zsombor Klapper), we came up with a measurement system for the perception of the X17 particle. I eventually got in touch with Professor Krasznahorkay through that project.
How have you found your path?
M.K.: Through Milestone, I got access to several opportunities. The mentoral system was particularly useful for me. My mentor, Tamás Vámi gave me several good pieces of advice. It was also his idea that I contact Dr Attila Krasznahorkay.
Besides that, I’ve benefited a lot from the modules, of course. I’ve learned a number of things helping me in my work in Debrecen: new mathematical instruments, for instance, or programming. Before Milestone, I didn’t even know for sure that studying abroad was an option, but now, as a Senior student, it is becoming more and more real.