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An odderon is a particle that's even odder than its name suggests. It's a particle that isn't really a particle at all, confused yet? What we think of as particles are usually very stable: electrons, protons, quarks, neutrinos and so on. You can hold a bunch of them in your hand and carry them around with you. In fact, your hand is literally made of them, but odderon particles simply vanish -our hands, thankfully, do not. Well, one of these effervescent non-particle particles may have been detected at the Large Hadron Collider near Geneva in Switzerland and it is much more confusing when examined on a more physical level.

Interactions of particles when colliding at super high speeds is very, very complicated. However, in all of this complicated mess, sometimes strange patterns appear. Tiny particles pop into and out of existence in the blink of an eye, only to be followed by another fleeting particle and then another. Sometimes these flashes of particles appear in a particular sequence or pattern. Sometimes it's not even flashes of particles at all, but merely vibrations stemming from the collision. These vibrations suggest the presence of a transient particle-and thus the quasiparticle is born.

One particular kind of quasiparticle is called the odderon, predicted to exist in the 1970s. It's thought to appear when an odd number of quarks briefly flash in and out of existence during proton and antiproton collisions. If odderons are present in this smashup scenario, there will be a slight difference in the cross-sections of collisions between particles with themselves and with their antiparticles. In a recent paper, published March 26 on the preprint server arXiv, the TOTEM Collaboration reported significant differences between the cross sections of protons smashing other protons versus protons slamming into antiprotons. And the only way to explain the difference is to resurrect this decades-old idea of the odderon. There might be other explanations for the data but odderons, as odd as it seems, appear to be the best candidate.

In conclusion, TOTEM Collaboration did discover something new about the universe. However sad to say, it is not a brand-new particle, because odderons are quasiparticles, not particles in their own right. Although it will help physicists push past the boundaries of modern physics, it hasn't particularly changed anything about today's known physics, due to the fact that odderons were predicted to exist within our current understanding. In staying with the theme of odderon particles, this scientific breakthrough, or mere detection, is rather confusing.