Scientists at Fermilab near Chicago are in a race against a rival team at Europe's Large Hadron Collider (LHC) to discover a new force of nature. At present scientists know of four fundamental forces which govern how all objects and particles in the Universe interact with each other. These are gravity, electromagnetism, the strong force and the weak force.
The Standard Model of particle physics is the theory describing three of the four known fundamental forces (electromagnetic, weak and strong interactions – excluding gravity) in the universe, and this model has withstood all experimental tests for more than 50 years.
Researchers who are accelerating sub-atomic particles called muons at nearly the speed of light have found that they might be behaving in a way that can't be explained by the Standard Model, because of the influence of a new force of nature.
This is not the first time a force beyond the standard model has been suspected. Astro-physicists already suspect the existence of an unknown force, called dark energy, because galaxies are continuing to accelerate apart after the Big Bang, rather than slowing down, as one might expect if gravity alone were at work.
From a patent perspective, it is important to remember that in Europe discoveries and scientific theories are not themselves patentable, but the practical applications of discoveries and scientific theories are patentable. Only the future will tell what wonderful applications there may be from the discovery of a fifth force of nature.