The half-life of a free neutron from Lattice QCD

  • Nov. 28, 2017, 2:30 pm US/Central
  • Wilson Hall, Curia II
  • Jason Chang, LBNL
  • Ciaran
  • Inspires

The axial coupling of the nucleon, $g_A$, is a fundamental property of neutrons and protons. The long-range nuclear force between nucleons and the $\beta$-decay rate of a free neutron both depend on $g_A^2$. This coupling therefore underpins all of low-energy nuclear physics, controlling, for example, the primordial composition of the universe. While the value of $g_A$ is, in principle, determined by the fundamental theory of nuclear strong interactions, Quantum Chromodynamics (QCD), it is daunting to compute, as QCD is non-perturbative and has evaded an analytic solution. Lattice QCD provides a rigorous, non-perturbative definition of the theory through a discretised formulation which can be numerically implemented.
Using an innovative computational method, we resolve the two outstanding challenges identified by the lattice QCD community for determining $g_A$: we demonstrably control excited state lattice artifacts and are able to utilise exponentially more precise numerical data resulting in the determination $g_A^{QCD} = 1.275 \pm 0.012$, compatible with the experimentally measured value and with unprecedented precision of $0.95\%$. This milestone calculation signals a new era of precision lattice QCD applications to high-impact experimental searches for physics beyond the Standard Model in nuclear environments.