Quarks

When I was in high school, we studied atomic theory. We were introduced to the table of the elements, ordered by atomic mass. The atom, we were told, consisted of protons, electrons, and neutrons. Electrons carried a negative charge, and orbited the nucleus of the atom. Protons carried a positive charge, and along with the neutrons (which had no charge), made up the nucleus of the atom.

And that was it.

The building blocks of matter, in an orderly array, neatly tabulate in the table of the elements.

Uh-huh.

They forgot to tell me about QUARKS!

Quarks combine to form hadrons (we've all heard of the hadron accelerator at CERN); hadrons ares the most stable and most familiar elements of matter; some hadrons form protons and neutrons, centered in the atomic nucleus.

There are six flavors (yep, that's what they call 'em, flavors) of quarks:

  • up
  • down
  • charm
  • strange
  • top
  • bottom

"Up" and "down" quarks are the most familiar to us and the most common throughout the universe. "Charm", "strange", "top" and "bottom" quarks can only be produced by a very heavy dose of cosmic rays, or in a particle accelerator.

For every quark there is an antiquark. For every quark flavor there's it's opposite number, with the same properties but an opposite charge. As with all antimatter, the antiquarks have the same mass, mean lifetime, and spin as their respective quarks, but the electrical charge is opposite and has the opposite sign.

The quarks which determine the quantum number of hadrons are called "valence quarks". Though the hadron may exist in a virtual sea of quarks...gluons...antiquarks; those other particles, some of them only a pure potential, do not influence the quantum number.

When did we move from this orderly atomic model with the electrons placidly orbiting the nucleus like miniature planets orbiting the sun, to this messy ocean of particles and possibilities called quantum mechanics?

In 1964, over 40 years ago, the "quark model" was proposed independently by two separate physicists:

  • Murray Gell-Mann AND
  • George Zweig

Another physicist, Yuval Ne'eman, also, in that same year, developed a similar model.

These models accounted for some of the anomalies in studying atomic theory, and were the inception of quantum mechanics, or, quantum theory.

The reception of these ideas amongst the greater scientific community was mixed. Many scientist accepted these theories provisionally--because after all, the math worked--but thought of "quarks" as a mathematical abstraction rather than the physical entities the math described.

Until, in 1968, scattering experiments conducted at the Stanford Linear Accelerator showed that protons contained much smaller point-like objects, and the physical reality of "Quarks" were confirmed.

Though the scientific community was slow to accept this. It threw out all our neat and orderly ideas of how matter is arranged. Instead of an orderly, Newtonian universe, with everything spinning in orderly circles, and where's there's and action there's an equal and opposite reaction, we are now swimming in a volatile cloud, an unpredictable sea of quarks, whose behavior is absolutely counter-intuitive to anyone raised in a Newtonian world.

The Up and Down quarks were physically spotted as a result of the Stanford 1968 experiment.

Charm quarks were produced almost concurrently--once again, within the same year, but independently, by Burton Richter at the Stanford Linear Accelerator and also by Samuel Ting at the Brookhaven National Laboratory, in 1974. The charm quarks were observed bound with charm antiquarks in "mesons ". A "meson" is the term for a subatomic particle composed of a single quark and it's opposite number, it's antiquark.

In 1977, the BOTTOM quark was observed at Fermilab. It wasn't until 1995 that his partner, the TOP quark, was observed, also at Fermilab.

Now quarks are the accepted atomic theory, and quantum mechanics the accepted physics of atoms and also the universe.


A "Quark" Star

The term "QUARK" is also used in astrophysics. A "quark" in space is a neutron star which has degenerated even further: it's neutrons have lost their boundaries and the star is a massive, very hot, lump of undifferentiated quarks. It is on the last step to becoming a black hole in space, with a finite, infinitely dense mass and zero volume. Depending on what mass it has, it may stabilize as a very, very hot, bright, supernova quark, or it may continue to degenerate and become a new black hole in space.

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Comments 22 comments

Paradise7 profile image

Paradise7 4 years ago from Upstate New York Author

You ARE a genius, Matt!


mattdigiulio profile image

mattdigiulio 4 years ago

Mesons, quarks, and antiquarks. I knew nothing before this! Thanks, I feel like a genius. Voting up... All the best, Matt


Paradise7 profile image

Paradise7 4 years ago from Upstate New York Author

Thanks for the comment, vocal coach!


vocalcoach profile image

vocalcoach 4 years ago from Nashville Tn.

I continue to learn about remarkable scientific topics from hubs such as this one. Really so amazing...quarks are so beautiful, almost spell binding! Voted UP!

vocalcoach~


Paradise7 profile image

Paradise7 5 years ago from Upstate New York Author

Glad you liked it, WB, and thanks for making the link.


W. B. Isley profile image

W. B. Isley 5 years ago from Monett, MO

You did an amazing job for not really understanding what you found. You did such a good job I chose to make a link to this hub from one of mine that mentions quarks and doesn't explain them. I understand the information you wrote better than most, I suppose, and I don't believe that I could have explained it nearly as well as you did. Thanks.


Paradise7 profile image

Paradise7 5 years ago from Upstate New York Author

Thank you, W.B. for those kind words. I enjoyed the research for this article very much, even though a lot of it was sort of over my head! I did the best I could to put what I found out in understandable terms.


W. B. Isley profile image

W. B. Isley 5 years ago from Monett, MO

Thank you for giving such a perfect and succinct description of a topic that baffles most science loving lay people. It was a pleasure to read this wonderful piece of prose.


Paradise7 profile image

Paradise7 6 years ago from Upstate New York Author

Someday, maybe. It's looking better for that all the time! Thanks for the comment, Tezla.


Tezla 6 years ago

when our scientist be able to open the secret of the time?


Paradise7 profile image

Paradise7 6 years ago from Upstate New York Author

Thank you, vanderhaven, for your gracious comment.


vanderhaven profile image

vanderhaven 6 years ago

I simply love to read about this kind of stuff and you presented it so well. Thanks !


Paradise7 profile image

Paradise7 6 years ago from Upstate New York Author

Thanks, wrenfrost. I liked researchine and writing this one, a lot. I think these things are so fascinating.


wrenfrost56 profile image

wrenfrost56 6 years ago from U.K.

I really enjoyed reading this, packed full of information and so interesting. Great hub.


Paradise7 profile image

Paradise7 6 years ago from Upstate New York Author

Hah! Thanks, katyzzz, I sure will.


katyzzz profile image

katyzzz 6 years ago from Sydney, Australia

Amazing stuff, Paraadise, we live and we learn, watch out for those black holes.


Paradise7 profile image

Paradise7 6 years ago from Upstate New York Author

Thank YOU, scarytaff, for the comment.


scarytaff profile image

scarytaff 6 years ago from South Wales

I had to study electrons, protons and neutrons in my college days. Life seemed so clear cut back then, but it is fascinating to read of all the new developements in science in this new world of technology. A great hub, Thank you No.7


Paradise7 profile image

Paradise7 6 years ago from Upstate New York Author

Thank you for the comments, dohn, Ralwus, and Veronica. Dohn, you changed your avitar for Halloween!!! Cool! And what a good comment, so true.

I love this stuff, too, Ralwus, and I had to change a "hardon" typo when editing, it made me smile.

Your welcome, as always, Veronica, for the information. I find it fascinating and I know what I learned when I went to school is post-dated now, so I have to keep learning new things. It's great.


Veronica Allen profile image

Veronica Allen 6 years ago from Georgia

Thank you for this informatin Paradise7. You truly amaze me with your vast storehouse of knowledge. This was my first time hearing of this. I always learn something when I read you hubs and I just love that.


ralwus 6 years ago

Quarks combine to form hardons, that's what I read first and did a double take. LOL 'Twas hadrons, dummy! I think they do that too as I can feel them in me ganging up and getting ready for a big bang! I love this stuff. thanks


dohn121 profile image

dohn121 6 years ago from Hudson Valley, New York

This is fascinating, Paradise7! Thanks for all of the information and photos. I visited the Hayden Planetarium a few times and have been to the Smithsonian once. The IMAX film on space was my favorite. Quarks are beautiful to look at. Why is it that things in nature are so beautiful right before they perish?

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