Particle Physics Research | What are quarks?
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- Quarks are elementary particles, without a substructure. Understanding them is crucial in learning how physics works at the smallest levels.
- By studying the collisions of incredibly small particles composed of quarks known as J / psi particles, scientists have better understand the material on a fundamental nature.
- By measuring the J / psi particles, scientists in the state of Florida found results that contradicted previous studies at CERN.
Quarks are one of the fundamental building blocks of all matter. These are particles that combine to form what are called hadrons, some of which are protons and neutrons, the basic building blocks of atomic nuclei. By studying photons to better understand quarks, scientists at Florida State University made the very first measurements of a subatomic particle known as the J / psi particle, which is created from the energy of collisions. photon-proton.
Some general information: Quarks and photons are elementary particles, which means that they are subatomic particles. They therefore have no substructure themselves; they simply exist. Protons, on the other hand, are composite particles, which means that they are made up of two or more elementary particles. Scientists therefore wanted to collide photons with a composite particle such as a proton to learn more about how particles work.
“It’s really cool to watch,” says assistant professor of physics Sean Dobbs in a Press statement. “It opens up a new frontier in physics.”
Dobbs likens his team’s experiences to a very small car accident. To create their crash, they used the GlueX spectrometer at National Accelerator Thomas Jefferson Installation in Virginia. The team projected a beam of photons into a spectrometer, and the beam then passed through a liquid hydrogen cartridge and reacted with protons in the nucleus of the cartridge’s hydrogen atoms.
While scientists weren’t able to capture these tiny reactions and collisions as they happened, they worked backwards. They established what happened when the beam passed through the cartridge, with around one to two million gigabytes of data per year to help them.
The J / psi particle, first discovered independently by two separate groups in 1974, is composed of a pair of quarks: a charm quark and an anti-charm quark. There are six types of quarks. The most common are the “up” and “down” quarks, which make up protons and neutrons. Charming quarks are (comparatively) heavier than these and only have a short lifespan before decaying into more conventional particles. The J / psi particle was the first chance to prove that the so-called “quark model” accurately described nature.
By studying the J / psi particle in these collisions, the team was able to study the production of other subatomic particles containing charmed quarks. They found more J / psi particles than expected.
This means that the gluonic structure (the gluons that can make protons) contributes greatly to the mass of the proton structure. In fact, according to scientists, gluons directly contribute more than 80% of the mass of the protons studied. Understanding how gluons contribute to protons gives scientists a clearer picture of the fundamental nature of matter.
The results call into question other studies at the CERN collider in Switzerland earlier this year, which detected short-lived particles known as pentaquarks that the FSU team did not find. Particle physics is a complex thing, but in the midst of the car crash of photons, gluons and quarks, scientists are getting closer to understanding the complexity of existence.
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