If you thought that the Higgs Boson, or God Particle, was cool; scientists have recently discovered proof of a brand new exotic hadron particle that may well rewrite modern physics as we know it.
First detected in 2007 by the Belle Corporation, particle Z(4430), has 4 quarks (a tetraquark) instead of the usual three. This falls outside the usual classification as it was previously thought that quarks could not exist in groups of more than three.
‘We’ve confirmed the unambiguous observation of a very exotic state – something that looks like a particle composed of two quarks and two anti-quarks’, stated Tomasz Skwarnicki, one of the lead authors of the paper detailing the discovery. ‘The discovery certainly doesn’t fit the traditional quark model [and] may give us a new way of looking at strong-interaction physics’, he added.
Quarks come in six varieties, known as flavours: up, down, strange, charm, top and bottom. These can be put together to make an infinite array of particles called hadrons (protons and neutrons are two of these).
The theory that describes the interactions of quarks is called quantum chromodynamics (QCD). Quarks are very different from other particles in that they possess not only an electrical charge, but a different kind of charge known as colour. It is the colour charge of quarks that works to hold the nuclei of atoms together.
With electrical charge there is simply positive (+) and its opposite, negative (-). With colour, there are three types (red, green, and blue) and their opposites (anti-red, anti-green, and anti-blue).
At high energies, QCD is relatively simple to understand and its predictions have been confirmed many times over. However, it is very difficult to make predictions with QCD at lower energies, where quarks bind together into particles. Thus we cannot unambiguously say which quark configurations are allowed and which are not.
Perhaps the most significant part of the discovery is that it may question how we understand neutron stars. These super dense stellar-objects, the remains of supernovas were thought to be solely made of neutrons; but this discovery may well challenge that theory. Under the unique conditions inside these stars it could be possible for neutrons to create tetraquarks, which would require a reclassification of these stars as quark stars.
The consequences leading out from this discovery may well require a thorough re-examination of our assumptions about modern subatomic physics. Scientists are now looking for Pentaquarks.
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