Monday, 26 October 2020

Why do different types of quarks have such whimsical, nonscientific-sounding names like “strange” and “charm”?

 In some cases, they’re aptly named, says Hossein Sadeghpour, senior scientist at the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory. These basic components of nuclear particles like protons and neutrons come in what scientists call six “flavors”: up, down, top, bottom, charm and strange. When a particle in one experiment lasted longer than expected, scientists named the quark involved in the process “strange.” “Charm” quarks were named before they were even discovered, perhaps because their predicted behavior would make the scientists’ theories work like a charm. Top and bottom quarks used to have whimsical names, too—“truth” and “beauty.” The word “quark” itself was inspired by a nonsense line from James Joyce’s Finnegans Wake: “Three quarks for Muster Mark.’’

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