Leptons and quarks

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But no one has ever observed a particle with fractional charge. The proof that quarks really exist came in when one observed the substructure of the proton in an experiment at the Stanford Linear Accelerator Center in California. This discovery was later awarded the Nobel Prize. By irradiating a fixed target of protons with high energy electrons and studying how the electrons were scattered one could deduce that the proton has a substructure, the quarks.

Quarks and Leptons are Both Fundamental Particles

Even after discovering the quarks there were lots of questions that remained to be answered about the interactions of the quarks. Some of these questions have been partially answered today. For example: What keeps the quarks together in the proton? However, many questions still remain unanswered.

Number of Families of Quarks and Leptons

For example whether quarks have substructure , what gives the quarks their masses , how many generations of quarks and leptons are there and how many forces are there in nature. To answer these questions one is performing a number of different particle physics experiments.

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These are often based on colliding high energy particles such as electrons and protons with each other and studying the particles that are produced. One is also trying to do experiments to answer these questions at lower energies such as the WASA experiment at the The Svedberg Laboratory in Uppsala. There is also a large number of other experiments which use different techniques, for example to detect neutrinos and study their interactions.

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During the 19th and 20th centuries, physicists began to probe deep into the nature of matter and energy. In so doing, they quickly realized that the rules which govern them become increasingly blurry the deeper one goes. Whereas the predominant theory used to be that all matter was made up of indivisible atoms, scientists began to realize that atoms are themselves composed of even smaller particles. From these investigations, the Standard Model of Particle Physics was born.

According to this model, all matter in the Universe is composed of two kinds of particles: hadrons — from which Large Hadron Collider LHC gets its name — and leptons.


Where hadrons are composed of other elementary particles quarks, anti-quarks, etc , leptons are elementary particles that exist on their own. The first recorded use of the word was by physicist Leon Rosenfeld in his book Nuclear Forces In the book, he attributed the use of the word to a suggestion made by Danish chemist and physicist Prof.

Christian Moller. The Standard Model of Particle Physics, showing all known elementary particles.

The Family Formula for Leptons and Quarks

These elementary particles are over times more massive than electrons, but have only about one-ninth the the mass of a proton. According to the Standard Model, there are six different types of leptons.

These include the Electron, the Muon, and Tau particles, as well as their associated neutrinos i. Leptons have negative charge and a distinct mass, whereas their neutrinos have a neutral charge. Electrons are the lightest, with a mass of 0. While each of the three lepton flavors are different and distinct in terms of their interactions with other particles , they are not immutable. This can take a number of forms, which include solar neutrino, atmospheric neutrino, nuclear reactor, or beam oscillations.

In all observed cases, the oscillations were confirmed by what appeared to be a deficit in the number of neutrinos being created. In addition, all three leptons and their neutrinos have an associated antiparticle antilepton.

List of particles

For each, the antileptons have an identical mass, but all of the other properties are reversed. The present Standard Model assumes that there are no more than three types aka.

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  • This accords with experimental evidence that attempts to model the process of nucleosynthesis after the Big Bang, where the existence of more than three leptons would have affected the abundance of helium in the early Universe. All leptons possess a negative charge.