Kwork - History


The quark model was independently proposed by physicists Murray Gell-Mann and George Zweig in 1964. The proposal came shortly after Gell-Mann's 1961 formulation of a particle classification system known as the Eightfold Way—or, in more technical terms, SU(3) flavor symmetry. Physicist Yuval Ne'eman had independently developed a scheme similar to the Eightfold Way in the same year.

At the time of the quark theory's inception, the "particle zoo" included, amongst other particles, a multitude of hadrons. Gell-Mann and Zweig posited that they were not elementary particles, but were instead composed of combinations of quarks and antiquarks. Their model involved three flavors of quarks—up, down, and strange—to which they ascribed properties such as spin and electric charge. The initial reaction of the physics community to the proposal was mixed. There was particular contention about whether the quark was a physical entity or an abstraction used to explain concepts that were not properly understood at the time.

In less than a year, extensions to the Gell-Mann–Zweig model were proposed. Sheldon Lee Glashow and James Bjorken predicted the existence of a fourth flavor of quark, which they called charm. The addition was proposed because it allowed for a better description of the weak interaction (the mechanism that allows quarks to decay), equalized the number of known quarks with the number of known leptons, and implied a mass formula that correctly reproduced the masses of the known mesons.

In 1968, deep inelastic scattering experiments at the Stanford Linear Accelerator Center (SLAC) showed that the proton contained much smaller, point-like objects and was therefore not an elementary particle. Physicists were reluctant to identify these objects with quarks at the time, instead calling them "partons"—a term coined by Richard Feynman. The objects that were observed at SLAC would later be identified as up and down quarks as the other flavors were discovered. Nevertheless, "parton" remains in use as a collective term for the constituents of hadrons (quarks, antiquarks, and gluons).

The strange quark's existence was indirectly validated by SLAC's scattering experiments: not only was it a necessary component of Gell-Mann and Zweig's three-quark model, but it provided an explanation for the kaon (K) and pion (π) hadrons discovered in cosmic rays in 1947.

In a 1970 paper, Glashow, John Iliopoulos and Luciano Maiani presented further reasoning for the existence of the as-yet undiscovered charm quark. The number of supposed quark flavors grew to the current six in 1973, when Makoto Kobayashi and Toshihide Maskawa noted that the experimental observation of CP violation could be explained if there were another pair of quarks.

Charm quarks were produced almost simultaneously by two teams in November 1974 (see November Revolution)—one at SLAC under Burton Richter, and one at Brookhaven National Laboratory under Samuel Ting. The charm quarks were observed bound with charm antiquarks in mesons. The two parties had assigned the discovered meson two different symbols, J and ψ; thus, it became formally known as the J/ψ meson. The discovery finally convinced the physics community of the quark model's validity.

In the following years a number of suggestions appeared for extending the quark model to six quarks. Of these, the 1975 paper by Haim Harari was the first to coin the terms top and bottom for the additional quarks.

In 1977, the bottom quark was observed by a team at Fermilab led by Leon Lederman. This was a strong indicator of the top quark's existence: without the top quark, the bottom quark would have been without a partner. However, it was not until 1995 that the top quark was finally observed, also by the CDF and DØ teams at Fermilab. It had a mass much greater than had been previously expected—almost as great as a gold atom.

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