A Matrix Model of Lorenz Chaotic Attractors and Particle Physics
Physics Day (US)
Other Scottish Country Dances for this Day
Today's Musings, History & Folklore
"But all that does not anti-matter now
We've found ourselves a black hole in space
And we're talking about Quark, Strangeness and Charm"
~ Quark, Strangeness and Charm, Hawkwind, 1977
Physics Day, an unofficial day in the United States created by physics teachers in partnership with amusement parks (which open their gates on a non-operating day for students to study roller coaster physics in action), is an opportunity to reflect on the fundamental building blocks of the universe. Quarks (whose name was whimsically inspired by a quote from James Joyce's Finnegan's Wake ) are a type of elementary particle and a fundamental constituent of matter. Quarks combine to form composite particles called hadrons, the most stable of which are protons and neutrons, components of atomic nuclei. There are six types of quarks, known as flavours: up, down, strange, charm, top (formerly "truth"), and bottom (formerly "beauty"). There have been several pop music tributes to particular quarks, including English Space Rock band Hawkwind's ode to the romantic life of physicists "Quark, Strangeness and Charm" and more recently, Florence + the Machine's darker ballad, "Strangeness and Charm."
Strangeness and Charm
Three quarks for Muster Mark!
Sure he hasn't got much of a bark
And sure any he has it's all beside the mark.
~ James Joyce, Finnegans Wake
Physics Day is an unofficial holiday which began over 25 years ago, partnering the American Association of Physics Teachers with amusement parks, many of which open their gates on a non-operating day, exclusively for physics students. There is a great opportunity to study physics in action by examining the principles of roller coaster mechanics, but the physics of elementary particles is another scientific frontier, celebrated in a Scottish Country Dance referring to flavours of elementary particles known as quarks.
The quark model was independently proposed by physicists Murray Gell-Mann and George Zweig, and the name, through a circuitous route, eventually took its spelling from the James Joyce quote from Finnegan's Wake.
A quark is a type of elementary particle and a fundamental constituent of matter. Quarks combine to form composite particles called hadrons, the most stable of which are protons and neutrons, the components of atomic nuclei.
Quarks have various intrinsic properties, including electric charge, mass, color charge, and spin. Quarks are the only elementary particles in the Standard Model of particle physics to experience all four fundamental interactions, also known as fundamental forces (electromagnetism, gravitation, strong interaction, and weak interaction), as well as the only known particles whose electric charges are not integer multiples of the elementary charge.
From the wikipedia entry:
The quark flavors were given their names for several reasons. The up and down quarks are named after the up and down components of isospin, which they carry. Strange quarks were given their name because they were discovered to be components of the strange particles discovered in cosmic rays years before the quark model was proposed; these particles were deemed "strange" because they had unusually long lifetimes. In the past, bottom and top quarks were sometimes referred to as "beauty" and "truth" respectively, but these names have somewhat fallen out of use. While "truth" never did catch on, accelerator complexes devoted to massive production of bottom quarks are sometimes called "beauty factories."
For an interactive tour of quarks, neutrinos, antimatter, extra dimensions, dark matter, accelerators, and particle detectors, click the quark graphic to visit "The Particle Adventure" from Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.