The Inner Life of Quarks

Don Lincoln in Scientific American:

The-inner-life-of-quarks_2The Standard Model is one of the most strikingly successful theories ever devised. In essence, it postulates that two classes of indivisible matter particles exist: quarks and leptons. Quarks of various kinds compose protons and neutrons, and the most familiar lepton is the electron. The right mix of quarks and leptons can make up any atom and, by extension, any of the different types of matter in the universe. These constituents of matter are bound together by four forces—two familiar ones, gravity and electromagnetism, and the less familiar strong and weak nuclear forces. The exchange of one or more particles known as bosons mediates the latter three forces, but all attempts to treat gravity in the microrealm have failed.

The Standard Model leaves other questions unanswered as well, such as: Why do we have four forces and not some other number? And why are there two types of fundamental particles rather than just a single one that handles everything?

These are intriguing problems. Nevertheless, for a long time now a different puzzle has captured my attention and that of many other physicists. The Standard Model views quarks and leptons as indivisible. Astoundingly, though, various clues imply that they are instead built of still smaller components.

More here.