• Question: What are quarks and gluons? Thanks

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      Asked by Evan to Aoife, Brian, Conor, Louise, Matthew on 14 Nov 2016.
      • Photo: Louise Mc Grath

        Louise Mc Grath answered on 14 Nov 2016:

        Hi Evan,

        Interesting question! I am not overly familiar with this stuff but I will have a go at answering it!

        Quarks are the basic building blocks for protons and neutrons. There are six types of quarks and they have pretty interesting names including up, down, charm, strange, top, and bottom. The different types of quarks are called “flavors” by physicists. You can read more about them and other bits at: http://www.ducksters.com/science/physics/elementary_particles_quarks.php

        Gluons are the particles which are responsible for the strong nuclear force. They bind quarks together and have zero mass, zero electric charge, and spin 1.

        So based on what I have read is gluons are the forces that bind quarks together, and quarks are the building blocks for protons and neutrons which are 2 (of 3) particles which make up atoms.

        They sound very important actually! I did not know this so thank you for giving me the chance to learn something new today!

      • Photo: Matthew Kitching

        Matthew Kitching answered on 15 Nov 2016:

        Hi Evan,

        I like louise’s answer – I’m not sure what else i can add!

        Quarks are the really tiny (smallest particles we know that exist) building blocks of atoms – they combine together to form the particles that make up the nucleus (the protons and neutrons). The most important ones are the “up” and “down” flavours. They make up the protons (which are two “up quarks” and one “down” quark) and the neutrons (which are two “down” quarks and one “up” quark).

        These quarks are stuck together with a sort of subatomic “glue” – the particles responsible for this are called “gluons”. The way gluons work is that the quarks are constantly throwing and catching the gluons to each other, which means they have to stay close to each other (we call this the strong force) – and this holds the nucleus together.

        But how do we know any of these particles exist? well this is the fun bit – we speed the protons and neutrons up so they are going really quickly – and then smash them into each other! When they smash into each other, the bits that make up the nucleus fly apart and we can observe them – this is one of the things we can use particle accelerators for!

        Hope this answers your question! let me know if you want to know more 🙂