If you were just getting used to the idea of quarks (I know, I’m slow, it’s taken me a few decades) well, buckle up, because the even more difficult-to-understand and previously only theoretical tetraquarks now, apparently, can be a thing after all.
Ok, they’re still just a theory, but the “experts” think they have come across a plausible theoretical explanation for how these weird micro realities (really, micro is probably too big a word to describe them) called tetraquarks.
An exotic kind of particle so mysterious that it was suspected to be impossible has finally been identified by physicists – and not just once, but twice.
Two new theoretical predictions of an elusive form of matter called tetraquarksprovide the firmest evidence yet that these strange particles really do exist after all, setting the stage for an imminent new era of understanding in subatomics.
“We think this is not totally academic,” one of the researchers involved, theoretical physicist Chris Quigg from the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory, told Gizmodo.
“Its discovery may well happen.”
If your high school chemistry and physics is a little rusty, below the level of the atom, you’ve got subatomic particles including protons and neutrons, which are made up of composite particles called hadrons, which are in turn composed of elementary particles called quarks.
The idea of quarks was first proposed back in the 1960s, and ever since then physicists have been investigating how these mystifying particles – which don’t have any smaller substructure we’re aware of – arrange themselves to help make up the building blocks of matter we can touch and feel.
Now, two separate teams of scientists think they’ve got firm theoretical evidence of one new such arrangement, called the tetraquark – a stable configuration made up of four quark particles.
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