Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Humorous Aside: Those quirky quarks

If you ever wanted evidence that particle physicists are confused about the physics of very small things then go to wikipedia and read the article that describes the nature of matter. Where matter is made of elements made up of protons, electrons and neutrons. Protons and neutrons are made up of quarks. And if you want an explanation of what a quark is, suddenly you’re reading about something called color charge and color confinement - weirdly arbitrary words when trying to describe something fundamental to the universe.

It turns out that scientists assigned 6 different classifications of quarks, but not content to refer to these as different 'types' of quarks they called them different 'flavors' of quarks. The first four of the six flavors of quarks are (and I kid you not) the up quark, down quark, top quark and bottom quark. That's right there is both up/down as well as top/bottom - one would think more distinctive names could be useful. To make things even more hilarious the remaining two quarks are the charm and strange quarks - it seems like only a couple of steps from calling it the 'magic' quark while glaring one's eyes and wavering one's fingers in the audience's face.