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The new electron-ion collider can solve the mystery of how matter binds

Nobel Prize-winning American physicist Robert Hofstadter And his team fired very energetic electrons into a small vial of hydrogen. Stanford Linear Accelerator Center In 1956, they opened the door to a new era in physics. Until then, the protons and neutrons that make up the nucleus were thought to be the most basic particles in nature. They were considered “points” in space, lacking physical dimensions. Now, it suddenly became clear that these particles were not basic and had a size and complex internal structure.

What Hofstadter and his team saw was a slight deviation in how the electrons “scattered” or bounced off when they hit hydrogen. This suggested that there was more in the nucleus than the punctate protons and neutrons they had imagined. Experiments conducted around the world on accelerators, machines that propel particles to very high energies, have foretold a paradigm shift in the understanding of matter.

Still, there are still many things we don’t know about atomic nuclei. There is also one of the four, the “strong force.” Basic power Natural, it holds it together. Now a brand new accelerator, Electron collision type accelerator It will be built within 10 years at Brookhaven National Laboratory in Long Island, USA. 1,300 scientists From all over the world, it can help take nuclear understanding to a new level. Strong but strange power

After the revelation of the 1950s, it It became clear immediately Particles called quarks and gluons Basic components Of the problem. They are components of hadrons, a generic term for protons and other particles. Sometimes people put these kinds of particles together like a lego, and quarks of a particular composition make protons, then protons and neutrons combine to make nuclei, which attract electrons to make atoms. You may imagine that. However, quarks and gluons are not static components.

Theory called Quantum chromodynamics Explain how strong forces work between quarks, mediated by the force carrier gluons. However, the properties of protons cannot be calculated analytically. This is not the fault of our theorists or computers — the equation itself is simply unsolvable.

This is why experimental studies of protons and other hadrons are so important. To understand the proton and its binding force, we need to study it from all angles. For this reason, accelerators are our most powerful tool.

But when we look at protons in a collider (a type of accelerator that uses two beams), what we see depends on how deep and what we see. A sea full of gluons, or pairs of quarks and their antiparticles (antiparticles are about the same as particles, but have opposite charges or other quantum properties). How can an electron colliding with a charged atom reveal its nuclear structure? Brookhaven National Laboratory / Flickr Therefore, while this minimum-scale understanding of matter has made great strides in the last 60 years, many mysteries remain that today’s tools cannot adequately address. What is the nature of quark confinement within hadrons? How does the mass of a proton come from a quark that is 1,000 […]

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