This is what a proton looks like

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[EN VIDÉO] the atom
The atom is a fundamental element of our reality, but do you really know it that well?

The chair you’re sitting in right now. L ‘PC where you read this topic. And evenbird which you hear sung by window opened. The matter around us is made up of atoms. Small particles invisible to ours eyes. Small particles themselves consist of electrons, neutrons and protons. Even smaller particles. Even more invisible.

Invisible, but still very real. So have you ever wondered what these little particles look like? Kind of small solar systems consists of electrons orbiting a nucleus consisting of neutrons and protons. This is the image that has long been suggested. But physicists of today know that it is not fair. And when one has to start somewhere, researchers have from Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT, USA) invites us to discover what a protona particle no larger than a femtometer – ie. 10-15 meters. And spoils attention, it’s not quite the perfect billiard ball that we are still traditionally presented with in school.

To be honest, MIT researchers have been thinking about it for almost twenty years now. Let them reflect on the best way to give us an accurate picture of what a proton is. The idea of ​​making it a simple robot portrait was quickly rejected. Because the world of physical particles are somehow … alive! He develops. He’s in it movement. Particles are created. Others disappear. Some are transformed. And only an animation could make this reality tangible.

But the physicists at MIT really wanted to go beyond everything that was known. Of all that had already been presented so far. They set themselves a real challenge: collaborating with artists. To provide animation that is both scientifically accurate and visually appealing. Make bold choices that would help “People come from there with a better understanding of their interpretation and of physics in general”.

The proton, a particle in the end not so elusive

Before proceeding, keep in mind that scientists have determined that the proton is not one elementary particle. It consists of three quarks – two called up quarks and one called down quark. And it is this force that physicists callstrong interaction which binds them together. Through the exchange of gluons. This interaction is so powerful that quarks and gluons have never before been observed separately.

The artists who worked with the MIT teams thus depicted quarks as points of light. Moving points of light if color constantly evolving, going from red to green and blue to represent the color charges that occur between the quarks and the gluons that are exposed to the strong interaction. For according to quantum theory, all systems are of quarks and gluons wear equal numbers of these three colors. Even if they are not actually colored blue, red or green.

Experiments performed with increasingly efficient particle accelerators have also shown physicists that in the heart of the proton, it is generally the gluons that make the law. But in some regions, quarks are taking over. Within a few years, a new instrument, the Electron Ion Collider (USA), should make it possible to specify what is happening at the borders of these regions. But even now, the team that helped MIT scientists produce a faithful representation of the proton has succeeded in constructing an animation that accounts for its changing structure. A structure dominated by gluons that constantly separate and recombine when “exposure time” – which to some extent corresponds to the fraction of the proton moment carried by a quark or a gluon – is weak. When “exposure time” rises, it is the process of creation of a gluon of a quark and its antiquark that appears. Finally with one “exposure time” high, the three quarks that form the proton are displayed.

Better than that, the researchers managed to picture what one observes when sinking into the heart of the proton. When increasing solution spatial. When details appear and a relativistic effect causes the proton to lose its spherical shape and turn it into a disk. For one “exposure time” weak, an increasing number of gluons occur. For one “exposure time” high it is a rather coarse structure, yet defined and consisting of three quarks, which becomes more marked.

The researchers are now planning to work on developing a 3D version of this visualization of the proton. Before later an animation of atomic nuclei. And honestly, who does not dream of following them into the marvelous world of physics in the infinitely small?

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