Particle Decay:

Quarks cannot exist in solitude. The force between quarks is the strong nuclear force, and at short distances, i.e. less than ~0.5fm (less than 5x10-16m - approximately the radius of a nucleon) the attractive strong force is similar to the repulsive electromagnetic force felt between charges.

At greater distances between a quark / anti-quark pair, the strong force increases. Eventually a gluon (strong force carrier) will have enough energy to spontaneously split into a new quark / anti-quark pair. This process can be compared to a stretched elastic band - the band stretches and the energy increases until there is enough energy to split the band in two.

The quarks and anti-quarks produced are highly energetic and decay into a cascade of hadrons, called a jet. The picture below shows two jets produced from a Z boson at the LEP (Large Electron-Positron Collider) at CERN in Geneva.

Some of the hadrons generated in the jets may decay themselves, meaning that the jets will also contain leptons such as electrons or neutrinos.

Last modified Sat 22 December 2001 . View page history
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