Tuesday, October 05, 2004

Asymptotic freedom in the color force

This has nothing to do with marketing, training, or the internet, but it's very cool. The 2004 Nobel Prize in Physics is going to three Americans, David Gross, H. David Politzer, and Frank Wilczek for discovering that, in the tiniest of particles, gravity appears to go into reverse and act like a rubber band.

The closer to each other that the quarks inside a proton and a neutron get, the weaker is the force that pulls them to each other; the further apart they move, the stronger the force. When the quarks get very close to each other, they act almost like free particles that are not bound to each other by any force at all.

The force attracting quarks to each other is known as the "strong force" or the "color force". The reverse-gravity phenomenon is called ”asymptotic freedom”.

Why does it matter? Because matter matters, and quarks are at the heart of matter. The discovery is a foundation of the theory of Quantum ChromoDynamics, which in turn is important to the dream of building a theory of everything, a model that explains the interactions among everything from the largest objects in the universe to the smallest. And all of us in between.

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