Conjectured phase diagram on the ˜ΩI−T plane around the axis of rotation, ˜r=0 , for the case SU(3). The solid curves represent the phase transition. Credit: Physical examination letters (2022). DOI: 10.1103/PhysRevLett.129.242002
A new way to study quarks, one of the building blocks of protons and neutrons that make up atomic nuclei, is proposed. This has never been done before and success would help answer many fundamental questions in physics. In particular, researchers could use the new approach to determine how matter gets its mass.
Studying the material can seem a bit like opening a stack of Russian matryoshka dolls, with each lower level revealing another familiar, yet different, arrangement of components that are smaller and harder to explore than the last. On our everyday scale, we have objects that we can see and touch. Whether it’s water in a glass or the glass itself, it’s mostly arrangements of molecules too small to see.
The tools of physics, microscopes, particle accelerators, and so on, allow us to look deeper to reveal that molecules are made from atoms. But it doesn’t stop there: atoms are made up of a nucleus surrounded by electrons.
The nucleus is an arrangement of nucleons (protons and neutrons) which gives the atom its properties and its mass. But it doesn’t stop there either; nucleons are also made up of less familiar things called quarks and gluons. And it is at this scale that our knowledge of fundamental physics encounters a blockage.
For researchers to explore quarks and gluons, they should ideally be isolated from each other; however, at present this seems impossible. When particle accelerators smash atoms together and create showers of atomic debris, quarks and gluons re-bind too quickly for researchers to explore in detail. New research from the University of Tokyo’s Department of Physics suggests that we may soon be unlocking the next layer of the matryoshka doll.
“To better understand our material world, we need to do experiments, and to improve experiences, we need to explore new approaches to how we do things,” said Professor Kenji Fukushima. “We have sketched out a possible way to identify the mechanism responsible for quark confinement. It’s a long-standing problem in physics, and if it comes to fruition, it could reveal deep mysteries about matter and the structure of space. ‘universe.”
The mass of subatomic quarks is incredibly small. Together, the quarks in a nucleon make up less than 2% of the total mass, and the gluons appear to be entirely massless. So physicists suggest that the majority of atomic mass actually comes from how quarks and gluons are bound together, rather than from the elements themselves.
They are bound by the so-called strong force, one of the four fundamental forces of nature, including electromagnetism and gravity, and the strong force itself is thought to impart mass to a nucleon. It’s part of a theory known as quantum chromodynamics (QCD), where “chromo” comes from the Greek word for color, which is why you sometimes hear quarks called red, green, or blue, despite the fact that they are colorless.
“Rigorous proof that strong force begets mass remains elusive,” Fukushima said. “The hurdle is that QCD describes things in a way that makes theoretical calculations difficult. Our achievement is to demonstrate that the strong force, in a particular set of circumstances, can achieve quark confinement.
“We did this by interpreting some observed parameters of quarks as a new variable which we call the imaginary angular velocity. Although purely mathematical in nature, it can be converted back into real values of things we can control. This should lead to a way to achieve an exotic state of rapidly rotating quark matter once we learn to turn our idea into an experience.”
The research is published in the journal Physical examination letters.
Shi Chen et al, Perturbative confinement in Yang-Mills thermal theories induced by imaginary angular velocity, Physical examination letters (2022). DOI: 10.1103/PhysRevLett.129.242002
Provided by University of Tokyo
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