Kwork - Classification


See also: Standard Model

The Standard Model is the theoretical framework describing all the currently known elementary particles, as well as the Higgs boson. This model contains six flavors of quarks (q), named up (u), down (d), strange (s), charm (c), bottom (b), and top (t). Antiparticles of quarks are called antiquarks, and are denoted by a bar over the symbol for the corresponding quark, such as u for an up antiquark. As with antimatter in general, antiquarks have the same mass, mean lifetime, and spin as their respective quarks, but the electric charge and other charges have the opposite sign.

Quarks are spin-1⁄2 particles, implying that they are fermions according to the spin-statistics theorem. They are subject to the Pauli exclusion principle, which states that no two identical fermions can simultaneously occupy the same quantum state. This is in contrast to bosons (particles with integer spin), any number of which can be in the same state. Unlike leptons, quarks possess color charge, which causes them to engage in the strong interaction. The resulting attraction between different quarks causes the formation of composite particles known as hadrons (see "Strong interaction and color charge" below).

The quarks which determine the quantum numbers of hadrons are called valence quarks; apart from these, any hadron may contain an indefinite number of virtual (or sea) quarks, antiquarks, and gluons which do not influence its quantum numbers. There are two families of hadrons: baryons, with three valence quarks, and mesons, with a valence quark and an antiquark. The most common baryons are the proton and the neutron, the building blocks of the atomic nucleus. A great number of hadrons are known (see list of baryons and list of mesons), most of them differentiated by their quark content and the properties these constituent quarks confer. The existence of "exotic" hadrons with more valence quarks, such as tetraquarks (qqqq) and pentaquarks (qqqqq), has been conjectured but not proven.

Elementary fermions are grouped into three generations, each comprising two leptons and two quarks. The first generation includes up and down quarks, the second strange and charm quarks, and the third bottom and top quarks. All searches for a fourth generation of quarks and other elementary fermions have failed, and there is strong indirect evidence that no more than three generations exist. Particles in higher generations generally have greater mass and less stability, causing them to decay into lower-generation particles by means of weak interactions. Only first-generation (up and down) quarks occur commonly in nature. Heavier quarks can only be created in high-energy collisions (such as in those involving cosmic rays), and decay quickly; however, they are thought to have been present during the first fractions of a second after the Big Bang, when the universe was in an extremely hot and dense phase (the quark epoch). Studies of heavier quarks are conducted in artificially created conditions, such as in particle accelerators.

Having electric charge, mass, color charge, and flavor, quarks are the only known elementary particles that engage in all four fundamental interactions of contemporary physics: electromagnetism, gravitation, strong interaction, and weak interaction. Gravitation is too weak to be relevant to individual particle interactions except at extremes of energy (Planck energy) and distance scales (Planck distance). However, since no successful quantum theory of gravity exists, gravitation is not described by the Standard Model.

See the table of properties below for a more complete overview of the six quark flavors' properties.

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