Quantum Chromodynamics - Terminology


The word quark was coined by American physicist Murray Gell-Mann (b. 1929) in its present sense. It originally comes from the phrase "Three quarks for Muster Mark" in Finnegans Wake by James Joyce. On June 27, 1978, Gell-Mann wrote a private letter to the editor of the Oxford English Dictionary, in which he related that he had been influenced by Joyce's words: "The allusion to three quarks seemed perfect." (Originally, only three quarks had been discovered.) Gell-Mann, however, wanted to pronounce the word with (ô) not (ä), as Joyce seemed to indicate by rhyming words in the vicinity such as Mark. Gell-Mann got around that "by supposing that one ingredient of the line 'Three quarks for Muster Mark' was a cry of 'Three quarts for Mister . . . ' heard in H.C. Earwicker's pub," a plausible suggestion given the complex punning in Joyce's novel.

The three kinds of charge in QCD (as opposed to one in quantum electrodynamics or QED) are usually referred to as "color charge" by loose analogy to the three kinds of color (red, green and blue) perceived by humans. Other than this nomenclature, the quantum parameter "color" is completely unrelated to the everyday, familiar phenomenon of color.

Since the theory of electric charge is dubbed "electrodynamics", the Greek word "chroma" Χρώμα (meaning color) is applied to the theory of color charge, "chromodynamics".

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