Strong Interaction - History


Before the 1970s, physicists were uncertain about the binding mechanism of the atomic nucleus. It was known that the nucleus was composed of protons and neutrons and that protons possessed positive electric charge while neutrons were electrically neutral. However, these facts seemed to contradict one another. By physical understanding at that time, positive charges would repel one another and the nucleus should therefore fly apart. However, this was never observed. New physics was needed to explain this phenomenon.

A stronger attractive force was postulated to explain how the atomic nucleus was bound together despite the protons' mutual electromagnetic repulsion. This hypothesized force was called the strong force, which was believed to be a fundamental force that acted on the nucleons (the protons and neutrons that make up the nucleus).

It was later discovered that protons and neutrons were not fundamental particles, but were made up of constituent particles called quarks. The strong attraction between nucleons was the side-effect of a more fundamental force that bound the quarks together in the protons and neutrons. The theory of quantum chromodynamics explains that quarks carry what is called a color charge, although it has no relation to visible color. Quarks with unlike color charge attract one another as a result of the strong interaction, which is mediated by particles called gluons.

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