With the invention of bubble chambers and spark chambers in the 1950s, experimental particle physics discovered a large and ever-growing number of particles called hadrons. It seemed that such a large number of particles could not all be fundamental. First, the particles were classified by charge and isospin by Eugene Wigner and Werner Heisenberg; then, in 1953, according to strangeness by Murray Gell-Mann and Kazuhiko Nishijima. To gain greater insight, the hadrons were sorted into groups having similar properties and masses using the eightfold way, invented in 1961 by Gell-Mann and Yuval Ne'eman. Gell-Mann and George Zweig, correcting an earlier approach of Shoichi Sakata, went on to propose in 1963 that the structure of the groups could be explained by the existence of three flavors of smaller particles inside the hadrons: the quarks.
Perhaps the first remark that quarks should possess an additional quantum number was made as a short footnote in the preprint of Boris Struminsky in connection with Ω- hyperon composed of three strange quarks with parallel spins (this situation was peculiar, because since quarks are fermions, such combination is forbidden by the Pauli exclusion principle):
Three identical quarks cannot form an antisymmetric S-state. In order to realize an antisymmetric orbital S-state, it is necessary for the quark to have an additional quantum number.
— B. V. Struminsky, Magnetic moments of barions in the quark model, JINR-Preprint P-1939, Dubna, Submitted on January 7, 1965
Boris Struminsky was a PhD student of Nikolay Bogolyubov. The problem considered in this preprint was suggested by Nikolay Bogolyubov, who advised Boris Struminsky in this research. In the beginning of 1965, Nikolay Bogolyubov, Boris Struminsky and Albert Tavchelidze wrote a preprint with a more detailed discussion of the additional quark quantum degree of freedom. This work was also presented by Albert Tavchelidze without obtaining consent of his collaborators for doing so at an international conference in Trieste (Italy), in May 1965.
A similar mysterious situation was with the Δ++ baryon; in the quark model, it is composed of three up quarks with parallel spins. In 1965, Moo-Young Han with Yoichiro Nambu and Oscar W. Greenberg independently resolved the problem by proposing that quarks possess an additional SU(3) gauge degree of freedom, later called color charge. Han and Nambu noted that quarks might interact via an octet of vector gauge bosons: the gluons.
Since free quark searches consistently failed to turn up any evidence for the new particles, and because an elementary particle back then was defined as a particle which could be separated and isolated, Gell-Mann often said that quarks were merely convenient mathematical constructs, not real particles. The meaning of this statement was usually clear in context: He meant quarks are confined, but he also was implying that the strong interactions could probably not be fully described by quantum field theory.
Richard Feynman argued that high energy experiments showed quarks are real particles: he called them partons (since they were parts of hadrons). By particles, Feynman meant objects which travel along paths, elementary particles in a field theory.
The difference between Feynman's and Gell-Mann's approaches reflected a deep split in the theoretical physics community. Feynman thought the quarks have a distribution of position or momentum, like any other particle, and he (correctly) believed that the diffusion of parton momentum explained diffractive scattering. Although Gell-Mann believed that certain quark charges could be localized, he was open to the possibility that the quarks themselves could not be localized because space and time break down. This was the more radical approach of S-matrix theory.
James Bjorken proposed that pointlike partons would imply certain relations should hold in deep inelastic scattering of electrons and protons, which were spectacularly verified in experiments at SLAC in 1969. This led physicists to abandon the S-matrix approach for the strong interactions.
The discovery of asymptotic freedom in the strong interactions by David Gross, David Politzer and Frank Wilczek allowed physicists to make precise predictions of the results of many high energy experiments using the quantum field theory technique of perturbation theory. Evidence of gluons was discovered in three jet events at PETRA in 1979. These experiments became more and more precise, culminating in the verification of perturbative QCD at the level of a few percent at the LEP in CERN.
The other side of asymptotic freedom is confinement. Since the force between color charges does not decrease with distance, it is believed that quarks and gluons can never be liberated from hadrons. This aspect of the theory is verified within lattice QCD computations, but is not mathematically proven. One of the Millennium Prize Problems announced by the Clay Mathematics Institute requires a claimant to produce such a proof. Other aspects of non-perturbative QCD are the exploration of phases of quark matter, including the quark-gluon plasma.
The relation between the short-distance particle limit and the confining long-distance limit is one of the topics recently explored using string theory, the modern form of S-matrix theory.
Read more about this topic: Quantum Chromodynamics
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