Last modified on 10 June 2009, at 00:46

Quantum Mechanics/Quarks and Leptons

All fermionic-based matter is divided into two broad categories: hadrons and leptons.

All the hadrons are composed of quarks, whereas leptons are material particles not containing quarks. Furthermore, leptons are believed to be point-like fundamental particles.

Quarks come in 6 different types:

Generation Charge = -1/3 Charge = +2/3
1st d (down) u (up)
2nd s (strange) c (charm)
3rd t (truth=top) b (beauty=bottom)

The quarks are never seen in isolation but always bound together in pairs or triplets, to form protons, neutrons, and many other particles. The up and down quarks form the protons and neutrons that we are familiar with: a proton is a bound state of 2 up quarks and 1 down quark, whilst a neutron is a bound state of 1 up quark and 2 down quarks.

particle quark composition
p (proton) uud
n (neutron) udd
\Lambda (lambda barion) uds
\pi^+ (charged pion) u\bar{d}
\pi^- (charged pion) d\bar{u}

Leptons also come in 6 different varieties:

Generation Charge = -1 Charge = 0
1st e (electron) \nu_{e} (the electron's neutrino)
2nd \mu (muon) \nu_{\mu} (the muon's neutrino)
3rd \tau (tau) \nu_{\tau} (the tau's neutrino)

Until recent years it was thought the neutrino was a massless particle but it has since been found that neutrinos can "oscillate" (change) between different types. This is only possible if they have mass, albeit a very small mass in the case of the electron neutrino.