eli5: What do strange quarks and charm quarks do.


I tried just searching it up but I couldn’t find any direct or even remotely simple answers.

In: Physics

The reason you can’t any direct or simple answers is because there really isn’t any. Quarks don’t “do” things. They’re fundamental particles. They just “are”. More so, we only really understand through theories and equations. There isn’t really a version of them that can be fully understood outside of advanced mathematics because, as quantum particles, to us, they exist almost solely within mathematics. All you really need to know is certain arrangements and combinations of Quarks make up larger particles, like protons and neutrons. Unfortunately, the foundation of our universe just isn’t all rhyme and reason.

Mainly, they decay into lighter (down and up) quarks really fast.

Under our everyday conditions, quarks cannot exist on their own due to a property of the strong force called “color confinement”. All quarks experience this because they and some particles they interact with called “gluons” have something called a “color charge” which is kind of like electric charge but has three kinds of charge plus three kinds of anticharge. So, as soon as they come into existence, they naturally partner up into partners called hadrons. However, the 4 heavier quarks (charm, strange, top, and bottom) can undergo decay in which they transform into lighter quarks via something called the weak interaction or weak force.

Particles naturally tend to the lowest energy state, and heavier particles have higher energy, so this happens pretty fast. A positive quark decays into a lighter negative quark by emitting a W+ boson, and a negative quark decays into a lighter positive quark by emitting a W- boson. Those W bosons are also heavy, so they tend to decay into lightweight leptons, like the electron and neutrinos.

This is somewhat simplified and is missing some details, but those are the basics. Heavier quarks like charm and strange decay into up and down quarks in a fraction of a second.