Liverpool, UK -- Particle physicists are embarking on a new attempt to solve the mysteries of quarks with the completion of the three most powerful supercomputers ever applied to this problem, including one in Edinburgh which scientists at the University of Liverpool helped to design and build.
The proton consists of three quarks, two up and one down, living in a complicated soup of dynamical quarks, antiquarks and gluons, which have colour charges. (Image courtesy of University Of Liverpool)
Quarks are the fundamental particles that make up 99.9% of ordinary matter; yet it is impossible to examine a single quark in the laboratory. Consequently, some of the basic properties of quarks are not known, such as their precise masses or why they exist in six different types.
Quarks are bound together by the Strong Force, which is weak when the quarks are close, but increases steadily as you try to separate them, making it impossible to isolate a single quark. Instead, the theory describing the Strong Force, called Quantum Chromodynamics (QCD), has to be simulated on huge computers.