Particle physics. Ultimately, showing someone the standard model and then expecting them to understand particle physics is a bit like someone watching a documentary on the pyramids of Giza and then being expected to decipher the cryptic hieroglyphics lining the walls on the inside. Both are things that will take years of study to fully understand (and even then, there is a lot we don’t get).
That being said, we have compiled a beginner’s guide to the basics of the Standard Model terminology, and included some very common misconceptions and descriptions of the more abstract workings. With particle physicists, they like to have all similar sounding names to describe different groups of particles, which can get very confusing. But hopefully, after reading this, you will better understand particle physics and the various articles that contain the subject matter.
First, let’s talk about hadrons. Hadrons are defined as any particle consisting of multiple quarks. In essence, they form different particles ranging from mesons (two quark particles) to baryons (three quark particles). The most common three quark particles are actually the ones found inside the nucleus of atoms, and they are called nucleons. (These are known as the familiar proton, and the unstable neutron.) This is an area of extremely density, with a small radius that is typically 100 000 times smaller than the radius of the electrons that orbit it. As strange as that sounds, it is where the majority of the mass can be found, in the form of energy.
The important thing to note with nucleons is that they are full of stuff popping in and out of existence, for only a brief amount of time (sometimes called ‘quantum foam,’ other times, we call the phenomenon ‘virtual particles’), but overall have no net flow of energy. The conservation of quantum numbers (like electric charge), with 2 up quarks and a down quark in a proton, and 2 down quarks and an up quark in a neutron, keeps everything consistent, in midst of the crazy field fluctuations inside a nucleon.