There are three Quarks in a Proton – Wrong!

Deskarati has found out that we have been lied too. Well perhaps this is a bit of an exaggeration,  lets say mislead. Phil Krause (one of Deskarati’s researchers) has brought it to our attention that there are more than three Quarks in a proton, quite a few more! So we did what all good editors do – we looked on Wikipedia. This is what it says:

In the modern Standard Model of particle physics, the proton is a hadron, composed of quarks. Prior to that model becoming a consensus in the physics community, the proton was considered a fundamental particle. In the modern view, a proton is composed of three valence quarks: two up quarks and one down quark. The rest mass of the quarks are thought to contribute only about 1% of the proton’s mass. The remainder of the proton mass is due to the kinetic energy of the quarks and to the energy of the gluon fields that bind the quarks together.

This seemed fairly clear, two up one down. So we asked Phil where he got this revelation that there are more than three quarks in a proton and he suggested we have look at an excellent website called which is run by (you guessed it) Proffessor Matt Strassler. Matt is a theoretical physicist at Rutgers University with over 75 papers on string theory and particle physics to his name. And this is what Prof. Strassler has to say:

You may have heard that a proton is made from three quarks.  Indeed here are several pages that say so.  This is a lie — a white lie, but a big one.  In fact there are zillions of gluons, antiquarks, and quarks in a proton.   The standard shorthand, “the proton is made from two up quarks and one down quark”, is really a statement that the proton has two more up quarks than up antiquarks, and one more down quark than down antiquarks.   To make the glib shorthand correct you need to add the phrase “plus zillions of gluons and zillions of quark-antiquark pairs.”  Without this phrase, one’s view of the proton is so simplistic that it is not possible to understand the LHC at all.

Once again our understanding has to be changed (remember Bohr’s atom). So we got to thinking, what would it really look like inside a proton and we came up with this rather crude, but somewhat more realistic graphic of – the deskarati proton:

By the way, at this scale, if this proton was at the centre of a hydrogen atom it’s electron would be making a cloud around it with a diameter of about 3 miles!

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One Response to There are three Quarks in a Proton – Wrong!

  1. Arnab R says:

    So..what Professor Matt is saying is that..

    What we know that a Proton has Two UP and one DOWN Quark is actually the simplified Picture designed for a layman..and there are actually Zillions of Quark-Anti Quark Pair and also the Gluons which does Generate the Gluon field itself..

    Quite a nice article..Thanks !!!

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