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What are Quarks?

Outline

Objects

Quarks are often thought of as things, particles or objects — like protons and electrons. And objects are defined in a popular dictionary as “anything that is or may be apprehended by the senses; especially a tangible or visible thing.”1Funk and Wagnalls, Standard College Dictionary, Canadian Edition. Longmans, Toronto 1963. But have you ever seen a proton or electron? Can they satisfy this definition? Are they objects?

Perhaps not, so consider some philosophical possibilities. According to the ontological theory of bundles developed in the 18th century by Scottish philosopher David Hume an object consists of its sensory properties, and nothing more. However, according to substance theory an object is more than just its sensory properties, and this can be relevant in discussions about the value of human life.

For EthnoPhysics, we prefer Hume’s position, at least as a definition for physical objects. But we also accept a constraint of judicious caution when considering human bodies. This is partly to defer bundle versus substance disputes, but also because our reference sensations are based on the human body and we want to avoid circular reasoning. The proviso limits theoretical validity. But within that range, we understand a physical object to be anything perceived by the senses, including all the sensations we have used so far to describe events. Thus objects are defined from sensations.

Objectification and Erwin Schrödinger

Objects and the objectification of sensation were analyzed by Erwin Schrödinger, pictured here around 1915.
Erwin Schrödinger circa 1915.

The intellectual process of changing over from sensations to things, is called objectification. To put it plainly, objectification is when we stop talking directly about personal perceptions, and shift instead to communal standards for describing experience. But the details can be very complicated and confusing. Indeed, EthnoPhysics is largely devoted to sorting out the technicalities. We get some help from the Austrian-Irish physicist Erwin Schrödinger who says2Erwin Schrödinger, Mind and Matter, pages 36, 37 and 76. Cambridge University Press, 1959. that objectification is

An icon indicating a quotation.... a certain simplification which we adopt in order to master the infinitely intricate problem of nature. Without being aware of it and without being rigorously systematic about it we exclude the Subject of Cognizance from the domain of nature that we endeavour to understand. We step with our own person back into the part of an onlooker who does not belong to the world, which by this very procedure becomes an objective world.

Objectification certainly allows us to make enormous simplifications through the use of established community conventions. For example measurements can be calibrated, and discussions can use jargon. Objectification changes the style of descriptive narrative from using adjectives for identifying sensations, to using nouns for identifying particles. Schrödinger suggests that this process is motivated by a practical need to disentangle causes and effects.

An icon indicating a quotation.No single man can make a distinction between the realm of his perceptions and the realm of things that cause it, since however detailed the knowledge he may have acquired about the whole story, the story is occurring only once not twice. The duplication is an allegory, suggested mainly by communication with other human beings …

So when trying to understand causal relationships, objectifying a description frees us from personal constraints. Objectified narratives can be systematically adapted to suit personal sensory limitations (e.g. deafness or blindness). And objectified accounts can also be systematically extended to exploit whatever stimuli are presented by phenomena of interest, including perceptions outside the usual range (e.g. ultraviolet-photography or radio-astronomy). Schrödinger notes that objectification is

An icon indicating a quotation.... an inheritance from the ancient Greeks, from whom all our Western science and scientific thought has originated.

Next we trace much of this legacy back to Anaxagoras of Clazomenae as we look at his strong formative influence on European physics.

Anaxagoras of Clazomenae

Anaxagoras was a philosopher who taught in Athens about 2,500 years ago. He is credited3Daniel E. Gershenson and Daniel A. Greenberg, Anaxagoras and the Birth of Scientific Method, page 2. Blaisdell Publishing, New York 1964. with strongly influencing the development of scientific method . He wrote about cosmology and physics, but only scraps of his work survive today. Even so, here is an revealing fragment that has endured.4Felix M. Cleve, The Philosophy of Anaxagoras, page 4. King’s Crown Press, Columbia University, New York 1949.

Anaxagoras of Clazomenae is depicted holding a globe with his foot on a cippus on this ancient coin.

An icon indicating a quotation.... the mixture of all things: of the moist and the dry, of the warm and the cold, of the bright and the dark … and generally, of seeds infinite in quantity, in no way like each other ...

— Anaxagoras of Clazomenae

This fragment presents Anaxagoras’ ideas in a succinct poetic form. He is concerned with sensation, and he selects a few for special attention. We call these perceptions Anaxagorean sensations. The passage suggests several conventions for a descriptive method that is deeply woven into Western thought and science. Explicitly examining these traditions gives us a deeper understanding of physics.

Narrative Conventions from Anaxagoras

  • Anaxagorean sensations are perfectly distinct, he says that they are “in no way like each other”. This is a very early statement comparable to Pauli’s exclusion principle. And it is a logical requirement for making mathematical descriptions.
  • Anaxagorean sensations are characterized as, “the warm and the cold”, or “the bright and the dark”, etc. This is the historical basis for using binary descriptions.
  • Anaxagorean sensations are objectified as σπερμάτων or “seeds”.9Gregory Vlastos, The Physical Theory of Anaxagoras. The Philosphical Review, Volume LIX Number 1, 1950.
  • “All things” are a “mixture” of these seeds.

Thus Anaxagoras established some fundamental requirements for making categorical distinctions, and for discussing them in a logical style. Next we take a closer look at these elementary particles that he posits, the conceptual seeds of Western physics.

Seeds

The elementary particles of EthnoPhysics are called seeds. Seeds are defined by objectifying some simple everyday sensations such as seeing the Sun or perhaps tasting a lemon. These commonplace perceptions are called Anaxagorean sensations. Seeds are symbolized using Roman letters without serifs.

SensationIconSeedSymbol
white

up seed

U
black

down seed

D
yellow

negative seed

E
blue

positive seed

G
green

northern seed

M
red

southern seed

A
burning

top seed

T
freezing

bottom seed

B
cool

strange seed

S
warm

charmed seed

C
right

ordinary seed

O
left

odd seed

O
tart

acidic seed

soapy

basic seed

brackish

ionic seed

potable

aqueous seed

sugary

dextro seed

savory

levo seed

otherThe orange free quirk in motion.not seeds

The letter Z represents a generic seed

Z ∈ { U, D, E, G, M, A, T, B, S, C, O, O, Ⓐ, Ⓑ, Ⓘ, Ⓦ, Ⓓ, Ⓛ }

And after objectifying experience, events that were were defined from bundles of sensation are subsequently treated as seed-aggregates. Both interpretations are mathematically represented using expressions such as

\mathsf{P}_{k} = \left\{ \mathsf{Z}_{1}, \, \mathsf{Z}_{2}, \, \mathsf{Z}_{3} \, \ldots  \rule{0px}{10px} \right\}

The intellectual process of objectification changes narrative forms of description from using adjectives for identifying sensations, to using nouns for identifying particles. For example, we may report detecting an up seed in lieu of seeing a white sensation. The seed-names given above are intended to be easy to remember, and perhaps whimsically suggestive.

But they are not to be taken literally because the poetic associations that make them memorable can also be spurious. So later, for cultural neutrality and mathematical precision, we also use a numerical index to label seeds. An important concern for any nomenclature is to avoid evoking sensation because that hinders the intent of objectification. So for example G is called a positive seed, or perhaps ‘seed number four’, but it is not called a blue seed.

Many sensations are not objectified as seeds. They may be too subtle or complex to be Anaxagorean sensations. Indeed, the taste sensation of sweetness was given a binary description only by proposing a laboratory test. So we are approaching the limits of what we can usefully describe using a simple, direct binary method.

Seeds are not enough, so Mr. Quirky is here to remind us about other sensations.
Don’t forget about other sensations.

Complicated sensations can usually be represented by seed aggregates, but not always. Recall that the list of other sensations includes everything from pheromones to love. So we had better not forget about other sensations, and here is an avatar to remind us. Anyway, it is possible to understand a lot of physics and chemistry using just these 18 seeds. And so next we present a way to organize them.

Classification of Seeds

The classification of seeds is based on the Anaxagorean sensations that are used to define them. Different seeds are objectified from different feelings. So seeds can be classified by sensation into different categories. The labels we give to these classes are arbitrary, but the following names have been carefully chosen for their mnemonic value. They will smoothly fit into our traditional ways of discussing physics and be easy to remember.

ClassSensationsSeeds

rotating seeds

achromatic visual sensations

electronic seeds

inorganic visual sensations

muonic seeds

organic visual sensations

leptonic seeds

chromatic visual sensations

dynamic seeds

visual sensations

conjugate seeds

somatic sensations

baryonic seeds

thermal sensations

big baryonic seeds

dangerous thermal sensations

small baryonic seeds

safe thermal sensations

thermodynamic seeds

thermal and visual sensations

dry seeds

sour taste sensations

wet seeds

salty taste sensations

stereochemical seeds

sweet taste sensations

electrochemical seeds

salty and sour taste sensations

chemical seeds

taste sensations

Seeds are Conserved

EthnoPhysics depends on using mathematics to describe experience. So we must comply with the logical law of noncontradiction which requires that a proposition and its negation cannot both be true. This means that a seed cannot just transform into some other kind of seed, or suddenly vanish, or spontaneously appear out of nowhere.

The definition and classification of seeds, as discussed above, provides a finite arrangement of descriptive possibilities. So, after we objectify some distinct binary sensation as a seed, then logically we cannot also reify the same experience as something else. This law is satisfied if the seeds in each orbit \mathsf{\Omega} of an isolated particle do not vary. Composite particles may change their attributes by rearranging their components. But individual seeds cannot change or else our accounts become confused and useless. So for isolated particles we require that seeds are repeatedly included in each orbit without altering their type: Seeds are conserved.

As a narrative convention we say that seeds are indestructible. We might imagine them as something like beads in the photo below. This protocol is biased toward describing patterns that are stable or reproducible. It puts some limits on the theoretical range of validity. But nonetheless, we can use these durable little particles to answer the question: What is a quark?

The classification of seeds is like classifying the beads seen in this panel from a Basap baby carrier.
Baby Carrier Panel, Basap people. Borneo 19th century, 26 x 15 cm. Photograph by D Dunlop.

Definitions of Quarks

Quarks are defined from pairs of elementary seeds. But why bother with even more tiny particles? The short answer is that it allows us to exploit a very common feature of human experience to simplify our descriptive method. To see this, consider some repetitive chain of events noted by \Psi. Earlier we gave an example of \Psi as a simple movie loop called the Almost-Dead March. That story was dull, so here is a more detailed example called the March to a Better Tomorrow. It begins with a terrible battle, there was blood everywhere.

Unfortunately, our heroes lost and had to retreat. There was a long march back to safer ground; left, right, left, right … up into the mountains … left, right, left right. It was freezing, and the marchers were almost dead. But then the sun came out, it warmed up, spirits rose and they continued on.

We can make a mathematical version of this brief story-line as follows. The slog through bloody battle can be represented by associating a red sensation with each step, so the first couple of events are

\mathsf{P}_{1} =

{

,

}

and

\mathsf{P}_{2} =

{

,

}

These two steps are bundled together

\mathsf{\Omega} = ( \mathsf{P}_{1}  , \mathsf{P}_{2} ) =

(

{

,

}

,

{

,

}

)

And then repeated over and over again to express battle sequences as \left( \mathsf{\Omega}_{1}, \, \mathsf{\Omega}_{2}, \, \mathsf{\Omega}_{3}  \; \ldots \; \right). Similarly, the long freezing march through the mountains could be represented by

\mathsf{\Omega}^{'} =

(

{

,

}

,

{

,

}

)

And when it warms up, the march might be described as

\mathsf{\Omega}^{''} =

(

{

,

}

,

{

,

}

)

Overall we can make a crude representation of the story with just a beginning, middle and ending as

\Psi  = \left( \mathsf{\Omega}_{1}, \, \mathsf{\Omega}_{2}  \; \ldots  \; \mathsf{\Omega}^{\prime}_{\mathit{j}}, \,  \mathsf{\Omega}^{\prime}_{\mathit{j} + \mathsf{1}}  \; \ldots \;  \mathsf{\Omega}^{\prime \prime}_{k}, \,  \mathsf{\Omega}^{\prime \prime}_{k+1}  \; \ldots \right)

This mathematical portrayal is getting complicated even though it conveys much less information than the original storyline. So to simplify we define a new class of particles that are combinations of conjugate seeds and thermodynamic seeds. For example let

Quarks defined from southern seeds are shown in this iconic image.

\equiv

{

,

}

and
Quarks defined from red sensations are represented by this icon.

\equiv

{

,

}

Then the events of battle can be represented using half as many particles. We can write

\mathsf{\Omega} =

(

Quarks defined from southern seeds are shown in this iconic image.

,

Quarks defined from red sensations are represented by this icon.

)

instead of

\mathsf{\Omega} =

(

{

,

}

,

{

,

}

)

Reducing the number of particles by a factor of two is a huge simplification, and we intend to use it a lot. So we give special names to these new particles: The enduring union of a conjugate seed and a thermodynamic seed is called a thermodynamic quark. Quarks are symbolized using lower-case Roman letters without serifs, and they are named after their thermodynamic seeds.

Thus quarks are objectified from pairs of Anaxagorean sensations. Objectification changes narrative forms of description from using adjectives to identify sensations, to using nouns for identifying particles. For example, we may report detecting a top-quark instead of feeling a burning sensation on the right side.

There are twenty thermodynamic quarks defined in the table below. Click on the links to read more about different quark types. You can also click on the quark icons, here and on other pages, for more detail about specific quarks.

Twenty Thermodynamic Quarks
burning sensation on the right
+
top quark
burning sensation on the left
+
top anti-quark
freezing sensation on the right
+
bottom quark
freezing sensation on the left

+

bottom anti-quark
cool sensation on the right

+

strange quark
cool sensation on the left

+

strange anti-quark
warm sensation on the right

+

charmed quark
warm sensation on the left

+

charmed anti-quark
white sensation on the right

+

up quark
white sensation on the left

+

up anti-quark
black sensation on the right

+

down quark
black sensation on the left

+

down anti-quark
yellow sensation on the right

+

negative quark
yellow sensation on the left

+

negative anti-quark
blue sensation on the right

+

positive quark
blue sensation on the left

+

positive anti-quark
green sensation on the right

+

northern quark
green sensation on the left

+

northern anti-quark
red sensation on the right

+

Quarks defined from southern seeds are shown in this iconic image.
southern quark
red sensation on the left

+

Quarks defined from red sensations are represented by this icon.
southern anti-quark
Quarks are like these painted building-blocks.

Quarks are building-blocks we can use to describe more complicated sensations. If you imagine the grey conjugate seeds as the basic building-blocks for these marching scenarios, then the quarks are like painted blocks. Descriptions made using quarks hide complexity, and they are more succinct. But these compressed reports are still useful because our bodies have bilateral symmetry. So many sensations are directly experienced with strong left-side and right-side associations. For example, we usually see with binocular vision, and hear in stereo. So dropping seeds in favor of quarks does not lose too much precision. Thus we exploit a very common symmetric feature of almost all human experience to simplify our descriptive method. Next we talk about EthnoPhysics faviconCounting Quarks.

References
1Funk and Wagnalls, Standard College Dictionary, Canadian Edition. Longmans, Toronto 1963.
2Erwin Schrödinger, Mind and Matter, pages 36, 37 and 76. Cambridge University Press, 1959.
3Daniel E. Gershenson and Daniel A. Greenberg, Anaxagoras and the Birth of Scientific Method, page 2. Blaisdell Publishing, New York 1964.
4Felix M. Cleve, The Philosophy of Anaxagoras, page 4. King’s Crown Press, Columbia University, New York 1949.
5Patricia Curd, Anaxagoras of Clazomenae, page 19. University of Toronto Press, Toronto 2007.
6Arthur Fairbanks, The First Philosophers of Greece , page 237. K. Paul, Trench, Trubner and Company, London 1898.
7John Burnet, Early Greek Philosophy , page 283. Adam and Charles Black Publishers, London 1892.
8David Sider, The Fragments of Anaxagoras, second edition, page 102. Academia Verlag, Sankt Agustin 2005.
9Gregory Vlastos, The Physical Theory of Anaxagoras. The Philosphical Review, Volume LIX Number 1, 1950.