What are quarks? Nuclear physics and science

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What are quarks? Tiny particles found all over the universe.

What are quarks? Tiny particles found all over the universe.

What are quarks?

Quarks and electrons are the tiniest particles. There are three quarks in every proton and three in every neutron, and protons and neutrons are the pieces of an atom. We can’t see a quark, even with an electron microscope, but we know they must exist because that’s the only way to explain what happens when scientists do certain experiments.

Quarks and the Big Bang

The first quarks probably came into being just at the time of the Big Bang, right at the beginning of the universe. At that time, there was nothing in space but lots of electrons and quarks, and positrons and anti-quarks. But quarks don’t like to be alone, so less than a second after the Big Bang the quarks were already teaming up to make protons and neutrons and mesons and photons. After less than five minutes, the protons and neutrons were already joining up with the electrons to make hydrogen and helium atoms.

Six kinds of quarks

There are six kinds of quarks – up quarks, down quarks, strange quarks, charm quarks, bottom quarks, and top quarks. Their names don’t really mean anything, just that they are different kinds of quarks. A proton is made of two up quarks and a down quark, and a neutron is made of two down quarks and an up quark. A force called the strong nuclear force holds the quarks together. Up quarks have a little bit of mass, but most of the mass of a proton comes from the strong nuclear force itself, rather than from the quarks.

So what are quarks? Did you find out from this article? Let us know in the comments!

Learn by doing: add up how many quarks there are in an oxygen atom
More about atoms

Bibliography and further reading about quarks:

Quatr.us home

By |2018-04-24T14:44:13+00:00June 2nd, 2017|Physics|6 Comments
Cite this page: Carr, K.E. What are quarks? Nuclear physics and science. Quatr.us Study Guides, June 2, 2017. Web. January 21, 2019.

About the Author:

Dr. Karen Carr is Associate Professor Emerita, Department of History, Portland State University. She holds a doctorate in Classical Art and Archaeology from the University of Michigan. Follow her on Instagram, Pinterest, or Facebook, or buy her book, Vandals to Visigoths.


  1. cal October 26, 2018 at 7:05 am - Reply

    i literally learned nothing. an absolute waste of time.

    • Karen Carr October 26, 2018 at 7:17 am

      Sorry to hear it, Cal! What were you trying to find out?

  2. lu June 4, 2018 at 9:02 pm - Reply

    What is the relationship between the atomic theory and the kinetic molecular theory?

    • Karen Carr June 5, 2018 at 10:38 am

      Well, one depends on the other. Atomic theory is the idea that everything is made of atoms, and atoms themselves are made of smaller particles (some of which, in turn, are made of even smaller particles). The kinetic molecular theory is the idea that atoms join together into molecules, and the molecules (or sometimes smaller particles) move around in space faster or slower. We call fast-moving molecules “hot” and slow-moving molecules “cold”. There are some good explanations here: http://chemed.chem.purdue.edu/genchem/topicreview/bp/ch4/kinetic4.html

  3. muliika siraje December 8, 2017 at 5:53 pm - Reply

    Comment…I need more knowledge about atomic structures

    • Karen Carr December 9, 2017 at 11:39 pm

      If you ask a question, I’ll try to answer it…

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