This blog is for everyone who uses words.

The ordinary-sized words are for everyone, but the big ones are especially for children.

Friday, 14 September 2012

Word To Use Today: hadron.

There are some words we hear so often that we manage to forget that we haven't a clue what they mean.

Hadron. Yes, we know it's found in a large collider. We even know that it's helped Mr Higgs be more confident that his long-lost boson isn't just a figment of his imagination.

But what is a hadron?

Well, for a start, a hadron isn't one thing, it's a group of different things. All hadrons are tiny, even smaller than atoms.

The thing that makes a hadron a hadron is that it can take part in a strong nuclear interaction.

Hadrons are made up of stuck-together quarks*. Three-quark hadrons are called baryons, and the best-known baryons are protons (made up of two up quarks and one down quark) and neutrons (made up of two down quarks and one up quark).

Hadrons that have one quark and one antiquark are called mesons. For example, the pion, or pi meson, contains an up quark and an anti-down quark.

May I say at this point that I think it's absolutely wonderful that there are people out there willing to dedicate their lives to understanding all this?

I'm hugely grateful to them.

Largely because it means that I don't have to.

Word To Use Today: hadron. This word was coined by Lev B Okan in 1962. Hadron comes from the Greek hadros, heavy, from hadēn, enough.

*Quarks come in six flavours: up, down, top, bottom, strange and charm. Just so you know.

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