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First four-quark particle may have been spotted

Finding might shed light on how nucleus is held together

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5:09pm, June 21, 2013

An exotic subatomic particle could be the first amalgamation of more than three quarks — a fundamental building block of atoms — to be produced experimentally. If it is what physicists think it is, the particle could provide clues about the force that holds nuclei together and perhaps about the earliest moments of the universe.

“We have very solid evidence of an unconventional particle,” says Ronald Poling, a physicist at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis. “But it’s the interpretation — the possibility that it has four quarks — that makes it very exciting.” The details of the particle, inelegantly named Zc(3900), appear June 17 in Physical Review Letters.

Physicists have known since the 1960s that protons and neutrons are made up of quarks, as are hundreds of other particles. All of these particles can be divided into two categories: mesons, which contain two quarks, and baryons (including protons and neutrons), which contain three.

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