Questions loom about the iconic particle's size, spin and decay
Nuclear physicist Evangeline Downie hadn’t planned to study one of the thorniest puzzles of the proton.
But when opportunity knocked, Downie couldn’t say no. “It’s the proton,” she exclaims. The mysteries that still swirl around this jewel of the subatomic realm were too tantalizing to resist. The plentiful particles make up much of the visible matter in the universe. “We’re made of them, and we don’t understand them fully,” she says.
Many physicists delving deep into the heart of matter in recent decades have been lured to the more exotic and unfamiliar subatomic particles: mesons, neutrinos and the famous Higgs boson — not the humble proton.
Protons have issues
Three proton conundrums have scientists designing new experiments. Agreement eludes researchers on proton size, spin and stability.