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Topsy Turvy: In neutrons and protons, quarks take wrong turns

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8:43am, December 23, 2003

Physicists peering inside the neutron are seeing glimmers of what appears to be an impossible situation. The vexing findings pertain to quarks, which are the main components of neutrons and protons. The quarks, in essence, spin like tops, as do the neutrons and protons themselves.

Now, experimenters at the Thomas Jefferson National Accelerator Facility in Newport News, Va., have found hints that a single quark can briefly hog most of the energy residing in a neutron, yet spin in the direction opposite to that of the neutron itself.

"That's very disturbing," comments theoretical physicist Xiangdong Ji of the University of Maryland at College Park.

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