In the nucleus of an atom there are protons and neutrons. These are made up of elementary particles, specifically three quarks in each one. You can read about this in current physics textbooks – but these may now need to be revised. Axel Maas and Simon Fernbach from the Institute of Physics at the University of Graz, together with colleagues from the University of Vienna and the Institute of High Energy Physics (part of the Austrian Academy of Sciences), have calculated that there must be an additional Higgs particle in the proton, even if this only constitutes a small part. These findings have been published in “Physical Review D”, on an open access basis.
Penetrating the interior
The so-called Standard Model of particle physics, on which most of the laws of physics are based, is unbelievably complex and so can only be described in approximate terms. “We already know that a proton consists of three quarks and that many quantum effects take place within it,” says Maas. More precise methods of analysis indicate the existence of a Higgs particle as the fourth component, according to reconstructions by the team from Graz and Vienna, using measurements from the particle accelerator at CERN, the European nuclear research centre. “This is consistent with what we already know. It complements and extends our understanding of the proton,” says the researcher Maas.
However, more precise investigations and final confirmation will need to wait for the planned further development of the gigantic measuring device, which is due to begin in the next few years. Then it will be possible to determine the exact proportion of the proton formed by the Higgs particle. So at some point in the future, there will be one more little thing that school students will need to know about for their final exams.