, Volume 22, Issue 1, pp 81-84
Date: 10 Oct 2012

History and hadrontology

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Physicists were becoming increasingly disaffected with perturbative quantum field theory in the 1950s and 1960s. New particles with seemingly anomalous properties were rapidly spewing out of the latest powerful accelerators, and the approach that had worked so well for the description of photon-electron interactions [i.e., quantum electrodynamics or QED] simply did not work when applied to these new strong interactions. However, through a series of rather extraordinary twists and turns (in some cases amounting to the abandonment of quantum field theory), quantum field theory returned to save the day, giving us a theory, quantum chromodynamics or QCD (quite different from QED) able to describe strongly interacting particles or hadrons. It did so by postulating a new finer level of structure within hadrons, consisting of quarks held together by gluons. This new theory has many peculiar characteristics, for example, the force between quarks gets stronger the greater the distance separatin ...