The J particle, also named the ψ (psi) particle, is a subatomic particle. Specifically, it is a flavor-neutral meson consisting of a charm quark and a charm antiquark.

Mesons formed by a bound state of a charm quark and a charm antiquark are generally known as “charmonium”. The J particle is the most common form of charmonium, due to its spin of 1 and its low rest mass.

The discovery of the Charm quark changed the paradigms of researchers around the world. The date that its discovery was announced, Nov 11, 1974, became known as the “November Revolution.”

Dr. Samuel C. C. Ting and Dr. Burton Richter both won the Nobel prize in physics in 1976 because of their discovery of charmonium, a discovery neither was aware the other had made at the time. Dr. Ting was leading a research team from MIT at the Brookhaven National Laboratory while Dr. Richter was leading a research team at Stanford University’s Linear Accelerator Center. Neither team was aware that by sheer coincidence they had each made a discovery that would change the course of history.



To better understand the significance of the discovery, it helps to know about what atoms, the building blocks of the universe, are made of. At it’s basic form, it’s really quite easy. Matter is made of elements which are made of atoms. Atoms are made of neutral charged neutrons, negative charged electrons, and positive charged protons. Prior to the discovery of the J particle, these were commonly believed to be the smallest units of matter.

The J particle proved that protons and neutrons were made up of quarks. The theory that quarks existed was first proposed by physicists Dr. Murray Gell-Mann and Dr. George Zweig. Again, coincidently they were working independently without being aware the other was working on the same theory, a theory for strong interaction symmetry in particle physics.

It was Dr. Gell-Mann that coined the term “quark,” taken from James Joyce’s Finnigans Wake:

“Three quarks for Muster Mark! Sure he has not got much of a bark And sure any he has it’s all beside the mark.”

There was no reasoning except that it was a good sounding name for a particle, sounding “sciencey,” and possibly a not so humble brag about being able to understand Finnigans Wake, something I think only a mathematician and physicists could accomplish.

A quark and the gluons that bind the quarks together is what makes up neutrons and protons. Electrons, by all current known models, is an elementary particle meaning it has no known smaller units that comprise it.

There are 12 particles of matter, 4 forces of nature, and these things form to create everything around us.


*More to come when I get around to it.