The top quark was discovered in 1995 at Fermilab, the end result of a few decades of decidicated hunting by various groups around the world, using ever-more-powerful accelerators, detectors, and analytic systems.

The mass of the top quark is about 175 GeV, close to that of an entire gold atom. This explains the difficulty in producing such quarks; the collision energies inside the particle accelerators must be incredible to allow particles of such mass to be born.
Every day you learn something new. Today, for reasons unbeknowst to me, I decided to surf the Internet for information on particle physics. I stumbled upon The Particle Adventure and much to my surprise, I discovered just how ignorant I am of this Universe. When I was in grade school, I only had knowledge of stuff. I didn't know what this stuff was, I just knew that it made everything. Then in middle school I discovered (i.e. was taught) that this stuff that constituted all things was called matter, and that its smallest unit was the atom. Then high school settled in, and I was taught chemistry and physics on a more formal level. From this I learned that atoms were actually composed of smaller parts, and that you couldn't get smaller than an electron, proton, or a neutron. And this leads up as to why I'm noding in the particle physics node.

Being a bit curious about science and having heard a bit about quarks and antimatter, I realized that I never really learned their significance or their composition, until today. I spent a good two hours reading and was fascinated about how our world is not merely a world of atoms, but a world of quarks, leptons, force carrier particles, and dark matter. The ideas which once were burned firmly into my brain had to be discarded; I had to accept so many new ideas and concepts that I could hardly believe what I had read. Color (yeah, I know it's not really color in the radiation sense, but cut me some slack) became a property of particles, incredibly small particles known as neutrinos began to pass through the Earth without making contact with another single particle, and particles became the cause of all known forces (interactions). The seemingly simple world in which I lived vanished, and was replaced by a complex, more sophisticated one. If there ever were a time for me to use the word epiphany, it was then.

I realize that many, many people have accepted these facts long before I even knew they existed, but I cannot help but wonder how many fail to realize that our vast Universe is composed of almost insignifcantly-sized particles, which are composed of yet smaller particles. The seemingly contradictory nature of the Universe leaves me spellbound and enchanted; how can something so incredibly large be made up of things so very, very small? At times like these, I can't help but think how much easier it would be if I could just dig Einstein up or get Steven Hawking mailed to me...

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