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Simple physics questions about Atoms and Quarks - Thanks

  1. Dec 17, 2012 #1
    Hey guys,

    Do the quarks determine the element? If I have a atom that has lets say 5 neutrons and 5 protons, and then all of a sudden one of the quarks changes from a down quark to a up quark, this will then change the ratio/amount of protons and neutrons thus changing the element?

    What are the quarks doing within the protons and neutrons? And what makes a quark change from a up quark to a down quark?
     
  2. jcsd
  3. Dec 17, 2012 #2

    Bandersnatch

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    Science Advisor

    Regarding the first part of the question, the number of protons(aka the atomic number) is what determines the element. The number of neutrons determines the isotope.

    So one proton in the nucleus always nets a hydrogen atom, but it can be just your regular hydrogen(0 neutrons, aka protium), deuterium(1 neutron) or tritium(2 neutrons).

    Elements on the periodic table are grouped(i.e.named) by their chemical properties, which are by and large determined by the number of electrons an atom might have, which in turn is determined by the number of protons in the nucleus.
    Gaining or losing a proton means a different number of electrons, meaning different chemical properties, meaning a different element.

    So yeah, quarks changing from up to down or vice versa change the element.

    As for how and why, read up on beta decay:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Beta_decay
     
  4. Dec 17, 2012 #3
    Fantastic, thank you!
     
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