Main Question or Discussion Point
I ran accross the following passage in the Wikipedia article on mass-energy equivalence:
This level of physics is way over my head, but I'm wondering: "What happens to the quarks that comprise the protons and neutrons?" Are they conserved in the neutrinos and antielectrons?Since most of the mass of ordinary objects resides in protons and neutrons, in order to convert all ordinary matter to useful energy, the protons and neutrons must be converted to lighter particles. In the standard model of particle physics, the number of protons plus neutrons is nearly exactly conserved. Still, Gerard 't Hooft showed that there is a process which will convert protons and neutrons to antielectrons and neutrinos. This is the weak SU(2) instanton proposed by Belavin Polyakov Schwarz and Tyupkin. This process, can in principle convert all the mass of matter into neutrinos and usable energy, but it is normally extraordinarily slow. Later it became clear that this process will happen at a fast rate at very high temperatures, since then instanton-like configurations will be copiously produced from thermal fluctuations. The temperature required is so high that it would only have been reached shortly after the big bang.