Worldship: I’m lost, where are we on the timeline of the Universe right now?
Epo: The Quark Epoch, about 10 to the negative 12 seconds after the Big Bang.
Worldship: Define Quark Epoch.
Epo: The period where the Universe existed as a quark-gluon plasma with electrons and neutrinos.
Worldship: Quark-gluon plasma… uh, yeah, I have no idea what that means…
Alkina: It means molecules and atoms didn’t exist yet, only the most basic building blocks from which they are constructed: quarks and gluons. These all existed in a very hot, dense “quark soup”.
Epo: By this point in time, the electromagnetic force had separated from the weak nuclear force, giving us the four fundamental forces we see today.
Worldship: 4 forces separated, matter exists, Universe complete. Complete? The whole Universe is still a quark-gluon soup!
Alkina: True, the story isn’t quite over yet…
What does it mean?
Quark Epoch – The period in the early Universe where matter existed, but only as a hot dense “soup” of quarks, gluons and a few other elementary particles.
Quark – One of the most basic subatomic building blocks of matter. Quarks combine to form protons and neutrons, as well as other more exotic particles.
Gluon – The subatomic particle which carries the strong nuclear force. “Gluon” is a fitting name for the particle that glues atomic nuclei together, overcoming the repulsion from the positively charged protons in nuclei.
In human speak please!
The idea of a force carrying particle, like the gluon, might be new to you, but you are likely already familiar with one of these force carrying particles: the photon. The photon is the force carrying particle for electromagnetism. This means that the energy associated with the electromagnetic force is moved around the Universe by the photon. Similarly, the gluon is the particle that carries the energy of the strong nuclear force. The energy of the weak nuclear force is carried by heavy particles, known as W and Z bosons. The force-carrying particle for gravitation, the graviton, has not yet been directly observed.