More than a century after Ernest Rutherford discovered the positively charged particle at the heart of every atom, physicists are still struggling to fully understand the proton.
High school physics teachers describe them as featureless balls with one unit each of positive electric charge — the perfect foils for the negatively charged electrons that buzz around them. College students learn that the ball is actually a bundle of three elementary particles called quarks. But decades of research have revealed a deeper truth, one that’s too bizarre to fully capture with words or images.
“This is the most complicated thing that you could possibly imagine,” said Mike Williams, a physicist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. “In fact, you can’t even imagine how complicated it is.”
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