Oct 7, 2022

How stiff is the proton?

Posted by in categories: particle physics, quantum physics

The proton is a composite particle made up of fundamental building blocks of quarks and gluons. These components and their interactions determine the proton’s structure, including its electrical charges and currents. This structure deforms when exposed to external electric and magnetic (EM) fields, a phenomenon known as polarizability. The EM polarizabilities are a measure of the stiffness against the deformation induced by EM fields. By measuring the EM polarizabilities, scientists learn about the internal structure of the proton.

This knowledge helps to validate of how nucleons (protons and neutrons) form by comparing the results to theoretical descriptions of gamma-ray scattering from nucleons. Scientists call this scattering process Compton scattering.

When scientists examine the at a distance and scale where EM responses dominate, they can determine values of EM polarizabilities with high precision. To do so, they use the theoretical frame of Effective Field Theories (EFTs). The EFTs hold the promise of matching the description of the nucleon structure at low energies to the current theory of the strong nuclear force, called (QCD). In this research, scientists validated EFTs using proton Compton scattering. This approach also validated the framework and methodology that underlie EFTs.

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