Monday, May 28, 2018

A Look at the Top Quark

All the known matter in the universe is composed of two classes of particles: quarks and leptons. There are six types, or flavors, of quarks and six types of leptons. The figure to the left shows these fundamental particles. Three of the leptons, the electron (e), the muon (μ), and the tau lepton (τ) have an electrical charge that is a factor of 1 that of a proton, and three of the leptons, called the electron neutrino (νe), the muon neutrino (νμ), and the tau neutrino (ντ) have zero electrical charge. Quarks are named (in order of increasing mass) up (u), down (d), strange (s), charm (c), bottom (b), and top (t). The up, charm, and top quark have a charge that is +2/3 that of a proton, and the down, strange, and bottom quarks have a charge that is 1/3 that of a proton.

Therefore, in an atom composed of a nucleus surrounded by electrons, the electrons are fundamental particles, which means they are not composed of anything smaller as far as we know. But the nucleus is composed of neutrons and protons, which are themselves composed of quarks. At a very basic level a proton is made up two up quarks and a down quark with electric charge +2/3 + 2/3  1/3 = 1 while a neutron is made up of one up quark and two down quarks with an electric charge of +2/3  1/3  1/3 = 0. The two quarks and two leptons in the first column in the figure are called the first generation of particles, the second column is the second generation of particles, and the third column is the third generation of particles. Most of all the matter we know of is made of the first generation of particles since atoms are made of neutrons and protons and electrons with the neutrons and protons made of up and down quarks.

Saturday, May 5, 2018

A City Center Conversation: The Coherence Between Science and Scripture

Today's Arkansas Democrat-Gazette newspaper has an article discussing my upcoming conversation in Little Rock, Arkansas at City Center Conversations. If you are near Little Rock and can attend this event on Tuesday, May 8, 2018 at 6:30 at the Statehouse Convention Center, I invite you to come. City Center Conversations is an open interview and dialogue between Dr. Steven Smith, the pastor of Immanuel Baptist Church in Little Rock and an invited guest. Steven's vision is to host speakers who are living out their faith in the public square to have open conversations about some big questions regarding God, life, and faith. In the past, Dr. Smith has invited Eric Metaxas and Lee Strobel to the first two previous events in this series, and I will be the third invited guest.

The article in the Democrat-Gazette was written by Francisca Jones who is the religion editor for that newspaper. My interview with her, as well as a recent comment left on my blog, highlighted once again for me how entrenched is the view among many nonbelievers and believers that science and the Bible are at odds. Many of the questions that Ms. Jones asked were about the apparent conflict between science and the biblical text and why I am among the few scientists who see no conflict between them. The comment left on by blog accused me of "bending" the biblical text to accommodate a 14 billion year old universe. (If I had a dollar for every time that accusation has been made I would not have to work anymore).