Anonymous writes: Via Phys.org: Physicists calculate proton's pressure distribution for first time by Jennifer Chu, MIT
MIT physicists have calculated the pressure distribution inside a proton for the first time. They found the proton’s high-pressure core pushes out, while the surrounding region pushes inward. Credit: Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Neutron stars are among the densest-known objects in the universe,
withstanding pressures so great that one teaspoon of a star's material
would equal about 15 times the weight of the moon. Yet as it turns out,
protons—the fundamental particles that make up most of the visible
matter in the universe—contain even higher pressures.
For the first time, MIT physicists have calculated a proton's
pressure distribution, and found that the particle contains a highly
pressurized core that, at its most intense point, is generating greater
pressures than are found inside a neutron star.
This core pushes out from the proton's center, while the surrounding
region pushes inward. (Imagine a baseball attempting to expand inside a
soccer ball that is collapsing.) The competing pressures act to
stabilize the proton's overall structure.
The physicists' results, published today in Physical Review Letters,
represent the first time that scientists have calculated a proton's
pressure distribution by taking into account the contributions of both
quarks and gluons, the proton's fundamental, subnuclear constituents.
"Pressure is a fundamental aspect of the proton that we know very
little about at the moment," says lead author Phiala Shanahan, assistant
professor of physics at MIT. "Now we've found that quarks and gluons in
the center of the proton are generating significant outward pressure,
and further to the edges, there's a confining pressure. With this
result, we're driving toward a complete picture of the proton's
Shanahan carried out the study with co-author William Detmold, associate professor of physics at MIT.
In May 2018, physicists at the U.S. Department of Energy's Thomas
Jefferson National Accelerator Facility announced that they had measured
the proton's pressure distribution for the first time, using a beam of
electrons that they fired at a target made of hydrogen. The electrons
interacted with quarks inside the protons in the target. The physicists
then determined the pressure distribution throughout the proton, based
on the way in which the electrons scattered from the target. Their
results showed a high-pressure center in the proton that at its point of
highest pressure measured about 1035 pascals, or 10 times the pressure inside a neutron star.
However, Shanahan says their picture of the proton's pressure was incomplete.
"They found a pretty remarkable result," Shanahan says. "But that
result was subject to a number of important assumtions that were
necessary because of our incomplete understanding."
Specifically, the researchers based their pressure estimates on the
interactions of a proton's quarks, but not its gluons. Protons consist
of both quarks and gluons, which continuously interact in a dynamic and
fluctuating way inside the proton. The Jefferson Lab team was only able
to determine the contributions of quarks with its detector, which
Shanahan says leaves out a large part of a proton's pressure
"Over the last 60 years, we've built up quite a good understanding of
the role of quarks in the structure of the proton," she says. "But gluon structure is far, far harder to understand since it is notoriously difficult to measure or calculate."