JLab Preps for Quark Search

Jefferson Lab is installing one of its most elaborate pieces of research equipment ever.

The device is part of a larger apparatus being made ready to take center stage when the lab's pending G Zero, or G0, experiment begins in two years from now.

A team of 85 scientists from 18 universities, research institutions and laboratories in the United States and abroad, hopes to quantify the contribution of one of the "lightest" of the six "flavors" of quarks: the strange quark--the atom's center.

Historically, such measurements have been extremely difficult to conduct because the sought-after effects are quite small.

"The physics is challenging," says Allison Lung, lab staff scientist and G0 project manager. "The actual construction is challenging. The measurement itself is challenging. But the payoff is potentially enormous."

Key to the experiment's success will be the demonstrated ability of the accelerator to change the orientation of the spin of the electrons in the electron beam relative to their direction of motion without changing any other beam properties (such as energy, position and direction) with remarkable precision.

This will allow scientists to measure the very small changes in the behavior of a physical system in a situation that is identical except that "left" and "right" have been reversed.