Ohio University professors receive publicity for role in discovery of new type of particle matter (Ohio University)

Kenneth Hicks

Ohio University Physicist, Ken Hicks

Ohio University professors receive publicity for role in discovery of new type of particle matter

ATHENS, Ohio — Ohio University physicists Ken Hicks and Daniel Carman have received coast-to-coast media coverage from USA Today to The New York Times for the discovery that they and a team of colleagues made of the pentaquark, a new type of particle matter.

"The discovery involves tiny particles called 'quarks,' the bricks and mortar of protons and neutrons in the atomic nucleus," according to the USA Today story.

"This discovery tells us more about structure of matter and universe around us. It's uplifting to know people are still interested in discovery," said Hicks, professor of physics and astronomy at Ohio University.

"There are hundreds of subatomic particles that are known," Hicks said. "Particles, such as the proton, made of quarks seem to fit into two categories, baryons, which are made of three quarks, and so-called mesons, which are made of two quarks. Everything in the last 40 years fit into these two categories, until now. Well, this particle is a marriage of both."

Hicks took part in the experiment to discover the pentaquarks and an effort to confirm the results at the U.S. Department of Energy's Thomas Jefferson National Accelerator Facility. The discovery was touted in an American Institute Physics news release this week.

As for when practical applications will be realized, "probably not in my lifetime," Hicks said. "It's similar to when electrons were discovered. At that time, people were reading by candlelight, so the early discoveries concerning electricity seemed remote to anyone living in that time. We don't know tomorrow's applications of today's discoveries."

A team of Japanese researchers led by Takashi Nakano, who first found their existence, originally discovered the pentaquarks in 2002. Hicks and Carman, along with their colleagues, have been working at the Jefferson Laboratory to confirm the existence of pentaquarks since October.

Discussions of pentaquarks, written for individuals of all levels of physics expertise, can be found on Hicks' Web site, www.phy.ohiou.edu/~hicks/thplus.html.