Last Friday afternoon, the guests of the Mainz Science Tram experienced an entertaining and informative ride. Various scientists from Mainz introduced them to very different fields of research on the tour through Mainz. Professor Achim Denig from the Institute of Nuclear Physics was also on board with his lecture "Quarks & Co - The fabulous world of the smallest particles". With a wink, he pointed out to the audience at the beginning that the lecture was of course not about (food) quark, but about the building blocks of which all matter, whether humans, galaxies or food quark, is composed. In the past decades, nuclear and particle physics have succeeded in identifying the basic building blocks of matter - the so-called elementary particles - and in describing their interaction with each other in the Standard Model of particle physics. These elementary particles include quarks, which exist in six types and form the basis for protons and neutrons.
On the one hand, the Standard Model could be confirmed in a sensational way, but there are still many open questions, as Denig told his audience in the Science Tram: For example, whether there are still other previously undiscovered particles that require an extension of the Standard Model? Or why the known particles have extremely different masses and why they, as the smallest building blocks of our universe, have exactly these masses at all and are not somewhat heavier or lighter? According to Professor Denig, a major goal in the coming years will therefore be to better understand the fabulous world of particles not only qualitatively, but also quantitatively. The Mainz accelerators MAMI and, in the future, MESA will make important contributions to answering these questions.