Annihilation - tendency of Mar 23


Information about Annihilation

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When a proton encounters its antiparticle (and more generally, if any species of baryon encounters the corresponding antibaryon), the reaction is not as simple as electron-positron annihilation. Unlike an electron, a proton is a composite particle consisting of three "valence quarks" and an indeterminate number of "sea quarks" bound by gluons. Thus, when a proton encounters an antiproton, one of its quarks, usually a constituent valence quark, may annihilate with an antiquark (which more rarely could be a sea quark) to produce a gluon, after which the gluon together with the remaining quarks, antiquarks, and gluons will undergo a complex process of rearrangement (called hadronization or fragmentation) into a number of mesons, (mostly pions and kaons), which will share the total energy and momentum. The newly created mesons are unstable, and unless they encounter and interact with some other material, they will decay in a series of reactions that ultimately produce only gamma rays, electrons, positrons, and neutrinos. This type of reaction will occur between any baryon (particle consisting of three quarks) and any antibaryon consisting of three antiquarks, one of which corresponds to a quark in the baryon. (This reaction is unlikely if at least one among the baryon and anti-baryon is exotic enough that they share no constituent quark flavors. ) Antiprotons can and do annihilate with neutrons, and likewise antineutrons can annihilate with protons, as discussed below.