Back in 1964, the quark model was independently proposed by physicists Murray Gell-Mann and George Zweig. They proposed that hundreds of the particles could be explained as combinations of just 3 fundamental particles. Gell-Mann assigned the name “quark” to the fundamental constituents of the nucleon. Quarks are any of a number of subatomic particles carrying a fractional electric charge, postulated as building blocks of the hadrons. Quarks have not been directly observed but theoretical predictions based on their existence have been confirmed experimentally.
What is interesting is that “quarks” was a nonsense word used by James Joyce in the novel Finnegans Wake
Three quarks for Muster Mark!
Sure he has not got much of a bark
And sure any he has it’s all beside the mark.
“Quark” (which means several things to Joyce including the cry of a gull) rhymes with “Mark”, but Gell-Mann wanted it pronounced as “kwork.” He thought that since there are other phrases in the book that are used to call for drinks at the bar, so perhaps “Three quarks for Muster Mark” might mean “Three quarts for Mister Mark”, which gives him the pronunciation he wanted. The number three also fits the way quarks occur in nature. (Zweig actually wanted the name “ace” for the particle he had theorized.)
There are six different types of quarks, known as flavors: up (symbol: u), down (d), charm (c), strange (s), top (t) and bottom (b). Up and down quarks are generally stable and very common in the universe. The other quarks can only be produced in high-energy collisions, such as in particle accelerators and cosmic rays.
I’m rather fond of those charm quarks. The particle was named J by one group and ψ by another group, and, since a decision couldn’t be made (What’s with these physicists?) the compromise J/ψ was adopted. This particle has a “charmed” life – a half-life a thousand times longer than had been predicted theoretically. A charmed life sounds pretty good.