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Do you have any lasers at Argonne? Please tell us what is a femtosecond. What can you tell us about quarks?

1. Yes there are lots of lasers at Argonne... lasers are very important in scientific research. They are also becoming important in electronics. Anybody who owns a CD player also owns a laser, since lasers are used to read the CD's.

2. Have you heard of the metric system? A millisecond is one thousandth of a second, a microsecond is one millionth of a second, and then successive thousandth's are: a nanosecond (a thousandth of a microsecond) a picosecond (a thousandth of a nanosecond) a femtosecond (a thousandth of a picosecond) So a femtosecond is 10^-15 of a second, and a femtometer is 10^-15 of a meter (also none as 1 fermi, the approximate size of the proton).

3. Quarks seem to be the most elementary particles we know about making up ordinary matter (in addition to electrons) - a proton has 3 quarks and a neutron also contains 3 quarks. The charges on the quarks are multiples of 1/3 the charge on the electron. Quarks come in 6 varieties, of which the last to be discovered was the "top" quark, just discovered this year, and which weighs as much on its own as a gold atom (which contains several hundred of the ordinary quarks). You should be able to find lots more information in the library - try Scientific American back issues.

Arthur Smith

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