how hadrons fit with the two other classes of sub atomic particles
in particle physics, a hadron / (listen) (greek: ἁδρός, hadrós; "stout, thick") is a subatomic composite particle made of two or more quarks held together by the strong force in a similar way as molecules are held together by the electromagnetic force. most of the mass of ordinary matter comes from two hadrons, the proton and the neutron.
hadrons are categorized into two families: baryons, made of an odd number of quarks – usually three quarks – and mesons, made of an even number of quarks—usually one quark and one antiquark. protons and neutrons are examples of baryons; pions are an example of a meson. "exotic" hadrons, containing more than three valence quarks, have been discovered in recent years. a tetraquark state (an exotic meson), named the z(4430)−, was discovered in 2007 by the belle collaboration and confirmed as a resonance in 2014 by the lhcb collaboration. two pentaquark states (exotic baryons), named p+
c(4380) and p+
c(4450), were discovered in 2015 by the lhcb collaboration. there are several more exotic hadron candidates, and other colour-singlet quark combinations that may also exist.
almost all "free" hadrons and antihadrons (meaning, in isolation and not bound within an atomic nucleus) are believed to be unstable and eventually decay (break down) into other particles. the only known exception relates to free protons, which are possibly stable, or at least, take immense amounts of time to decay (order of 1034+ years). free neutrons are unstable and decay with a half-life of about 611 seconds. their respective antiparticles are expected to follow the same pattern, but they are difficult to capture and study, because they immediately annihilate on contact with ordinary matter. "bound" protons and neutrons, contained within an atomic nucleus, are generally considered stable. experimentally, hadron physics is studied by colliding protons or nuclei of heavy elements such as lead or gold, and detecting the debris in the produced particle showers. in the natural environment, mesons such as pions are produced by the collisions of cosmic rays with the atmosphere.