A positively charged subatomic particle found, together with neutrons, in the nuclei of atoms; the name comes from the Greek protos meaning "first" and was coined by Ernest Rutherford in 1920. The mass of the proton is 1836.12 times that of the electron. The number of protons determines the chemical element; for example, all atoms with one proton are hydrogen, all atoms with two protons are helium, and so on.
The proton belongs to the hadron family and consists of three quarks (two up-quarks and one down-quark). It is the least-massive baryon and, as a result, is the particle into which all other baryons will eventually decay. Until recently the proton was believed to be absolutely stable; however, most modern theories predict that it will decay with an extremely long half-life (much longer than the present age of the universe).
Related entry nucleon
Related categories• ATOMIC AND NUCLEAR PHYSICS
• PARTICLE PHYSICS
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