Top Quark: The Elusive Truth

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The top quark is the heaviest known type of quark, and possibly the last. Particle physicists sometimes refer to it as the "truth” quark, not always with tongue in cheek. The top quark might be just an ordinary quark, no stranger than the "strange" one, but it might hold the key to major questions of Nature through its connection to the origin of mass, the Higgs boson, and cosmic dark matter. At the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory outside Chicago, hundreds of these heavy quarks have been observed and some first snapshots of their behavior have been obtained. At the Large Hadron Collider at CERN, millions of the heavy quarks will be produced. This lecture will review current knowledge of the top quark and explain how this knowledge has been obtained through experiments at the giant particle accelerators. Future experiments, which might reveal the top quark's deeper mysteries, will also be described.