Understanding the origin and dynamics of hadron structure and in turn that of atomic nuclei is a central goal of nuclear physics. This challenge entails the questions of how does the roughly 1GeV mass-scale that characterizes atomic nuclei appear; why does it have the observed value; and, enigmatically, why are the composite Nambu-Goldstone (NG) bosons in quantum chromodynamics (QCD) abnormally light in comparison? In this perspective, we provide an analysis of the mass budget of the pion and proton in QCD; discuss the special role of the kaon, which lies near the boundary between dominance of strong and Higgs mass-generation mechanisms; and explain the need for a coherent effort in QCD phenomenology and continuum calculations, in exa-scale computing as provided by lattice QCD, and in experiments to make progress in understanding the origins of hadron masses and the distribution of that mass within them. We compare the unique capabilities foreseen at the electron-ion collider (EIC) with those at the hadron-electron ring accelerator (HERA), the only previous electron-proton collider; and describe five key experimental measurements, enabled by the EIC and aimed at delivering fundamental insights that will generate concrete answers to the questions of how mass and structure arise in the pion and kaon, the Standard Model's NG modes, whose surprisingly low mass is critical to the evolution of our Universe.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Nuclear and High Energy Physics