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Andrew Zimmerman Jones

Understanding Particle Physics

By September 23, 2012

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Richard Feynman once said (as related in his book Six Easy Pieces: Essentials of Physics Explained By Its Most Brilliant Teacher):

If, in some cataclysm, all of scientific knowledge were to be destroyed, and only one sentence passed on to the next generations of creatures, what statement would contain the most information in the fewest words? I believe it is the atomic hypothesis (or the atomic fact, or whatever you wish to call it) thatall things are made of atoms--little particles that move around in perpetual motion, attracting each other when they are a little distance apart, but repelling upon being squeezed into one another. In that one sentence, you will see, there is an enormous amount of information about the world, if just a little imagination and thinking are applied...

Feynman was right to indicate that this is a powerful statement, but he also knew that it wasn't the end of the story, either. The atom is not, as the ancient Greeks believed, the smallest, indivisible constituent of matter. Feynman himself helped in fact to crack open the atom as part of the Manhattan Project, and then later was in a tight race with Murray Gell-Mann to figure out what made up the protons and neutrons in the atomic nucleus ... an effort that ultimately ended in quantum chromodynamics.

Today, it can be a bit dizzying trying to sort out all of the various particles that physics have found when they began banging tiny chunks of matter together in particle accelerators. But if you want a good starting point, may I humbly recommend our very own Particle Physics Fundamentals, which lays out the major categories of particles and how they relate to each other.

Known fundamental particles


September 24, 2012 at 8:01 am
(1) T. L. Martin says:

Dear Sir:
Having watched and read science articles for many years, I have come to the conclusion that the science community (pertaining to Particle Physics) is comfortable stumbling around in the dark. Their search for ‘facts’ has led them into a deep depressing despondency with no way to explain ‘everything’.
Please allow this light to reveal the truth. There is no solid matter in this universe. They can smash atoms until there are none left, and they will only find small bits of self-contained energy. There is not one pound of weight in the whole of the entirety. There is only energy in motion.
All electromagnetic energy, which includes matter, is made up of a two part positive pull, which forms an autonomous, to a degree, object (‘particles’ that make up matter, light, graviton, radio waves and so forth), that requires an in-flux of negative energy, fuel to motivate and maintain the characteristics of said object (they are not perpetual machines). The explications for this statement are explained in “The Answer of Matter”.

September 24, 2012 at 11:31 am
(2) bossifrance says:

Ever had a solid hammer blow on the head?

September 24, 2012 at 2:27 pm
(3) dugiewugie says:

I truly cannot understand how we can have waves and particles.
If Quantum phyics to a true reality how can we say that there are

September 24, 2012 at 3:43 pm
(4) ProgressiveRepublican says:

It might help to think of it this way: Energy is everything. There are two states: dynamic energy and static energy. Dynamic energy manifests itself as some form of heat. Static energy is stored energy. Static energy is what is inaccurately termed, “matter”. I seriously doubt that there’s a limit to how small a piece of “matter” there is.

So far as the “hammer blow on the head” goes, what is being experienced is two electromagnetic fields meeting. Realize that atoms are largely empty space. I know I’m leaving something out, unfortunately I gotta go.

September 24, 2012 at 11:28 pm
(5) Tormentous says:

These comments lack of imagination and mentality. Let’s seek for worm holes and travelling through space-time continuum. Let’s trying to describe all our observations and understand all the unknowns that flood the universe. Where is the missing matter? Is the limit in the minimum amount of energy? (That unfortuitous comment seems to have neglected quantum mechanics, no so long ago people were skeptical of quantum states… a cornerstone in physics, an exalting time for humanity).
At the end, new discoveries will bring new horizons and new challenges to our insatiable minds.

September 27, 2012 at 5:54 am
(6) Edward Sheriff says:

I am so happy that you have send me back to class room, I have not been getting new materials on physics until I met your contact so thank you very mush. I will even be more grateful i am opportune to enter for my masters degree.
Thanks very much.

October 1, 2012 at 1:18 pm
(7) jgjenson says:

“If, in some cataclysm, all of scientific knowledge were to be destroyed, and only one sentence passed on to the next generations of creatures, what statement would contain the most information in the fewest words? “

Creatures of the future, please note that the childish beliefs of the now extinct human civilization did limit their scientific achievement primarily because these self-absorbed beings engaged in winning religious conflicts and winning at self-centered competitive capitalism.

October 14, 2012 at 1:08 pm
(8) stephen mann says:

Matter is made of quarks and electrons and these are of quarklets. Electrons are two and quarks thirty-six. Quarks are of six sub-quarks and those have six quarklets each. Electrons are a different kind of sub-quark. Neutrinos are three quarklets coupled to sub-quarks and electrons. They give them spin and mass. Photons are also made of quarklets (two each) and joined to neutrinos.

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