Are We Discovering Particles or Creating Them?

In order to understand the nature of particles we must understand energy and force, to understand energy and forces we must understand the nature of waves…list goes on. So far, the Standard Model was able to identify, name, isolate and quantify all particles discovered since the announcement of atomic structure. The question remains however, will the line between energy and matter become more distinct any time soon. So what makes up a particle?

The Standard Model of Particle Physics

The particle physics branch identifies and classifies most of particles by four properties: spin, weight, electrical charge and the lifetime, which is how long it takes before they decay into lighter particles. Standard Model is a beautiful theory: it is self-consistent, it is predictive, but it is incomplete. As we already mentioned in our article about the Universe, the quantum gravity question must be answered in order to connect all the concepts describing relationships between particles of matter.

Where do We Draw the Line between Force and Matter? Apparently there are Matter Particles and Force Particles.

Particles, particles, particles…We want to visualize everything. How does electron know the proton is there? The answer is: there is a particle for that too – the countless short-lived sparks of energy – virtual particles and mediators of force. There are four distinct types of force fields, and they all work through the operation of the same principle: virtual particle force transfer. The effects of gravity as well as electromagnetism are before our eyes in everyday life, while the strong force (color force) that holds protons and neutrons together can be only perceived through the experiments. The fourth, the weak force is called radioactivity. Particles representing all these forces are called gauge bosons. By definition of purpose these particles are massless, able to deliver long-range forces on their scale of operation.

Quarks are the Bridge between Mass and Energy, Converting One into Another

It took Humanity long time to reach current understanding of what matter is. Quark theory has been around since 1960s. What makes quarks special is their participation in all four interactions, or forces: electromagnetic, gravitational, strong and weak. Therefore these particles go by weight, color, mass and spin. Multiple accelerator facilities have been busy converting energy into mass by smashing various subatomic particles at very high speeds.

Quantum Electro-Dynamics and Quantum Chromo-Dynamics: More about Quarks, Mesons and Leptons

There are 6 flavors of regular matter quarks have been identified with matching six antimatter counterparts. Out of all of them only up-quarks and down-quarks are stable particles, mostly because of their size – therefore the Universe is comprised primarily of these two particles according to the Standard Model Theory. While the mesons consist of quarks and antiquarks held together by strong force, the leptons are completely different story because they are elementary particles; electron is one of them.

Force Carriers: Zero Rest Mass Photons and Mysterious Gravitons against Extra Massive Weak Bosons

Having said all this imagine particles that have no mass, no electric charge, no weak charge, and no color charge. What are they good for, then? They are responsible for all electromagnetic interaction in the Universe. The fundamental operation of photons is to conduct interaction between electrons and protons. As particles with zero rest-mass they cannot come to rest, therefore they always on the move. Ironically, the rest mass of given particle is what defines the range of the force this particle represents. Precisely because weak bosons are so heavy – about 80 times as heavy as proton - the weak nuclear force has a calculable range limit, while the electromagnetic force represented by photons has an infinite range.

The Difference Between Fermions and Bosons is in the Value of Their Spin

So, fermions are quarks that comprise all matter, while bosons are exclusively force mediators. All quarks and some bosons have weight. In contrast, photons, gluons and gravitons do not have rest mass (assuming graviton exists).

Now, Let us go Back to the Atom and take a Look at the Planetary Model

Atoms are mostly empty space where actual particles are few and far between. If the nucleus of an atom had size of a golf ball, the atom would be the size of Manhattan or larger; imagine the weight of Manhattan filled with golf-ball-sized nucleuses all the way to the sky?  Does the infinite density of a black hole make little bit more sense now?

Electrons, Protons and Neutrons

The proton is composed of two up-quarks and one down-quark, which explains its positive charge. The neutron consists of two down-quarks and one up-quark and it carries no electric charge – strange math if you don’t understand spins. Despite the absence of electric charge, it is the neutron that makes it possible for multiple protons to stay together in a nucleus – as we know same electric charges repel each other. Once nucleus is formed the need for electron arises, atoms form. Sounds simple?

Higgs Boson: Reaching the End of Matter?

The fields create condition in space, they produce forces. Truly, the presence of forces everywhere eliminates the concept of perfect vacuum. In classical physics force fields were thought of as unfragmented, continuous entities. But since quantum mechanics demand everything to have form, shape and quantified parameters, fields became distributions of mysterious field particles. The strength of the field at any given point in time is defined by the density of the field particles at that point. These particles were called virtual particles because they violate the conservation rule of energy, therefore they are unstable. These virtual particles, however, become bosons if donated sufficient amount of energy to exist. In any case, fields instantly fade away as soon as the source of energy disappears.

Totally different story with higgs field: the entire cosmos is saturated with higgs field all the time so there is no empty space. If there is a field, there should be a particle to quantify that field – quantum mechanics demand that. This elusive particle is called Higgs Boson. The interaction between higgs bosons and other particles is proportionate to the rest mass of those particles; as you can guess, photons, gravitons and gluons are excluded since they are massless. Every other particle in the Universe is subjected to higgs field. Can you see now how critical it is for the proponents of quantum mechanics theory to prove the existence of higgs boson? The whole idea of quantum mechanics is rested on this belief.

References: CERN News, ATLAS, Cassiopeia Project, Particle Physics, Fizzics, Physics Academy, Peter Higgs, Phil B. Owen, Tobias Golling, Jonas Strandberg, Physics Academy.