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From the outside, high-speed collisions of atomic nuclei inside particle accelerators such as CERN Large Hadron Collider (LHC) They may seem to have very little in common with more ordinary things like morning coffee or fluffy slippers. However, at the subatomic level, your cup of choice is made up of the same things that crashed in the Large Hadron Collider, and they can all fit into a neat framework that physicists call the Standard Model of particle physics.
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The Standard Model was solidified in the 1970s, and is made up of 17 fundamental particles that make up a large part (but not all) of matter in the universe. There are two main camps in which these seventeen particles can be classified into:fermions” And the “bosons. Roughly speaking, you can think of fermions as “matter” and bosons as the forces that move those things around. Within the fermion family there are sixleptonswhich includes electrons and six particles calledsubatomic particles. ”
While we learn in school that matter is made up of protons, neutrons, and electrons, only one of these particles is considered “fundamental,” meaning that it cannot be broken down into smaller parts. Only for this reason Electrons It can be classified as a fundamental lepton particle, and instead protons and neutrons are represented by their respective quarks. In particular, protons and neutrons are a mixture of “up” and “down” quarks.
In the wild, it’s these up and down quarks that physicists spot most often, but there are also four other forms of these quarks that are getting heavier and less stable. Regarding what up, you have too “Charm” And the “top” quarks, and for the down quarks, you have the “strange” and “down” quarks.
The lepton family also includes a type of “ultra-light” particle, called a “neutrino” It comes in three flavors associated with other non-quark leptons: tau neutrino, muon neutrino, and electron neutrino. (“flavor” is the name physicists give different versions of the same type of particle.) Neutrinos are often referred to as “ghost” particles because they rarely interact with other matter and can only be observed by the paths they leave behind.
Leptons and quarks together make up all the matter we interact with in our region Universe. However, these particles would be nothing without bosons to move them or stick them together. For all 12 fermions, only five bosons are known:
- Photonsthat carries the electromagnetic force
- GLOWNSwhich hold quarks together with great force to help form them atoms
- The W and Z . bosonswhich is responsible for weak strength and radioactive decay
- Higgsthe latest addition to the group, which gives mass to other particles
Altogether, these bosons create four fundamental forces out of five, with gravity Being a glaring exception. Because the effect of gravity in subatomic The level is too small, and cannot easily fit into the Standard Model framework – despite the best efforts of physicists.
The omission of gravity from this family portrait is just one of several problems with the Standard Model, leading more and more physicists to believe that its reign as the ultimate physical theory may be waning. In addition to the failure to incorporate gravity, the Standard Model also does not provide an explanation for the massive amounts of dark energy and dark matter Which form 95% of the universeAccording to NASA.
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There is also rumble through other sectors of particle physics, such as neutrino research, from observations of particle behavior do not completely match the predictions of the Standard Model. Does this mean that the entire form should be discarded? Mostly not. However, it does mean that physicists are becoming more interested in moving “beyond” the physics of the Standard Model—that is, searching for the kinds of unknown forces that might also attract these particles. In its third session, which began earlier this month, LHC . will Look some of these inconsistencies.
Depending on what physicists find in the coming years, our understanding of the subatomic world, and the universe itself, may be about to change forever.
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