What Is Particle Physics?

What Is Particle Physics?

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Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the neutrino. In 1930 the physicist Wolfgang Pauli proposed the existence of an as-yet undiscovered subatomic particle. He also bet his colleagues a case of champagne that it would never be detected. He lost his bet when in 1956 the particle, now known as the neutrino, was first observed in an American nuclear reactor. Neutrinos are some of the most mysterious particles in the Universe. The Sun produces trillions of them every second, and they constantly bombard the Earth and everything on it. Neutrinos can pass through solid rock, and even stars, at almost the speed of light without being impeded, and are almost impossible to detect. Today, experiments involving neutrinos are providing insights into the nature of matter, the contents of the Universe and the processes deep inside stars.

Listen to the In Our Time episode on The Neutrino

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Every time physicists find a new particle, the Standard Model gets one step closer to becoming a Super Model.

There's always talk of whether the new arrival fits in, or stands out, or matches the model's predictions. Everything gets related back to this "Bible of quantum physics".

The Standard Model isn't mystical, however. It's purely, beautifully mathematical.

Yet for all its predictive power, it's not perfect — it can't explain gravity, dark matter or dark energy. The real goal of particle-smashing physicists is to break it.

Only by finding new particles that weren't predicted by the Standard Model, and can't fit inside it, will we move to a new and improved model — one that doesn't have big gaps where gravity and the dark parts of physics should be...

Continue reading Bernie Hobbs' article: The Standard Model of particle physics is brilliant and completely flawed

Further Reading

Particle physics (also high energy physics) is the branch of physics that studies the nature of the particles that constitute matter and radiation. Although the word "particle" can refer to various types of very small objects (e.g. protons, gas particles, or even household dust), "particle physics" usually investigates the irreducibly smallest detectable particles and the fundamental interactions necessary to explain their behaviour. By our current understanding, these elementary particles are excitations of the quantum fields that also govern their interactions. The currently dominant theory explaining these fundamental particles and fields, along with their dynamics, is called the Standard Model. Thus, modern particle physics generally investigates the Standard Model and its various possible extensions, e.g. to the newest "known" particle, the Higgs boson, or even to the oldest known force field, gravity...

Continue reading the Wikipedia article on Particle Physics

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