Welcome to Particle Central.com, an independent informational site, covering elementary particles, fundamental forces, particle accelerators, the Higgs Particle and string theory. Items are presented in laymen's language with technical jargon kept to a minimum.
The particle page explores the history of tiny particles from the atom to the quark. Quantum mechanics changed our perception of elementary particles from strictly point objects to dual function objects encompassing both wave-like and point-like properties. Matter particles have been organized into 12 fundamental particles. All elementary particles have an intrinsic property called "spin". Conceptually spin is similar to a planet spinning on its axis.
There are four fundamental forces: gravity, electro-magnetism, the strong nuclear force (shown immediately above), and the weak nuclear force. Quantum Mechanics (QM) provides a mathematical description for the dual wave-like and particle-like behavior of matter. One of the significant contributions of QM is that it introduced "force carrying particles". One can think of the energy transfer between particles like the continuous passing of a basketball back and forth.
Particle Accelerators are used as a physics research tool by accelerating particles to very high energies and forcing them to collide with other particles. Analysis of the by products enables scientists to study the structure of the subatomic world. The results are apparent only at high energies, for tiny periods of time, and are impossible to study in other ways. When the proton beams at CERN collide many different particles are produced. See the picture at the top of this page.
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Neutrinos are some of the most abundant and yet elusive items in particle physics. Incredibly lightweight as well as charge-less, they zip around the universe at near the speed of light and they do not interact with other particles. There are three types of neutrinos - the electron neutrino, the muon neutrino and the tau neutrino. All are classified as leptons, the family of particles that includes electrons. Neutrinos do not feel the strong force and also do not feel the electromagnetic force.
One of the bassic ideas behind String Theory is that all of the different "fundamental particles" of the Standard Model are really just different versions of one basic object: - an incredibly tiny, oscillating string. If it oscillates one way, then we see an electron. But if it oscillates another way, we call it a photon, or a quark, and so forth. Another one of the strengths of String Theory is that it is the only theory that accounts for all four known forces in just one elegant theory.