Subatomic Particle - Particles


In particle physics, the conceptual idea of a particle is one of several concepts inherited from classical physics. This describes the world we experience, used (for example) to describe how matter and energy behave at the molecular scales of quantum mechanics. For physicists, the word "particle" means something rather different from the common sense of the term, reflecting the modern understanding of how particles behave at the quantum scale in ways that differ radically from what everyday experience would lead us to expect.

The idea of a particle underwent serious rethinking in light of experiments that showed that light could behave like a stream of particles (called photons) as well as exhibit wave-like properties. These results necessitated the new concept of wave-particle duality to reflect that quantum-scale "particles" are understood to behave in a way resembling both particles and waves. Another new concept, the uncertainty principle, concluded that analyzing particles at these scales would require a statistical approach. In more recent times, wave-particle duality has been shown to apply not only to photons but to increasingly massive particles.

All of these factors ultimately combined to replace the notion of discrete "particles" with the concept of "wave-packets" of uncertain boundaries, whose properties are known only as probabilities, and whose interactions with other "particles" remain largely a mystery, even 80 years after the establishment of quantum mechanics.

Read more about this topic:  Subatomic Particle

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Famous quotes containing the word particles:

    O my countrymen!—be nice;Mbe cautious of your language;—and never, O! never let it be forgotten upon what small particles your eloquence and your fame depend.
    Laurence Sterne (1713–1768)

    In another’s sentences the thought, though it may be immortal, is as it were embalmed, and does not strike you, but here it is so freshly living, even the body of it not having passed through the ordeal of death, that it stirs in the very extremities, and the smallest particles and pronouns are all alive with it. It is not simply dictionary it, yours or mine, but IT.
    Henry David Thoreau (1817–1862)

    When was it that the particles became
    The whole man, that tempers and beliefs became
    Temper and belief and that differences lost
    Difference and were one? It had to be
    In the presence of a solitude of the self....
    Wallace Stevens (1879–1955)