Particle physics is the study of the fundamental forces of nature as they are embodied in the interactions of elementary and composite particles at high energies and short time and distance scales.

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Why doesn't matter pass through other matter if atoms are 99.999% empty space?

The ghostly passage of one body through another is obviously out of the question if the continuum assumption were valid, but we know that at the micro, nano, pico levels (and beyond) this is not even ...
71
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5answers
8k views

Gauge symmetry is not a symmetry?

I have read before in one of Seiberg's articles something like, that gauge symmetry is not a symmetry but a redundancy in our description, by introducing fake degrees of freedom to facilitate ...
63
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5answers
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How literally should you take “The Higgs boson gives other particles mass”?

A standard phrase in popular discussions of the Higgs boson is that "it gives particles mass". To what extent is this a reasonable, pop-science, level of description of the Higgs boson and it's ...
62
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8answers
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Why does space expansion not expand matter?

REFORMULATED: I have looked at the other questions (ie "why does space expansion affect matter") but can't find the answer I am looking for. My question: There is always mention of space expanding ...
47
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4answers
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What is spin as it relates to subatomic particles?

I often hear about subatomic particles having a property called "spin" but also that it doesn't actually relate to spinning about an axis like you would think. Which particles have spin? What does ...
47
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1answer
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What is the upper-limit on intrinsic heating due to dark matter?

Cold dark matter is thought to fill our galactic neighborhood with a density $\rho$ of about 0.3 GeV/cm${}^3$ and with a velocity $v$ of roughly 200 to 300 km/s. (The velocity dispersion is much ...
45
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3answers
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Why doesn't light affect a compass?

In our daily life a lot of photons of visible light, infrared and radio etc move around us. We know that light is an electromagnetic radiation. So why doesn't that electromagnetic radiation affect a ...
44
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5answers
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Why do we think there are only three generations of fundamental particles?

In the standard model of particle physics, there are three generations of quarks (up/down, strange/charm, and top/bottom), along with three generations of leptons (electron, muon, and tau). All of ...
38
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6answers
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Massless charged particles

Are there any massless (zero invariant mass) particles carrying electric charge? If not, why not? Do we expect to see any or are they a theoretical impossibility?
34
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4answers
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What is needed to claim the discovery of the Higgs boson?

As I understand the Higg's boson can be discovered by the LHC because the collisions are done at an energy that is high enough to produce it and because the luminosity will be high enough also. But ...
34
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4answers
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Models of neutrinos consistent with OPERA's results

I guess by now most people have heard about the new paper (arXiv:1109.4897) by the OPERA collaboration which claims to have observed superluminal neutrinos with 6$\sigma$ significance. Obviously this ...
33
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6answers
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If there were fundamental forces weaker than gravity, would we know about it?

We know that gravity is a very weak force compared to electromagnetic forces and the nuclear forces. We know about the other forces because they're necessary to explain atoms, and we can detect ...
32
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How is it possible to accelerate a neutron?

It is possible to accelerate a charged particle in an electric field, how is it possible to accelerate a neutron? How can we control its velocity?
31
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6answers
4k views

Do electrons have shape?

According to the Wikipedia page on the electron: The electron has no known substructure. Hence, it is defined or assumed to be a point particle with a point charge and no spatial extent. Does ...
30
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4answers
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How do we know Dark Matter isn't simply Neutrinos?

What evidence is there that dark matter isn't one of the known types of neutrinos? If it were, how would this be measurable?
29
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3answers
2k views

What do we see while watching light? Waves or particles?

I'm trying to understand quantum physics. I'm pretty familiar with it but I can't decide what counts as observing to cause particle behave (at least when it's about lights). So the question is what do ...
28
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6answers
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Is there an equation for the strong nuclear force?

The equation describing the force due to gravity is $$F = G \frac{m_1 m_2}{r^2}.$$ Similarly the force due to the electrostatic force is $$F = k \frac{q_1 q_2}{r^2}.$$ Is there a similar equation ...
26
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3answers
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Why is the (free) neutron lifetime so long?

A neutron outside the nucleus lives for about 15 minutes and decays mainly through weak decays (beta decay). Many other weakly decaying particles decay with lifetimes between $10^{-10}$ and $10^{-12}$ ...
26
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5answers
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Why isn't Higgs coupling considered a fifth fundamental force?

When I first learned about the four fundamental forces of nature, I assumed that they were just the only four kind of interactions there were. But after learning a little field theory, there are many ...
26
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6answers
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How do we know photons have spin 1?

Electrons have spin 1/2, and as they are charged, they also have an associated magnetic moment, which can be measured by an electron beam splitting up in an inhomogeneous magnetic field or through the ...
26
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How come neutrons in a nucleus don't decay?

I know outside a nucleus, neutrons are unstable and they have half life of about 15 minutes. But when they are together with protons inside the nucleus, they are stable. How does that happen? I got ...
25
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10answers
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Applications of Algebraic Topology to physics

I have always wondered about applications of Algebraic Topology to Physics, seeing as am I studying algebraic topology and physics is cool and pretty. My initial thoughts would be that since most ...
25
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4answers
1k views

“Slightly off-shell”?

I'm not new to QFT, yet there are some matters which are quite puzzling to me. I often come across the statement that real particles (the ones we actually measure in experiments, not virtual ones) are ...
25
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3answers
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Lie theory, Representations and particle physics

This is a question that has been posted at many different forums, I thought maybe someone here would have a better or more conceptual answer than I have seen before: Why do physicists care about ...
25
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1answer
588 views

Identification of particles and anti-particles

The identification of an electron as a particle and the positron as an antiparticle is a matter of convention. We see lots of electrons around us so they become the normal particle and the rare and ...
25
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1answer
769 views

Status of experimental searches for tachyons?

Now that the dust has settled on the 2011 superluminal neutrino debacle at OPERA, I'm interested in understanding the current status of experimental searches for neutrinos. Although the OPERA claim ...
24
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2answers
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What is the mass density distribution of an electron?

I am wondering if the mass density profile $\rho(\vec{r})$ has been characterized for atomic particles such as quarks and electrons. I am currently taking an intro class in quantum mechanics, and I ...
23
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Would a spin-2 particle necessarily have to be a graviton?

I'm reading often that a possible reason to explain why the Nobel committee is coping out from making the physics Nobel related to the higgs could be among other things the fact that the spin of the ...
23
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1answer
587 views

How does the Super-Kamiokande experiment falsify SU(5)?

In his book "The Trouble With Physics", Lee Smolin writes that he is still stunned by the falsification of the $SU(5)$ Georgi-Glashow model by the null results of proton decay experiments. I should ...
22
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7answers
2k views

Are there old aged particles?

To measure the lifetime of a specific particle one needs to look at very many such particles in order to calculate the average. It cannot matter when the experimentalist actually starts his stopwatch ...
21
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3answers
8k views

How does the Higgs mechanism work?

I'm not a particle physicist, but I did manage to get through the Feynman lectures without getting too lost. Is there a way to explain how the Higgs field works, in a way that people like me might ...
21
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4answers
2k views

How come “smaller, weaker” particles are more massive (have higher energies)?

Something has always struck me as counter-intuitive: when reading about high-energy experiments such as the LHC, they are always looking for stuff on a really small scale with MASSIVE energies. I ...
21
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4answers
2k views

What is your simplest explanation of the string theory?

How would you explain string theory to non physicists such as myself? I'm specially interested on how plausible is it and what is needed to successfully prove it?
21
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3answers
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Do anti-photons exist?

I know what anti-matter is and how when it collides with matter both are annihilated. However, what about anti-photons? Are there such things as anti-photons? I initially thought the idea ...
21
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Is (rest) mass quantized?

I learned today in class that photons and light are quantized. I also remember that electric charge is quantized as well. I was thinking about these implications, and I was wondering if (rest) mass ...
20
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Why should the Standard Model be renormalizable?

Effective theories like Little Higgs models or Nambu-Jona-Lasinio model are non-renormalizable and there is no problem with it, since an effective theory does not need to be renormalizable. These ...
20
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3answers
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Why you need a graviton when you have the higgs boson?

Since I studied General Relativity I had this question running on my mind. As I see it (just taking lectures of Quantum Field Theory right now) "Why you need a gauge boson for gravity when the higgs ...
20
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3answers
283 views

Twistors in Curved Spacetime

I am looking for good and recent references to constructing twistor space for curved spacetime. This could be a general spacetime, or specific ones (say maximally symmetric spaces different from ...
20
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1answer
180 views

Any use for $F_4$ in hep-th?

In high energy physics, the use of the classical Lie groups are common place, and in the Grand Unification the use of $E_{6,7,8}$ is also common place. In string theory $G_2$ is sometimes utilized, ...
19
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7answers
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Why do neutrons repel each other?

I can understand why 2 protons will repel each other, because they're both positive. But there isn't a neutral charge is there? So why do neutrons repel? (Do they, or have I been misinformed?) The ...
19
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3answers
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What exactly is an anti-neutrino?

According to the the definition of anti-particles, they are particles with same mass but opposite charge. Neutrinos by definition have no charge. So, how can it have an anti-particle?
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1answer
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What happened to the idea of tachyonic or other superluminal neutrinos?

While hunting around for information about the recent OPERA measurement that hints at superluminal neutrinos, I discovered that this idea was actually considered back in the 1980s. Wikipedia lists as ...
18
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6answers
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What would be the effects on theoretical physics if neutrinos go faster than light?

Earlier today, I saw this link on Facebook about neutrinos going faster than the speed of light, and of course, re-posted. Since then, a couple of my friends have gotten into a discussion about what ...
18
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3answers
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Are elementary particles actually more elementary than quasiparticles?

Quarks and leptons are considered elementary particles, while phonons, holes, and solitons are quasiparticles. In light of emergent phenomena, such as fractionally charged particles in fractional ...
18
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1answer
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What the heck is the sigma (f0) 600?

At one point, I decided to make friends with the low-lying spectrum of QCD. By this I do not mean the symmetry numbers (the "quark content"), but the actual dynamics, some insight. The pions are the ...
17
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5answers
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Why doesn't matter clump together such that it can't be taken apart again?

Given the inverse square law force of gravity shouldn't two particles that are infinitely close to each other be infinitely attracted to one another? For example, suppose the hands of some super deity ...
17
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3answers
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Quantum mechanics - how can the energy be complex?

In section 134 of Vol. 3 (Quantum Mechanics), Landau and Lifshitz make the energy complex in order to describe a particle that can decay: $E = E_0 - \frac{1}{2}i \Gamma$ The propagator $U(t) = ...
17
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5answers
601 views

Is it really a particle?

Forgive the stupid question but when colliding particles together, how does one know that a particle is actually a new form of sub-atomic matter and not simply just some shattered fragment of the ...
17
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1answer
591 views

In general what will holding an anti-hydrogen atom for more than a 1/10th of second allow scientists to discover?

In general what will holding an anti-hydrogen atom for more than a 1/10th of second allow scientists to discover? Specifically, given that they can hold one for <1/10th of a second, what would ...
17
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4answers
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Are neutrinos Majorana particles?

That is, are they identical to their anti-particles? (Any results of double beta decay experiments?)