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mattbrowne's avatar

When will scientists find smaller building blocks than quarks and gluons?

Asked by mattbrowne (31449 points ) April 14th, 2009

For a long time people thought you can’t split atoms. The word ‘atom’ means being indivisible. The term turned out to be a bit premature. Electrons and a core were discovered and the core itself turned out to consist of protons and neutrons. Was this it? No, even protons and neutrons are not the smallest building blocks of matter. The quarks were named after the sound made by ducks and they turned out to be quite ‘colorful’. Is this really the end of it? Is there something more fundamental still? If yes, will it take another 100 years to find something even smaller. If the macro cosmos turns out to be a multiverse or something even bigger, how can we be sure it’s different for micro cosmos? Sure there’s Planck length and Planck time, but Newton was also proven wrong eventually.

If you like to know what the sticky stuff called gluons are, please let me know.

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17 Answers

Benny's avatar

Well, a gluon isn’t a “building block”. It’s a force particle. But I see your point.

Dog's avatar

I believe that the particles within an atom are infinate- that there will always be the discovery of particles.

It is one of the two final frontiers. In exploring them we are only held back by lack of technology.

Qingu's avatar

Yes, I’d bet money on it. Might take a while though. But it’s pretty clear that something must be more fundamental than fermions and bosons, and I’m not going to bet against an open-ended possibility of scientists discovering it.

noelasun's avatar

There will always be a new “atom” for every “atom” found, or so I believe. I also think it’s something innate to the nature of science that can’t but help after discovering the newest “atom” for their next thought to be, “Is there anything else smaller?”

mattbrowne's avatar

@Benny – Why not see force particles as ‘building blocks’? Ever got hit by a high-energy photon? Ouch.

ubersiren's avatar

I just learned that “atom” meant “indivisible” last night on Jeopardy! I wonder what really is indivisible… is it possible for something to be totally pure? For something to be unmade from anything else? The base of all matter? We should probably smoke some pot and really think about this…

noelasun's avatar

@ubersiren you’d totally fit in at my college… you’ve just discribed our average day =)

Benny's avatar

Well building block implies mass. That’s what I meant. And I have been hit by a high energy photon—an x-ray. I didn’t feel a thing!

bezdomnaya's avatar

The CMS team at the CERN Large Hadron Collider is working on finding a tiny particle called Higgs right now. They hope to have a large breakthrough in the next few years (Plans are already set to deactivate said collider and make an even bigger one).

Higgs is nicknamed ‘The God Particle’. How cool would it be to have that nickname?

mattbrowne's avatar

@bezdomnaya – What takes them so long fixing this machine? Maybe God intervened and pulled the plug in sectors 3 and 4. Why would He make it so easy finding His particle ;-)

@Benny – Ever put your head into the jet axis of a gamma ray burst? Don’t tell me you didn’t feel a thing… Since when do photons on the move not have a mass?

Benny's avatar

@mattbrowne In terms of the machine, it was always planned to shut it down for the winter anyway.

In terms of photons, they are always on the move, and they do not have mass. If they had mass, they couldn’t move at the speed of light. Photons are massless.

bezdomnaya's avatar

@mattbrowne I believe they’ve fixed it actually, but France and Switzerland have low energy months when regular households are meant to conserve energy. So firing up a collider that needs to be cooled to near absolute zero is probably not gonna go over well with them. Patience, my friend. The summer is near.

mattbrowne's avatar

@Benny – You just buried mass energy equivalence. Well done! I hope Einstein won’t turn in his grave, may God rest his soul.

@bezdomnaya – Damn the second law of thermodynamics. And the French turned the LHC into a regular household. So maybe the engineers in section 3 and 4 had a little bit too much Pernod. All right, all right, let’s wait for the summer… The Higgs beast can’t hide much longer…

Benny's avatar

http://imagine.gsfc.nasa.gov/docs/ask_astro/answers/960731.html

Photons do not have mass, but they have momentum. Give me some credit, Matt. You know I know my physics.

Benny's avatar

@bezdomnaya is correct. The plan was always to shut it down during the winter. It will only operate during summer months.

mattbrowne's avatar

@Benny – I’m just teasing you a little bit ;-) You know far more about astronomy than I do. Photons are zero rest-mass particles (when they don’t move they have no mass). Objects without a rest mass, such as photons, also carry momentum. This is why solar sails work. The energy of photons can be interpreted as mass (a tiny little “thing” that hits the sail). Anyway, the question was about splitting quarks.

Benny's avatar

@mattbrowne Yeah, well I didn’t want to smack you down TOO much in public. :-)

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