Dismiss Notice
Join Physics Forums Today!
The friendliest, high quality science and math community on the planet! Everyone who loves science is here!

Can electrons me decomposed?

  1. Oct 10, 2007 #1
    Are electrons "basic" particles? Or can they be broken down just like protons and neutrons?

    Would their wave nature have anything to do with this?
  2. jcsd
  3. Oct 11, 2007 #2


    User Avatar
    Science Advisor
    Homework Helper

    According to the leading theories the electrons are elementary particles (i.e not composite), and I belive that every experiment suggest that they are indeed elementary particles.

    Wave nature of matter is due to de Broglie's fundamental law, that says that every object has wave nature according to: [tex] \lambda = \dfrac{h}{p} [/tex].
  4. Oct 11, 2007 #3
    I had heard something about a so-called FHQ effect...whichc I do not really understand.

    It was supposed to have to with smaller particles making up electrons.

    Any info on that?
  5. Oct 11, 2007 #4


    User Avatar
    Science Advisor
    Homework Helper

    nope, dont know nada about that FHQ, where did you heard about it?
  6. Oct 11, 2007 #5
  7. Oct 11, 2007 #6
    This is an interesting question. I think that the correct answer is that the electron being fundamental is consistent with every experiment that we know.

    I think I can do a bit better, though. Typically, theorists are pretty good at the art of dimensional analysis. Basically, every problem sets a typical scale for itself. The best example is quantum electrodynamics. It has only one scale---the mass of the electron. Because E = mc^2, this sets an energy where QED effects become important. If you work throught the numbers, you find that this scale is the Compton wavelength of the electron (NOT a coincidence). So you have to start worrying about calculating QED effects at the Compton wavelength of the electron, which is 10 or so times smaller than the Bohr radius. This is exactly why you can use old-fashioned non-relativistic quantum mechanics and get good results out of the Bohr model.

    So, in some sense, the most natural place for new physics to take over is at a energy that the problem itself dictates. So if the electron was composite, we would have expected to find out that it was composite when doing experiments at an energy set by the electron's mass. And we've been doing those experiments for quite some time.

    The same is true for the proton---when we start doing experiments at energies on the order of the proton's mass, we find out very quickly that the proton is composite.

    So saying that the elctron is fundamental is a pretty good guess---there would have to be some pretty tricky new physics that we have missed. But, of course, anything IS possible.
  8. Oct 11, 2007 #7
    I'm not sure where you were going with that...I won't pretend to be an expert at this either.
  9. Oct 13, 2007 #8
    Well, typically the dimensionful parameter sets a scale for new physics. In nuclear physics it is the proton mass. So, when we collide protons with energies around 1 GeV, we get signatures that are consistent with the proton being composite.

    Likewise, if the electron were composite, we would expect that electron collisions at an energy of around 1 MeV would SHOW us signatures that were consistent with the electron being composite. Because we haven't seen such behavior, we believe that the electron is fundamental.
  10. Oct 13, 2007 #9
    What is this signature like?
Share this great discussion with others via Reddit, Google+, Twitter, or Facebook