I have a non-homework question about the importance of the charge of an electron

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If I heard my physics professor correctly, he said that one of the largest standing problems in science is why particles in the universe always have a charge that is a multiple integer of the charge of an electron (1.60217646 × 10-19 coulombs). He went on to say that the LHC is looking for the answer right now, and if someone where to show this that they would be the most famous scientist. I wonder why this is important, and what is the implication? Like I said, this is not homework, just a curious question. I have a understanding of physics up to the second semester of freshmen college calc based physics.

He didnt say anything else about it; I honestly dont see how you can bring up something like that to a room full of scientists to be and then walk away without revisiting the topic! :)

Thank you.
 
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Well I'm not knowledgeable on any of this, but given you only get whole electrons wouldn't it make sense that particles have a charge that is a multiple of the charge of an electron if they contain electrons? Where would the extra charge come from?
 
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Well I'm not knowledgeable on any of this, but given you only get whole electrons wouldn't it make sense that particles have a charge that is a multiple of the charge of an electron if they contain electrons? Where would the extra charge come from?
Makes sense, if everything is made of particles with a charge you have to have some multiple of that charge. he made it sound like a big question, maybe i misunderstood.
 
  • #4
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The way you charge something is to add / remove electrons (think static electricity buildups) so to me it makes sense that it would be a multiple of the electron charge value. Assuming the proton value rarely changes, the best way to gauge the amount of charge would be with the electron count.
 
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I think it is more of a question as to why the electron charge is 1.60217646 × 10-19 coulombs and not why everything else is a multiple of this charge.

Even when you get down to it, why should a proton have the same charge (different sign) than an electron? Electrons are (believed to be) elementary particles. Protons (and neutrons) are made up of quarks which have charges that are either 1/3 or 2/3 of the charge on an electron. Free quarks don't exist in nature, but why doesn't the electron have the same magnitude of charge as a quark?
 

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