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Minimalism in physics

  1. Feb 25, 2006 #1
    I have to say that the standard model of particle physics(I havent taken any classes it yet, we just dipped our toes in it in a quantum physics lecture) sometimes gives me a profound sense of wrongness. Im not claiming it is wrong or anything asinine like that but it just feels wrong since I look at physics in a minimalistic way.

    I mean first we had all these countless chemical substances that no one understood until some clever people found out they are all made out of basic elements that can not chemicaly be further reduced. Some speculated the elements where made out of atoms. Others Im sure responed with "put the crackpipe down".

    Then came Einstein with his brownian motion paper and screamed to the world "look at this right here uhu, atoms DO exist" and everyone wanted to know what the *beep* makes up a atom:confused:

    So they(Rutherford and Bohr??) showed that a atom is a electron orbiting a nucleus of protons and neutrons and the difference betwen elements was mere changes in the ammount of protons. :!!)

    By this time I assume all minimalist where wetting there pants in anticipation of how its possible to reduce that down to one or maby 2 particles that will constitute all matter everywhere.:approve:

    But then came the standard model of particle physics and introduced not only 6? quarks, but boatloads of particles seemingly without purpose:confused: , they are just there to annoy minimalists..... Did anyone se that coming:bugeye:

    Is minimalism in physics dead today or is it a comon belife that we will be able to reduce all those particles down to a few that will explain all of matter?? I assume string theory tries to, but it doesnt seem particulary succesfull so far??
    Last edited: Feb 25, 2006
  2. jcsd
  3. Feb 25, 2006 #2
    Minimalism is not dead. It is a common belief, but it isn't the only view.
  4. Feb 25, 2006 #3
    Do you(as in everyone on this board not just you k) personaly hold the belife that everything around us ultimately is emergent phenomenons from one single force/particle?
  5. Feb 25, 2006 #4
    I don't hold that view.

    There begs the question what are these things made of. To me, that means they must be made of smaller and smaller bits - i.e. quantum foam.
  6. Feb 25, 2006 #5


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    Did you ever hear of the particle zoo? In the 1950s physicists used their ever more powerful accelerators and ever more sensitive detectors to discover scads of new short-lived particles. They could measure things about these particles too, and theorists developed concepts like isospin and strangeness to describe features some of these particles had in common with others. Then around 1960 the quark picture was introduced. There were three of them, they had fractional electric charge, and combined in threes or twos they accounted for isospin and strangeness and explained the strong force feeling particles known at the time, including the proton and neutron. This model at first was not taken as a discripotion of actual particles, but after it successfully predicted a new particle that was later found, the omega-minus, it was taken more seriously. And when gauge theory matured and it became possible to describe the quark picture as an SU(3) gauge theory called QCD, predictions began to flow. Those other three quarks weren't introduced for fun, they flow from the gauge theory. And they have all been found and measured in accelerator experiments. Of course we can't see them directly, but the theory predicts how they influence the interaction of phenomenal particles how the decay products will behave, and that can be seen. And measured. And tight conclusions drawn.

    So your intuition, like intuition generally in modern physics, turns out to be a feeble reed to lean on. Try to get beyond it.
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