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Subatomic particles infinitesimally smaller

  1. Sep 26, 2012 #1
    Each time we smash an atom, we find smaller and smaller subatomic particles. Could it be possible that subatomic particles exist infinitesimally smaller and that there is not end to the decreasing size? Would that have any relation to the relation between mass and energy per E=MC2, such that mass and energy are one in the same?
     
  2. jcsd
  3. Sep 26, 2012 #2
    No, then yes. Mass and Energy are the same, just two ways of talking about the same thing. But the whole idea of quantum physics is that there is some 'state of lowest energy' that is the 'smallest' particle that can exist.

    But your premise is wrong. That "Each time we smash an atom, we find smaller and smaller subatomic particles" thing may have been true in the 50s and 60s, and it was a big conundrum then, but it is no longer true. We have found 16 subatomic particles, all predicted by our theories, and now 1 other, which the scientific world is eagerly waiting to find out whether or not it was also predicted by our theories, or whether or not it is something else.
     
  4. Sep 26, 2012 #3

    Drakkith

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  5. Sep 26, 2012 #4
    Well, they can't get successively more massive as they are broken down, as then they would be larger than the actual particles that they make up. The fact remains that a universe is made up of galaxies, made up of orbiting stars, made up of orbiting planets, with orbiting moons, all of which are made up of atoms, which are made up of electrons orbiting around nuclei of protons and neutrons, which are then made up of quarks. The logic follows that there is likely some sort of additional division, possibly more particles, or possibly something currently inexplainable, like dark matter, for instance. The fact that we have virtually no idea what creates 93% of the gravitational effects within the cosmos shows are ignorance.

    That said, thanks for the explanation!
     
  6. Sep 26, 2012 #5
    What Drakkith said made total sense in the context of scientific history but if you are touchy on that subject it may have been a little confusing. What he meant was the the first elementary particles we discovered (the up quarks, down quarks and electrons) turn out to actually be the lightest particles that we have found so far. With 1 or 2 exceptions, all the other particles we have found since that are elementary are heavier than the ones we first knew about.

    And the logic doesn't follow. It's possible there are 'deeper' levels, and there have been theories proposed to that effect, but generally the evidence is not there for them and it's often assumed that the 'missing pieces' are new particles hitherto undiscovered.
     
  7. Sep 26, 2012 #6
    I see. Thanks for the explanation. That said, it seems just as naive to assume that there is, in fact, a 'smallest particle' as to assume that there is not.
     
  8. Sep 26, 2012 #7

    Drakkith

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    You misunderstand. The other subatomic particles are not inside each other. We can create them from particle collisions, but they rapidly decay into the lightest fundamental particles. We actually have no evidence that there are other, smaller, less massive particles making up the ones in the article I linked. They are, as far as we know, truly fundamental. While it may seem like its "logical" that there be smaller and smaller particles, in reality it is not. Just because we have seen that trend up until now in no way means that it should continue.
     
  9. Sep 26, 2012 #8

    Drakkith

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    We don't assume either one. We look at the available evidence. So far we have no reason to believe there are smaller particles. If we find evidence in the future, then our view will change. That is the essence of science!
     
  10. Sep 26, 2012 #9
    Some subatomic particles do make up larger particles, such as the aforementioned protons and neutrons being made up of quarks. Again, without evidence that quarks are made up of yet smaller sub-subatomic particles, the assumption is moot. That said, I posit that they can be broken down further! Perhaps they're made up of D.M.P.s!
     
  11. Sep 26, 2012 #10
    You can posit it, as I said others have as well. But the bottom line is there is no evidence for it like there was evidence for quark theory a couple decades ago. And therefore until a theory comes up with something testable, it will be outside mainstream science.
     
  12. Sep 26, 2012 #11

    Drakkith

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    You can posit what you like, but you can't do it here on PF according to the rules.
     
  13. Sep 26, 2012 #12
    There has been investigations of possible substructure of quarks, but so far results are negative and the consensus is that there is no such thing.
     
  14. Sep 27, 2012 #13
  15. Sep 27, 2012 #14
    Orbiting? this is not true and is also a 50's mindset.
     
  16. Sep 27, 2012 #15
  17. Sep 27, 2012 #16
    Important to note here that unless I am drastically misreading the links, the 'three parts of the electron' are quasi-particles. Look up at wikipedia to find the difference, but these are not elementary particles.
     
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