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What is a particle?

  1. Aug 7, 2008 #1
    There are times when performing mental experiments on the properties of space and matter where I have difficulty distinguishing the two from one another.

    Most times it's easier to assume particles as having a sort of mathematical physical structure, almost like marbles without surface features. Then there are times when it almost seems intuitive to look at particles as though they were fluid distortions of space itself. For that matter, it even seem intuitive to see space-time as a mathematical fluid to illustrate space warping and EM wave propagation.

    What it comes down to, is I'm really confused as to what particles are, their physical behaviors and properties, and how they relate and respond mechanically to wave and particle collision.

    Is there an accurate model that encompasses everything that we have observed about particles, or are the atomic models we are using today just best guesses at specific aspects of our observations?

    That is.. one model works for one set of calculations, while another model accounts for oddities in the first model, and visa-versa.

    It seems as though the very fundamentals of particle/wave duality must hinge on the understanding of how particles behave and respond to change internally and individually, rather than observing action/reaction averages of their collective behaviors. It would seem impossible to have a ridged set of rules that accurately describe particle behavior without an understanding of what they really are?
  2. jcsd
  3. Aug 10, 2008 #2
    Firstly mass and energy are equivalent; they are the same thing.

    'Is there an accurate model that encompasses everything that we have observed about particles? - Yes, well to a sufficient accuracy anyway. Whilst there is not one 'theory of everything' that descirbes everything we know, Quantum Mechanics does very well at the very small scale, Relativity at high speeds, classical mechanics at large size, small speed, and quantum field theory at small size, high speed.

    Quantum mechanics tells us that particles are essentially a wavefunction - it's really quite interesting.
  4. Aug 10, 2008 #3
    String theory tells us that particles are vibrating strings (if I have the concept right)
  5. Aug 10, 2008 #4
    String Theory has not been submitted to (and passed) the physical testing that the theories quark mentioned are much more established and experimentally confirmed. Although, inclusion of more theoretical ideas as to what particles "Are" is probably useful. As for a complete theory, the Standard Model is a (specially) relativistic quantum field theory, which is good for most interactions involving particles, providing they aren't big enough to make gravity a factor.

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