What is smaller than a quark?

  • #1

Main Question or Discussion Point

Note: I am not studying the topic in a class. I'm a complete layman when it comes to physics, so you may have to provide lots of detail in small words for me to really understand, heh.

This was my stream of consciousness thought process:
Radio wave > electromagnetic radiation > magnetism > electron > subatomic particle > quark > electro...magnetism?

If I am understanding what I am reading, the movement of electrons creates magnetism.
So can someone explain to me why I'm reading that quarks, which are smaller than electrons, have an electric charge, which in turn creates electromagnetism? Is there an even smaller particle entirely responsible for electricity/magnetism that I am missing, or that we haven't discovered?
Essentially what I am looking for is an answer for what creates electromagnetic waves, where that answer does not create more questions. It is difficult for me to accept that electrons create electromagnetism, when a smaller subatomic particle has electromagnetic properties not related to electrons.

Be gentle on my lack of knowledge/understanding?
 

Answers and Replies

  • #2
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0
Hi there,

It seems that you read many different papers and articles, without necessarily differentiating the topics.

I will try to explain this in a simple manner, but still being correct.

You have four basic interactions: gravity, electromagnetic, nuclear strong, and nuclear weak. These interactions can develop a force on objects or particles. Since, you only talked about the electromagnetic interaction, I will focus mainly on this.

Some particles, like electrons, are electrically charged. Without any more information, we can say that these electrically charged particles create an electric field. When put in motion, these particles start creating an additional magnetic field. This was first explained by Micheal Faraday. It also implies that electricity and magnetism are very closely related.

Now for the electromagnetic wave. Electromagnetic waves are constructed of an oscillating electric and magnetic field. The "faster" the oscillation, the more energy is carried by the photon. The energy range have been categorized (from "slow" oscillation to "fast" oscillation): radio wave, TV, Radar, microwave, infrared, visible light, ultraviolet, X-radiation, and gamma radiation. OK, the X-rays and the gamma rays are very much overlapping, and depends on their origin.

So oscillating electrons in an antenna will create electromagnetic waves of the same rate. Electrons oscillating in an atom will create a wave with a higher frequency. A proton "oscillating" in an atomic nucleus will create one of even higher frequency. And so on. Therefore, any sub-atomic particles has the possibility to create electromagnetic radiation, and the rate is not dependent on the particle size, but on its oscillation frequency.

I hope this helps you a bit. Like I said, I tried my best to stay very classical in my explanation.

Cheers
 
  • #3
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I thought I would add my two sense you the subject of this question. The idea of size makes very little sense when talk about quarks and electrons. The reason is that quarks and electrons are thought to be elementary particles, in other words they contain no other particles. Furthermore it is largely (if not universally) thought that all elementary particles are point like. This means they have no 'measurable' extent (I am glossing over an interesting point for the sake of clarity). This may, in turn, bring about many questions like 'how they can then have mass and charge if they aren't of finite extent?' This may take a little bit a conceptual leap but things like mass and charge are, maybe, better thought of as just characteristics of the particles. (I don't know if someone has a more basic explanation for this. It was also confusing to me in my early years.)

I often get asked 'what is the smallest particle physicist have discovered?' and I always end up explaining this to people. The question doesn't make sense if you mean their actual size. In fact, there are quarks that are much, much heavier than even protons so in terms of mass they aren't small. In terms of charge, however, they are.

I hope this doesn't cause any more confusion it is just a common misconception I thought was worth some words.
 
  • #5
Essentially what I am looking for is an answer for what creates electromagnetic waves, where that answer does not create more questions.
Imagine you are holding an electron in your hand. Now wave your hand. There you go. You have created an electromagnetic wave. For as long as you shake your arm, you are emitting an electromagnetic wave. That's really all there is to it.

How fast you wave your hand defines what wavelength you are dealing with and how wide is your movement determines the amplitude, both of which define how much energy is carried by the emitted electromagnetic wave.

(Describing this mathematically is where it can get difficult at first, and it's what physics curriculum and research is about.)
 
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  • #6
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@Above

Doesn't the vibration in the atom cause it to collide with the electron, thereby exporting the heat energy of the atom into the electron whereas the electron moves into a temporary higher shell. The "wire" between the electron and the atom is a virtual photon, when the atom collided with the electron it movec to a higher temp., sub-electron shell, but for that to happen, the heat energy converted into a virtual photon that keeps the electron connected. The temporary shell is unstable causing the electron to return to the stable shell. The "wire" that was recently added isn't needed any more (virtual photon) and is emitted as a photon.

In this process, the atom lost heat energy.

But what you described was as if the electron vibrates with its heat energy and causes EM radiation.
 

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