Dismiss Notice
Join Physics Forums Today!
The friendliest, high quality science and math community on the planet! Everyone who loves science is here!

What physically causes the energy to make subatomic particles move?

  1. Jan 16, 2012 #1
    What physically causes the energy to make subatomic particles move?
    Why do subatomic particles move(when not in absolute zero)? I know that it is energy in the form of heat, but what physically causes this "heat energy" to be able to move the particles?
  2. jcsd
  3. Jan 16, 2012 #2
    Energy is a description of motion, not a cause of it. If a baseball or an atom is in motion, it has a kinetic energy that can be calculated given its mass and velocity (it's defined as 1/2 * mass * velocity^2). But one wouldn't say that the baseball's or the atom's kinetic energy "cause" them to move. The thing that causes a baseball to be in motion is getting hit by a bat; the thing that causes atoms to move is that they are constantly getting hit by other moving atoms.

    "Heat energy" is basically just another name for the *kinetic* energy of the atoms and molecules that make up matter jiggling around.
  4. Jan 18, 2012 #3
    But what causes the motion?

    We don't yet have a complete understanding of what causes motion, although lots of existing theories are extremely good at approximating motion of particles to a very good accuracy. Most theories require a "singularity" at the beginning of time, or more commonly, "The Big Bang".
    If you trace all the equations of motion back to the big bang, then... well there are different theories of what caused the big bang. One of the most common views is God. There is the multiverse theory. There are also lots of other theories. If you now want to ask what caused the very first thing - without cause - then maybe you are talking about God or whatnot - but that is more of a philosophical discussion than a scientific one.

    But anyway, energy isn't an an actual little piece of electric bolt that makes things "fired up"* or some handwavy bull, the term "energy" itself is just a useful quantity from equations of motion.
    *Although this is sometimes a good way of visualizing what energy is, solely for intuitive purposes imo
  5. Jan 18, 2012 #4


    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor
    Education Advisor
    2018 Award

    This is a bit strange and rather vague.

    Would you consider "electron" as a "subatomic particle"? If you do, then *I* often make it move!

    How? Because I shoot electrons and accelerate them in a particle accelerator. And I can tell you that I'm not the only one who does that. I make them move by applying an electric field to it.

    Could that be one answer to your question?

Share this great discussion with others via Reddit, Google+, Twitter, or Facebook