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What is a “particle”?
Quantum physics says everything is made of particles, but what does that actually mean?
For Symmetry Magazine:
“Is he a dot or is he a speck? When he’s underwater, does he get wet? Or does the water get him instead? Nobody knows.” —They Might Be Giants, “Particle Man”
We learn in school that matter is made of atoms and that atoms are made of smaller ingredients: protons, neutrons and electrons. Protons and neutrons are made of quarks, but electrons aren’t. As far as we can tell, quarks and electrons are fundamental particles, not built out of anything smaller.
It’s one thing to say everything is made of particles, but what is a particle? And what does it mean to say a particle is “fundamental”? What are particles made of, if they aren’t built out of smaller units? [Read the rest at Symmetry Magazine…]