Unlocking The Secrets of The Standard Model Part 7: The Weak Nuclear Force

Hello again, my lovely readers! As promised, here is today’s post in everybody’s favorite series. Today we will be talking about yet another one of the fundamental forces, and one that has many extremely important implications. I hope you enjoy Unlocking The Secrets of The Standard Model Part 7: The Weak Nuclear Force.

 

The weak nuclear force is one of the fundamental forces of nature. It is the 3rd strongest of the bunch, and is carried by the W and Z bosons. While all of the other forces are busy working on holding things together, the weak nuclear force governs how things fall apart, also known as decay. When a particle has lived out its entire life, it usually dies in a pretty spectacular way, not simply stopping to exist, but distributing its energy and mass equally into smaller particles. This phenomenon is known as decay, and it comes in many forms. Specific particles decay into other set particles. For example, Neutron decay. Neutron decay is one of the most important, and most relevant scientific topics ever discovered. A neutron that exists outside of a nucleus has a very long lifespan, existing for around 10 minutes. In terms of particles, this is an extremely long time. When a neutron has outlived its time, it decays into other particles, usually degrading into a proton, an electron, and an electron anti-neutrino, which is an antimatter particle. Neutron decay, which is a form of beta decay is better known as radioactivity, and is the cause of radioactivity in the first place.

 

The weak nuclear force has a very special property, which is the ability to change the flavor of a quark. Simply put, it has the ability to change one type of quark into another. This helps with the decay of certain particles, and still allows for the conservation of energy. This is especially useful in the processes of stars. A star is able to stay as big and as hot as it is by the process of nuclear fusion. Without the weak nuclear force governing the process, the sun would not be able to fuse in the first place, as no particles would be able to decay into other particles, and photons would be able to be released in the first place.

 

Here comes the fun part that I talked about in my last post: Electroweak theory. The weak nuclear force and the electromagnetic force seem to be two very different forces, doing very different things. Yet this is not true. In fact, above a specific energy level, about 246 GeV, the two forces merge together into one single force, which is commonly referred to as the electroweak force. The reason for this is that the two forces do basically the same thing, but at different magnitudes. The weak nuclear force does its job at quantum levels, and the electromagnetic force tends to stick to macro levels. In fact, during the early moments after the big bang, the two forces were merged into one force, simply because the universe was so hot. This is the basis of electroweak theory.

 

Well everyone, that’s just about it for today’s post. Hope you enjoyed reading it, and stay tuned for the next one!

 

~Zane

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Unlocking The Secrets of The Standard Model Part 6: Electromagnetism

As we progress through this series, the theories and concepts become increasingly difficult and abstract. Though they may seem daunting, the simple solution to this is to read the passage a few times. When I don’t understand something, I like to try to read the context surrounding it, which usually helps me catch a fact that I missed, and helps everything click together. If all else fails, Google is your friend. Sit back, relax, and enjoy Unlocking The Secrets of The Standard Model Part 6: Electromagnetism.

 

So far, we have only covered one of the fundamental forces: gravitation. This time, we will be talking about another force: Electromagnetism. Before we begin, I would encourage you to read my series on gauge bosons, where we talked a bit more in depth about the photon. To put it simply, for the sake of staying concise, the photon is a particle that is the carrier of the electromagnetic force. If you have ever heard of the electromagnetic spectrum, then you should know a thing or two about photons. If not, I would suggest giving it a quick google. Basically, the electromagnetic force is the cause of the two poles of a magnet, and the two charges of particles: negative and positive. If not for the electromagnetic force, particles like the electron and proton would never be attracted to each other.

 

The electromagnetic force is the 2nd strongest of the four fundamental forces. It is extremely powerful both on a quantum and macro scale. Considering the fact that it plays such a fundamental part in particle interaction, we are very lucky that it is as strong as it is. If it was even the tiniest bit weaker, atoms would not be able to stay together, and elements would not be able to bond with one another. This would result in life as we know ceasing to exist. Everything would just sort of float apart.

 

This next point is extremely fun to me, and is one of my absolute favorite things to talk about: The Ultraviolet Catastrophe. Even though it may sound like a really cool action movie title, it is much more than that. It is the culmination of some of the greatest minds in science, and their epic quest to find out why theories about light hadn’t ever worked out mathematically. The theory began with the theorized idea of a “black body.” A black body is a theoretical physical body that can absorb or emit any kind of electromagnetic radiation. The issue with that was that at higher frequencies of light, the black body would emit infinite amounts of radiation, which was simply not possible. This problem was fixed soon after Albert Einstein published his paper titled “The Photoelectric Effect.” Prior to this paper, it was believed that light was solely a wave, and functioned like one, which resulted in the aforementioned issue. To solve this issue, Einstein stated that light was not only a wave, but at the same time a particle. He theorized that in some ways it acted as a wave, and in others it acted as a particle. This later led to the idea of photons, which revolutionized the way that early quantum theory worked.

 

For future reference, there is one theory that I will be talking about after we get acquainted with out next force, which is the weak nuclear force. This theory is known as “electroweak theory,” and is one of the most important, and most complicated theory known to mankind. I will really try to put it simply, but I barely understand it myself. I hope to put out the next post today or tomorrow, but research on electroweak might make that a bit tough. We shall see how it goes.

 

Thanks so much to my loyal readers, and I hope all of you enjoyed Part 5!

 

~Zane

Unlocking The Secrets of The Standard Model Part 5: Gravitation

Over the past few weeks, we’ve been talking about the standard model of particle physics. When we finished talking about the particles included in that model, it may have seemed like the standard model was completed, and we had nothing more to talk about on that subject. Yet, that is very incorrect. The standard model is not just an explanation of the different particles that make up our universe. Instead, it is an explanation of the interactions that exist at a subatomic level. This means that, to truly understand and talk about the current version of the Standard Model, we need to talk about quite a few more things. I am beyond excited by that fact, because it means that I get to share my knowledge with you! Our next 4 part series will be about one of my favorite pieces of quantum mechanics: The Fundamental Interaction. So sit back, relax, and enjoy Part 5 of Unlocking the Secrets of The Standard Model: Gravitation.

Before we can begin to understand the secrets behind gravity, or any of the fundamental forces, we must first understand the parent term “Fundamental Interaction.” A fundamental interaction is defined as “an interaction that cannot be reduced to more basic interactions.” Simply put, a fundamental interaction is an interaction between matter that cannot be broken down any further than itself. There are 4 fundamental interactions that we know of, each of which serving a niche, yet imperative purpose to our universe. These 4 forces are gravitation, electromagnetism, the strong nuclear force, and the weak nuclear force. During this series, we will be talking about these forces in the order that they were discovered, or proven. Today’s topic is the first of them: gravitation.

Gravity is a complex subject. When I say complex, I mean COMPLEX. We have known about Gravity for hundreds of years, yet we still have barely a rough theory as to why it exists. This theory is the ever famous Theory of General Relativity, proposed by one of the greatest scientific minds in human history: Albert Einstein. Einstein theorized that gravity was caused not by a particle, but instead by the interaction between mass and something called spacetime. Spacetime is a theorized type of matter that permeates the universe. An example of how spacetime works would be to think of it like a house. If all of the matter in the universe were the different parts of a house, spacetime would be the concrete foundation that it was built upon. It exists everywhere that matter does. According to Einstein, spacetime was a fluid substance, capable of being manipulated and warped. He theorized that objects with enormous masses, stars for example, had the ability to cause spacetime to warp in a strange way, therefore causing it to attempt to pull things towards it. According to general relativity, the sun only has gravity because it warps the spacetime around it, causing things to be pulled towards it.

Gravity is an extremely strange concept for one specific reason: it is the only fundamental interaction that does not have a particle to carry its force. Every other fundamental interaction has some sort of force carrying particle, which allows it to exert its influence over other matter. Yet gravity has no known particle, instead being caused by the interaction of theoretical spacetime, which is also not a particle. In an effort to rectify this issue, many particle accelerators have begun the search for the particle that is now being called the “graviton.” Though it has yet to be discovered, many theorists are positive that it exists. Despite the incredible strength of gravity, it is actually the weakest of the fundamental forces. It exerts the least force per area compared to all of the other particles.

Well, that’s it for this post! Catch you guys later!

~Zane

Unlocking The Secrets of The Standard – Model Part 3: Gauge Bosons

The world of quantum physics is one of the most amazing things in the world. It holds the secrets to all of the universe, and within a few particles, the story of the entire universe. This simple fact inspires two reactions within people. For those who are educated, and willing to understand, it is a beautiful world, one which harbors infinite amounts of knowledge. The other reaction is by those whose first choice is to instantly jump to a state of ignorance and fear. These people choose to make up insane theories about all of the awful things that scientists do, hence ideas like chemtrails, and the LHC creating black holes. As I said earlier, my intention with writing this is to help reduce this level of ignorance, and to shed some light on the truth. Even if it only helps 1 person, my job is done. Let us continue our adventure into the world of quantum physics with: Unlocking The Secrets of The Standard Model Part 3: Gauge Bosons.

 

According to wikipedia, a gauge boson is described as: “Any (bosonic) particle that carries any of the fundamental forces of nature. This means that the particles will include one of the 4 known fundamental forces. These forces are: Electromagnetic, Gravity, Strong Nuclear Force, and Weak Nuclear Force. The class of gauge bosons contains 4 particles: The gluon, the photon, the Z boson, and the W boson. Each of these particles helps to enforce or carry one of the fundamental forces of nature, other than gravity. Gravity currently has no known particle that causes it to work, instead it is explained through Einstein’s General Theory of Relativity. It is theorized that there may be a gauge boson that carries gravity, but it is not yet known whether it truly exists. This theoretical particle is often referred to as the “graviton.” All of these particles are bosonic, which means that they have a spin of 1.

 

The first boson on the list is the gluon. The gluon does the work of the strong nuclear force, specifically between quarks. It has a near zero mass, and is considered to be one of the smallest particles in the known model. The gluon tends to hang out in a field around quarks, forcing them to stick to each other, and form a particle. Since gluons execute the strong nuclear force, they are the only thing that keeps similarly charged quarks from repelling each other. The gluon has no inherent charge, which makes it easier for it to interact with itself, and other charged particles.

 

The second boson on the list is the photon. The photon has a special place in the heart of science, specifically because it can be used to explain almost everything in the universe. The photon is the only known particle with a mass of 0, which gives it the ability to pass through almost any object without resistance. The best way to explain a photon is by thinking of it as a packet of energy, or light. The photon is the particle that produces and holds energy, and is responsible for the electromagnetic force. The photon is also the particle that produced the electromagnetic spectrum, which includes visible light. It is arguably the most important particle ever discovered.

 

The W and Z bosons are the last bosons on this list. They are usually lumped together, simply because they mediate the same force: The Weak Nuclear Force. The W boson can be either negatively or positively charged, each differently charge version being the opposites anti-particle. I will delve deeper into antimatter and exotic forces in another entry. The Z boson is neutrally charged, and is its own antiparticle. The Z boson is special, considering the fact that it is the only particle to be its own antiparticle. The W and Z bosons are mediators of some of the properties of the weak force that include neutrinos. Since this is an entry level explanation, I will simply say that they are extremely technical and complicated. If you have more interest in it, you can look up “Nuclear Transmutation,” and “Neutrino/Positron Absorption/Emission.” W and Z bosons are extremely massive, weighing more than an entire iron atom. This causes the range of the weak nuclear force to be limited in range. These bosons are most commonly known for the integral role that they play in neutron decay, specifically that of beta decay of the element cobalt-60.

 

That about covers it for the gauge bosons. The next topic we will be covering is the newly discovered and highly controversial Higgs Boson, also known as the “God Particle.” That will be the last entry about elementary particles, and after that, we will move on to different concepts, such as fundamental forces, and antimatter. Until then, everybody!

 

~Zane

Unlocking the Secrets of The Standard Model – Part 2: Leptons

Quantum physics is a scary field. It holds so many answers, and almost none of those are truly understandable by the general public. This results in theories like the idea that CERN and the LHC have “destroyed our universe,” or that “The LHC creates black holes that will kill us all.” This is as much speculation as it is simple ignorance. This is why I chose to write this series: to enlighten the general public about the truths of Quantum Physics, and shed some light on the truths behind the ignorance. Without further adieu, here is part 2 of Unlocking the Secrets of The Standard Model: Leptons.

 

Leptons are a reclusive bunch. They like to hang out by themselves, and tend to stay away from one another. This is why they hold such prevalence to the field of Quantum Physics. If we can observe some different kind of particles, most of which are either irregular, or try to repel (or annihilate) each other, we can gain some real insights into the world of Quantum Physics. There are 6 different types of leptons that are included in the standard model. Before I cover these different types of leptons, we should first talk about the definition of a lepton, and the definition of a fermion. A fermion is “a subatomic particle, such as a nucleon, that has half-integral spin and follows the statistical description given by Fermi and Dirac.” This simply means that a fermion is any particle with ½ spin, such as quarks, and leptons. In fact, quarks and leptons are the two subcategories of fermions. Since we’ve already covered quarks, we can move on to the definition of a lepton. A lepton is defined as “Any ½ integer spin particle that does not undergo strong interactions.” I will be covering the strong interaction in a later post, so we can ignore that for the moment.

 

Now that we know what leptons are, we can talk about the six different flavors that we know of. The first 3 that we will cover are the charged leptons. The first charged lepton is the ever-famous electron. Most people know about what an electron is, but since this post is mainly geared toward enlightening others about these things, I will give a brief synopsis. The electron is arguably the most important particle ever discovered. Like all other leptons, it has a half integer spin, and is negatively charged. The electron orbits around the outside of the atomic nucleus, being held in just the right place by the charge of the protons in the center. That’s pretty much the fundamentals of the electron.

 

The next particle is the muon, which is the second of the charged leptons. A muon is simply a much larger and more unstable electron. It is about 207 times as large as an electron, and holds a similar charge. They mostly produced by cosmic rays, and in particle accelerators. Because they are so massive, the are not produced by normal radioactive decay, unlike most other particles. Muons have no known use to any kind of interaction, other than their strange style of decay.

 

The final charged lepton is known as the tau, or tauon. The tauon has a negative electrical charge, and, as all other leptons, has a half integer spin. The Tauon again can be thought of as a much larger electron, considering the fact that it is interacts in mostly the same way. The only difference is that the tauon is much, much more massive, and much more deeply penetrating. Tauons also have very strange decay properties, much like those of a muon, but with different particles.

 

The final 3 leptons are known as neutrinos, and they have no charge. Each of the 3 charged leptons has a neutrino counterpart. The three types of neutrinos are: The electron neutrino, the muon neutrino, and the tau neutrino. A neutrino has no charge, and a near-zero mass, making it extremely hard to detect without the right kind of equipment or experiment. The most common way that neutrinos are produced is in the decay of other particles, specifically the particles that each neutrino is named after. Each neutrino is produced either in a star, in some kind of cosmic reaction, or in particle decay.

 

That covers all of the leptons! If you have any questions, suggestion, or feedback, feel free to let me know! Stay with us as the wonderful world of Quantum Physics is rediscovered, one piece at a time!

 

~Zane