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 1: Quarks

After a long hiatus, I am back, and ready to entertain and inform my readers with a new series. This one pertains to the Quantum Physics, a subatomic hobby of mine. Each piece will be explaining a different piece of Quantum Physics, starting with the very first series: Unlock the Secrets of The Standard Model. I’m hoping that after I’m done, I’ll be able to compile all the information into a short book. So here is Part 1: Quarks.

In high school, we all learned about the “basic building blocks of matter.” We always assumed that things like protons, neutrons, and electrons were the end all be all of what composes matter. We learned about things like elements, covalent bonds, electron interactions, and even a little bit of quantum chemistry, but that was the end of it. We never stopped to research, or even consider the fact that there may be something beyond these 3 basic particles. Luckily for the entire scientific community, there is something beyond these 3 particles. The true basic building blocks of almost all of the matter in the universe. These infinitesimal particles are known as quarks.

 

Before we delve into the definition of a quark, we must first talk about the different classifications of something called “elementary particles.” An elementary particle is a subatomic particle that helps to comprise the most essential pieces of matter in the universe. To help us keep track of all these different particles, we have something called the “Standard Model of Particle Physics.” This standard model separates different forms of matter into the proper categories. The 4 categories that exist within the Standard Model are: Quarks, Leptons, Gauge Bosons, and Scalar Bosons. These 4 categories include all of the different types of KNOWN elementary particles. What has not yet been discovered is so heavily beyond our comprehension, that we simply cannot begin to guess at what it would look like. We like to leave these things to the visionaries, like Feynman or Einstein.

 

In this post, I will be covering the first piece of the puzzle that is the Standard Model, quarks. Before we can understand what a quark is, we have to understand what a baryon is. A baryon is a specific denomination of matter, which is comprised of protons and neutrons. Anything that contains a proton or a neutron is classified as baryonic, including protons and neutrons themselves. Simply put, anything we can touch is baryonic matter. There are other types of matter, but for the moment, we’ll just be talking about baryonic matter. It is a common misconception that protons and neutrons are the most basic particle building blocks. In fact, I’m willing to guess it’s one of the most common scientific inaccuracies. The true building block of all baryonic matter is the quark. Within all baryons is 3 quarks, which comprise that baryonic particle.

Now that we have established important vocabulary concepts, we can now move on to the nitty gritty. Quarks are a little intimidating to those who are unfamiliar, but I’ll try my best to explain them in a way that makes sense. Quarks are governed by 3 different forces. The first of which is known as “color.” Color has nothing to do with the actual color of the particle, but, rather, the force that the particle is experiencing. The 3 different levels of color force are Red, Green, and Blue. Each color corresponds to a specific level of force that each particle is experiencing. This allows multiple types of the same quark to exist within a particle. The second force is known as spin. Each quark has a spin of ½, which is determined by some extremely confusing math. If you have a solid grasp on calculus, you can check out some resources on h-bar and spin vectors, but otherwise, don’t bother.

 

The third and final property is its mass. This is where things get truly complicated. Before we talk about the mass of quarks, we must talk about another particle: a gluon. A gluon field surrounds every quark, helping it to stay in place, and allowing it to interact with other quarks without repelling each other. The gluons help the quarks hold different color charges, which allow them to overpower certain quantum elements, such as the Pauli Exclusion Principle, which states that no two particles can occupy the same quantum level. Since each quark is surrounded by a gluon field, we have to take into account two different kinds of mass. The first is known as the current quark mass, which is the mass of the quark itself. The second is called the constituent quark mass, which is the sum of both the quarks mass, and the mass of the gluon field that surrounds it. These 3 properties are the basic constituents of the most fundamental particles every discovered.

 

The final vocabulary term used when defining quarks is “flavor.” Flavor refers to the type of quark that is being observed. There are 6 known flavors of quarks, and they each come in pairs. The first pair is Up and Down, which are the types that form protons and neutrons. The second pair is Strange and Charm, which are used in heavier particles, such as hadrons. The final pair is the most massive. It includes the Bottom and Top quarks. These 3 pairs of quarks are known as generations.

 

The world of quantum physics is a beautiful place, and it will only become more so as we find out more about the universe that we live in. Until next time.

 

~Zane

Random Astrophysics Theory Idea

Today, I have an interesting post idea, one that will hopefully make up for my long silence. Today, I will be presenting a theory that I have been working one. I may only be 17 years old, and relatively ill-informed when it comes to astrophysics, but I want my readers to try to take me seriously for a moment, as I present a theory that I have come up with.

 

The formation of a neutron star, and even stellar black holes is common knowledge in the scientific world. Yet one thing is still unknown: how a supermassive black hole forms, and what it takes for a star to become one. When it comes to stellar black holes, the common theory is that the star runs out of fuel, and its own gravity causes it to collapse in on itself. But could it be possible that something entirely different happens in the formation of supermassive black hole? Something that was previously thought to be impossible?

 

My theory states that supermassive black holes form from the same thing that most stellar black holes form from: a massive star. As a star ages, it begins to use larger and larger elements as its fuel, until it eventually runs out, or can no longer burn what it needs to without outside energy, causing it to collapse on itself. I believe that the same thing happens in a supermassive black hole, except for one small change. Instead of trying to fuse something like iron, the core undergoes some kind of drastic change, causing it to begin trying to fuse a much more massive element.

 

Currently, 118 different elements have been discovered, the heaviest of which only being created in super-colliders and laboratories. Yet could it be possible for a star to undergo some kind of strange event, causing its core to begin to form some kind of unknown or exotic element, one which is too large and unstable to created on earth? If this were possible, the star would surely collapse in on itself, the sheer mass of the super large elements causing the star to give off insane amounts of gravitational pull. In turn, this would create an enormous black hole, one which would consume surrounding stellar nebulae, and other stars, resulting in a supermassive black hole.

 

I doubt that this theory is even possible, but it’s been on my mind for quite a while, and I wanted to put it down on paper. The fact that the core of a star would have to undergo such a massive change to convert itself from iron to some other exotic, massive element makes it extremely implausible, but still possible. I’ll try to do more research, but the math required sets quite a few limits on my ability to comprehend anything having to do with this subject. Stay tuned for more info.

 

~Zane