ABCs of

particle physics

is for energy,

which must be conserved.


Energy comes in many forms, and the total amount of energy in a reaction is always conserved–which is great news for particle physicists. By measuring the energy that comes out of particle collisions, scientists can determine whether it is equal to the energy that went into them. If it’s not, some of that energy might have been carried away by something hard to detect, such as a neutrino.


is for forces,

making particles swerve!


We’re most familiar with the force of gravity, which holds us on the Earth and makes us circle the sun. But at the smallest scales gravity is weak, and particles interact with much stronger forces. There is the strong nuclear force, which holds the nucleus of atoms together; the weak nuclear force, which allows particles to decay; and the electromagnetic force, which holds atoms and molecules together.




is for galaxies -

see how they turn!


Galaxies are huge collections of stars, all held together by gravity. By some estimates, the Milky Way galaxy contains up to 400 billion stars, and scientists estimate that our universe holds at least 100 billion galaxies. Researchers study the behavior of galaxies to learn more about the invisible things that influence them, such as dark matter and dark energy.


is for Higgs -

discovered at CERN.


The Higgs field gives many fundamental particles their mass. Theorists predicted the existence of the Higgs boson in the 1960s, but they didn’t know what mass the Higgs boson itself might have, making it very difficult to find. After five decades of searching, experimentalists finally discovered the Higgs boson at the Large Hadron Collider in 2012.

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