Thread: what is a particle really?

1. I in some ways do not understand what a particle is. well that was a little unclear I understand what they do but what are they really? at first I was under the assumption that a particle was a tiny object smaller then an atom but didn't know

2.

3. If anyone thinks they can answer this fully, they are a fool.

If anyone can genuinely answer it totally, they are a complete genius.

A definition I find useful, provided by my school chemistry teacher forty years ago, works for me. He used it for atoms; it works at least as well for sub-atomic particles.

A sub-atomic particle is a hole, in a hole, round a hole, through a hole.

Or, particles are condensed energy.

4. Originally Posted by Ophiolite
Or, particles are condensed energy.
wow briliantly confirming what I was thinking

5. hmm I was thinking... where does the energy to be compressed come from??? anyone know? or is that to complex?

6. Here is an explanation what the particle really is to the physicist. I can say that it is more accurate in some sense though not neccessarily more helpful because it is so mathematical. I cannot say that it truly more accurate because even though what it means to the physicist is the closest to reality that we can get. It is still just a decription of something real in terms of artificial symbols and concepts created in the minds of men.

A particle is a quantity of energy which interacts with the rest of the universe in a predictable way (at least within certain probability distributions) according to general mathematical formulas in which the particle is assigned various mathematical properties (various numerical amounts plugged into the formula in their proper places) according to its type. While the type and the associated mathematical properties of the particle are always the same, the particle also has a state which changes with time and circumstance and which holds information regarding such things as where a particle is and how it is moving. The state of a particle is described by any one of several mathematical functions (called a wave function) but most often by one in which the independent variables are space and time.

Here is another more functional definition that might be more helpful.

If we take a simple substance purified by processes like distillation and we ask what is the smallest piece of that substance which is still the same substance then the answer is the molecule. But when we look at how substances interact in chemical reactions we find that parts are exchanged and if we were to identify the smallest pieces in such exchanges they would be atoms. But if we look at much higher energy interactions called nuclear reactions between or within materials we find that even smaller parts are exchanged and if we identify the smallest pieces in these exchanges, they are particles. Particles are also the smallest parts of electricity (electrons) and light (photons).

Now we can try to visualize the particles in various ways (like what you might see in science programs on TV) to help us get a more intuitive grasp of what particles are but these visualizations are pretty much the products of our imagination.

On a more philosophical or meta-physical approach, we can say that particles are a quantity of energy which expresses itself in a well defined manner according to one of several basic types. This energy is a universal substance, for everything in the universe is composed of many different forms of this same energy. All of this energy is interchangeable since the energy of a thing can be transformed into a completely different form of energy including into the energy of motion, according to well defined rules (although in the case of particles these rules are often probablistic rather than deterministic).

7. Originally Posted by Ian12
hmm I was thinking... where does the energy to be compressed come from??? anyone know? or is that to complex?
In the long run, all energy comes from the Big Bang, accordingly to the current standard model.

Matter, the same as forces, would be the result of the initial BB "cooling down" and "freezing" into a predictable state. Physics still are trying to know when was created the first "force", or more precisely the moment when electromagnetic force and gravity force where separated one from each other. I am not sure about if gravity existed since always or not; but energy did as it was the first thig to exist. Wher eti came form, or why did happen a Bgi Bang, well, sof ar they're questions whose rech si beyond what Science cna tell. Science is an art of the explainable, and unexplainable things, well... thye are better elft to phlosophy an/or religion.

The simplest explanation of the cause of the Big Bang I've heard is this:

"In the beginning, the Big Bang could happen or not. It happened, and all the rest (from stars to elephants) has been walking down the hill". Cute, huh? :-D

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