Overview

Particle physics is a branch of physics dealing with subatomic (smaller than an atom) elements of matter and radiation as well as subatomic particles. The field of particle physics evolved out of nuclear physics, and the two are still closely correlated. Particle physics may also be called "high energy physics".

The particles that are dealt with in this field are governed by quantum mechanics. This signifies that they may show both wave-like and particle qualities. The overarching goal of particle physics is to identify the most simple objects of which matter is composed of and to understand the integral forces that drive their interactions and combinations.

Particle physics may be associated with:

Electrons, Protons, and Neutrons - Atomic components, of which the protons and neutrons are composed of quarks

Photons, Neutrinos, and Muons - Particles produced by radioactive and scattering processes

Exotic or Theoretical Particles - Like tachyons, particles said to always travel faster than the speed of light

Supersymmetry - Sleptons, charginos, neutralinos, and squarks

String Theory

Dark Matter

Unified Field Theory

Technicolor Theories

Preon Theory

Acceleron Theory

Boson Theories

The practice of theoretical particle physics develops the Standard Model of particles, theories, and mathematical tools related to current and future experiments. Research in this field can lay down the foundations for many other disciplines of science, including chemistry, quantum mechanics, and general relativity.

The goal of particle physicists is to reach the physics beyond the Standard Model. Areas of great interest now are in studies of dark matter and neutrino masses. In 2008, the Large Hadron Collider (LHC), the world's largest and highest-energy particle accelerator was constructed in Geneva, Switzerland to discover new particles and develop new theories.

Next: What does a Particle Physicist do?

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