Subatomic Particles & Quantum Physics

Have you ever wondered what everything is made of, if it's truly just a piece of cake, or if and what makes everything up? Well, it turns out many other people have pondered this question too, and some have figured out that yes, there are things that make up everything, and have discovered what the smallest thing is.

The Subatomics

The Particles

Everything is made up of a set of particles, but to fully understand it you must first understand the larger things, called particles.

A particle is a small chunk of matter, generally smaller than a grain of sand, being almost invisible and purely imaginary, for the purpose of understanding what stuff is truly made of.

Particles grow when heated and shrink when cooled, they can be either pure (only one type of atoms or molecules) or alloyed (many different types of atom and molecule types) and they have 5 states, being Solid, Liquid, Gas, Plasma and Supercritical (mix between Liquid & Gas).

Particles are not only one size, they can be from the size of only a few hundred molecules to the size of a small breadcrumb.

The Molecules

If you go further than the standard microscope, down to an electron microscope, you might just find some molecules, For example, if you scoop up all the sand on a beach, you would still have more molecules in a grain of sand than grains of sand in that single beach, no matter the size of that beach.

Now that you know the size of a molecule, you will want to know that these molecules are far larger than the smallest thing, and that they are made up of chemically attracted atoms. The list of molecules is too big to list, the reason being is that molecules are made up of 2 to 1000+ atoms, all from the periodic table in different amounts.

The Atoms

If you split up a molecule you will find these atoms, being a nucleus surrounded by electrons, that we will talk about in the quantum physics section, for they do not obey regular laws. An atom is so small that if you carve out the inside of earth, and fill it with oranges, then shrink earth to the size of an orange, each of the oranges inside would be the size of an atom.

There are less types of atoms, to the point that they can all be listed on the periodic table, and these atoms make up everything bigger than them.

The Nucleus

If you go even smaller, you will find the nucleus, and there is only one in the center of an atom, the rest of the space is electron fields and empty space, to visualise the size, imagine this: you pull a single blueberry seed out of a single blueberry, then make that blueberry the size of the world, after that you can put that almost invisible blueberry seed into the center of the earth sized blueberry, then you can shrink that earth sized blueberry to the size of an atom, that seed would be the size of the nucleus

The Proton And Neutron

If you go even smaller, you will find protons and neutrons, nicknamed nucleons, because these particles make up the nucleus, and only these two particles will make up the nucleus. The smallest nucleus is made of one proton and no neutrons, the largest containing hundreds of protons and neutrons. By the way, the nucleus visualisation above was for one of the largest stable nucleuses, definitely not the hydrogen nucleus.

The Quarks

Three quarks make up a proton or a neutron, and there are 6 types (up, down, strange, charm, top, bottom), 3 generations (1, 2 & 3) and 6 flavours (red, green, blue, antired, antigreen & antiblue).

To work out how small these are, imagine 3 strings connecting 3 spheres, floating somewhere inside a field of probability, with a large capsule around them (capsule is imaginary!) and that should give you an idea of how small these things are.

For a neutron, you want 3 +flavours of quarks, having 2 down quarks and 1 up quark, A proton is the same, just with 2 up quarks and 1 down quark. All nucleons contain 3 gluons and 3 quarks. A good list of all the subatomic particles would be found in the table of elementary particles:

Standard Model of Elementary Particles

The Quantum Physics

Quantum Beginnings

To start this chapter off, I would like to tell you what quantum physics is, if you already know, just skip over this part.

To truly understand, you must first forget about all the stuff you learned in physics class, and accept the weird physics that you get when going smaller. For example, you will learn that a particle can blink straight through a wall, and that a particle has a possibility to be anywhere in a small field, and is only there once observed or measured.

We will be talking about energy, quantum fields (probability fields) and quantum supercomputers, so you will need basic knowledge on at least the energy part.

The Entanglement Of Particles

If two particles, one + and one - appear out of nowhere, then those two particles will be entangled, if you measure one, the other will always be the exact opposite, no matter the distance apart. I hypothesise that this is because they were created with opposite everything, and therefore will always be opposite everything, meaning that there would be method to this madness.

Although, entanglement only happens on particles smaller than a proton, meaning that you yourself cannot entangle with some other object.

The Preservation Of Energy

Although, like before, I said that two opposite particles can appear out of nowhere that does not mean that its violating the preservation of energy, because, if both particles are opposite, then one must be negative and the other positive, and combining their opposite charges would equal zero, and annihilate both particles back into nothing.

Quantum Tunneling

Quantum fields are an area that the particle is in at all points in the space, but at no point in that space at the same time, and only when measured does the true point come out. Because of this, a field can interlap with a wall, then the particle changes its position to the point on the other side of the field, basically teleporting through the wall without any interference with the wall.

Planck Length

The Planck length is the smallest unit of measurement, because it is not even theoretically possible to measure lengths smaller than it, and that is why we do not yet know what Quarks, Leptons and Hadrons are made of, or if they are the smallest particle, and we will likely never know.

The String Theory

The string theory hypotheses that there are smaller things than what is seen with any measuring device, and has so far been accurate. In the M-Theory, an extremely accurate theory that combines a set of superstring theories, it predicts that the elementary particles are 1d strings in a 3d space, either closed and curled up, or open with two D-Branes either side, a D-Brane being a 2d plane at either end of an open string. To define the particles, these strings will vibrate at different frequencies, therefore producing all known substances.

In the M-Theory, it shows that we need 3 spatial dimensions (up & down, left & right & forwards & backwards), 6 hyperspace dimensions (spatial dimensions found everywhere, but curled up into a 0d point), 1 temporal dimension (dimension of time, speed changes where you are in that dimension) and 1 energy dimension (the dimension responsible for all matter, without it, it would be a perfectly cold, quiet, motionless, zero G, matterless and perfect vacuum everywhere), as you may have guessed, I talked about this in my paper on Higher Dimensions & Boxes.

If you follow the so far so accurate M-Theory, you will find that the smallest things are the D-Brane (2d plane with strings attached to it in a 3d space) and the String (1d line vibrating in 3d space), although, if you look closer, you will find that there is an anti D-Brane, only found in antiquarks and antileptons.

So now that you know what the smallest thing is (string, D-Brane, Anti D-Brane & 𝔑-Brane where 𝔑 is the dimension) and a little about quantum physics, I will likely settle for something a little easier to get your head around.


The information was sourced from:

Wikipedia: M-Theory, Elementary Particles, Quantum Tunneling, Quantum Entanglement, Atomic Nucleus

And Numberphile.