Are you a subatomic superstar?


Let's get down to business. How many subatomic particles have scientists detected?

Scientists have discovered hundreds of subatomic particles with a little help from accelerators. Of course, not all their discoveries have been confirmed.

What was NOT a subatomic particle we knew existed before particle accelerators enlightened us?

We've known for a while that protons, electrons and neutrons make up atoms. It was only when accelerators came into physics that we could dig even deeper -- into quarks.

OK, so what are protons and neutrons made of then?

It sounds like a word Liz Lemon might use to curse, but quarks make up protons and neutrons. (More on the word itself later.)

Subatomic particles don't just make up matter in the universe. They also do what?

It's strange to think of forces having "particles," but subatomic particles deal with four forces in addition to matter, binding matter together.

What are elementary particles?

Protons and neutrons are actually composite particles. Elementary particles like electrons and quarks can't be broken up.

Which are subatomic particles?

Even though elementary particles make up composite particles, they're both still characterized as subatomic.

What do quarks do when hanging out together?

Quarks stick together to form nuclei.

What are leptons?

Leptons are social creatures. They don't gather together in the nucleus, but circulate around it like the people who are really good at mingling at parties.

Hadrons are built from what?

Hadron refers to any particle built from quarks.

What is one "mortar" that binds particles together?

There are four fundamental forces that allow particles to clump together and make stuff. Gravity binds particles together like an invisible (and less fun to play with) rubber cement.

What is NOT another force?

"Up" is not another force -- it's one of the six types of a quark.

A baryon is what?

A baryon is any particle with three quarks, like a proton or neutron.

What's a meson?

Don't worry, we know what a meson is. It's a hadron, but this time with an antiquark to match the quark.

We classify different kinds of quarks a few different ways. What's NOT a way we classify quarks?

Quarks have six main "flavors," and blue, red and green colors exist for each flavor. They're the Skittles of the universe.

When was the first time we saw a quark on its own?

Although it may be a stretch to call a quark "social," it's true: Quarks don't exist alone. Although …

What is one instance when quarks did wander around by themselves?

10<sup>12</sup> second post-Big Bang, the universe was rife with free-floating quarks. Then the fundamental rules of physics took hold, and the real fun started.

Why are quarks called quarks?

It was a "Finnegans Wake" line ("three quarks for Muster Mark") that caught the eye of Murray Gell-Man, one of the physicists who hypothesized elementary particles.

Which bosons have we never been able to observe?

Somewhat annoyingly, we've never been able to see the particles that would carry gravity to matter. Some say we need gravitons in order to exist and for physics to make sense; others say having the Higgs is good enough.

Uh, what's the Higgs boson again?

Confirmed in 2013 after experiments in the Large Hadron Collider, the Higgs boson acts as part of the Higgs field. The field gives particles their mass.

Pick the force carriers:

Quarks and leptons are matter particles that make up mesons and baryons. Gluons, all the bosons, photons and the elusive gravitons carry the force.

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About This Quiz

If you're thinking, "Uh-oh, I know very little about subatomic particles," don't just click away in a panic. Learn more about our subatomic particle pals with this quiz, and then use your know-how to impress others.

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