Chapter 8

Fundamental Particles and Forces

Some of the most exciting recent discoveries in physics have to do with fundamental particles. For many centuries people have observed matter and wondered about its composition. A common working assumption, which goes back as far as the ancient Greeks, is that there exists a relatively small number of elementary or fundamental particles, and that the vast variety of things we see in nature can be explained by different arrangements of those few particles. Starting in the late nineteenth century, physicists began to develop the kinds of experimental tools that can determine the ultimate composition of matter. Throughout the twentieth century, more refined and elaborate equipment revealed many details ...

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