The sheer simplicity and stunning beauty of the Standard Model of Physics

Guest post by Don Lincoln

The universe is a beautiful place, from the graceful pinwheel of a spiral galaxy, to a delicate spider web, glistening with the morning dew. It is also a very diverse place, with phenomena like the evening sun bathing the sky in a scarlet spectacle, a sloshing and liquid aromatic cup of coffee, and the glittering hardness of your grandmother’s engagement ring. These disparate phenomena seem to be totally unrelated and yet after centuries of effort, scientists have worked out the building blocks of the universe and the rules that govern them. Everything you have ever observed can be constructed from three tiny particles and four forces. The diversity and complexity of the universe have their origins in sheer simplicity.

Scientists understand the composition of the universe as consisting of two particles of a type whimsically called quarks, from which the protons and neutrons in the atomic nucleus are formed. If you add the electron, which is a member of the class of particles called leptons, you can build atoms. And, from atoms, all of chemistry is available to you. The fact that the universe can be built of just a few components is its own beauty, indeed a beauty that in many way surpasses those mentioned at the beginning of this post.

Physicists call their understanding of the universe, with quarks and leptons whose behavior is governed by four forces, the Standard Model of Physics. In this video, I describe the Standard Model in easy and accessible terms:

First and foremost a researcher, Don Lincoln is a senior scientist at Fermilab, the premier particle physics laboratory in the United States. He splits his research  between data using the Fermilab Tevatron and the Large Hadron Collider, a new accelerator based at CERN in Europe. Dr. Lincoln is also an adjunct professor at the University of Notre Dame and has published hundreds of scientific papers and the occasional popular science article in magazines such as Analog: Science Fiction and Fact. He is the author of The Quantum Frontier: The Large Hardon Collider

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