Subatomic Particles (Encyclopedia of Science)
Subatomic particles are particles that are smaller than an atom. In 1940, the number of subatomic particles known to science could be counted on the fingers of one hand: protons, neutrons, electrons, neutrinos, and positrons. The first three particles were known to be the building blocks from which atoms are made: protons and neutrons in atomic nuclei and electrons in orbit around those nuclei. Neutrinos and positrons were somewhat peculiar particles discovered outside Earth's atmosphere and of uncertain origin or significance.
That view of matter changed dramatically over the next two decades. With the invention of particle accelerators (atom-smashers) and the discovery of nuclear fission and fusion, the number of known subatomic particles increased. Scientists discovered a number of particles that exist at energies higher than those normally observed in our everyday lives: sigma particles, lambda particles, delta particles, epsilon particles, and other particles in positive, negative, and neutral forms. By the end of the 1950s, so many subatomic particles had been discovered that some physicists referred to their list as a "particle zoo."
The quark model
In 1964, American physicist Murray Gell-Mann (1929) and Swiss physicist George Zweig (1937) independently suggested a way out of the particle zoo. They suggested that the nearly 100 subatomic...
(The entire section is 1626 words.)
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