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This is Particle Physics? May 2, 2007

Posted by gordonwatts in physics, physics life, science.

The Wikipedia entry for particle physics does a passable job:

Particle physics is a branch of physics that studies the elementary constituents of matter and radiation, and the interactions between them. It is also called “high energy physics“, because many elementary particles do not occur under normal circumstances in nature, but can be created and detected during energetic collisions of other particles, as is done in particle accelerators.

They talk about finding physics beyond the standard model and the LHC… Nice. But then they have that picture (that I’ve reproduced here). This is the picture of a gold-gold collision at the STAR detector on RHIC (Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider). RHIC is definitely doing physics, though I think it is a stretch to call it particle physics. A gold atom is very complex — many different parton interactions. In particle physics we study mostly two partons interacting. Very different. Indeed, RHIC is often called a nuclear physics experiment for that reason: the whole atom interacts, not just a couple of quarks inside the atom.

I wonder how that picture ended up in Wikipedia?


1. M. Miller - May 2, 2007

I think if you agree to the quote, “Particle physics … studies the elementary constituents of matter … and the interactions between them,” then you have assented to the picture. i.e., RHIC’s goal was to study elementary particles (quarks) and their interactions (gluons) when freed from their daily confines… Perhaps a key modification would be the inclusion of ‘new’ someplace in the definition. But, hey, the cool thing about the picture is that it was tracked online at L3😉

2. nuclear dude - May 3, 2007

“… the whole atom interacts, not just a couple of quarks inside the atom.”

Nucleus. Bare, stripped of any and all electrons. As much an atom as a proton is.

3. gordonwatts - May 3, 2007

That picture is amazing! Actually, the fact they could reconstruct something like that is amazing!

Not to parse words, here, which we can till the quark’s come home. But I think of particle physics as going after a single interaction (force carrier, etc.).

Further, there is that picture and no connection is ever made to the picture.

Nuclear dude — yes, thanks, good point. I should have realized that before I wrote it!

4. Ulrich Mohrhoff - May 3, 2007

Why don’t you take your query to the discussion page associated with this Wikipedia page?

5. gordonwatts - May 3, 2007

Yes, that would be the rigth thing to do. I’ve just never figured out how wikipedia works well enough to start making comments (i.e. I would be butting in).

6. James Graber - May 6, 2007

An alternative is to contribute to the new Citizendium, which attemts to be more aquthoritative than Wikipedia. Science is generally considered to be one of the better parts of Wikipedia, but it could be further improved

7. GYANENDRA SINGH - August 24, 2009


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