Sub-Atomic Particles

Sometimes we get an email that needs something more than just a short answer. Here was one of them from a student:

"Are sub-atomic particles, aside from protons, neutrons and electrons, simply part of quantum theory, or do they really exist? Can you explain about them?"

Introducing atomic particles

The present list of subatomic particles comes from what is called the “Standard Model”. A good summation of the situation that exists at the moment with all the particles it envisages can be found here:on Wikipedia.

Let us begin with something well established. We are all familiar with the fact that matter is made up of atoms. Furthermore, we know that, in atoms, negatively charged electrons circle the nucleus in specific “shells”. It was later found that electrons have a spin which is designated as either + ½ or, if it is spinning in the opposite direction, - ½. Although a number of separate electron “orbitals” can make up each “shell”, each of those electron orbitals can only contain two electrons of opposite spin. (More detail about electrons and their orbitals can be found here in the section "The Behavior of Electrons," as well as on the Quantum Mechanics page with particular attention to the link there regarding the Zeeman Effect.

The nucleus of an atom is composed of positively charged protons (whose spin is also either + ½ or –½) and neutrons. Since neutrons decay into protons and electrons in a period of almost 15 minutes, it had long been considered that a neutron was composed of a proton and electron bound together. It also has a spin of + ½ or - ½ .

Particles and anti-particles
The existence of anti-particles was first proposed by Dirac in 1928 (on an incorrect basis) with the existence of positive electrons or positrons being suggested. Dirac’s idea was that the entire vacuum was filled with a sea of electrons, and when one was removed, a positive “hole” was left which had all the characteristics of a positive electron. Dirac got a Nobel Prize for his work, but the concept of the “Dirac sea,” as it was called, has since been proven false. Nevertheless, positrons were proven to exist experimentally in 1932 by Anderson. This is one example of a correct prediction being made by an entirely erroneous theory and it is not a unique occurrence in science.

Then it was realized that whatever particles existed, there would also be its oppositely charged anti-particle, so we have particle-antiparticle pairs. This became necessary to maintain the electrical neutrality of the vacuum, which was one of the faults of the Dirac sea proposal. This therefore requires, for example, that there must be the negative equivalent to a proton as well as the positive equivalent to an electron. Soon these “anti” particles were discovered using atomic facilities around the world.

Particles from cosmic rays
Then something unexpected happened; particles called muons, kaons and taus were discovered in cosmic rays and in particle accelerators before any theory predicted their existence. The tau particle, which also has a negative charge and spin of ½, but a lifetime of only 3 x 10-13 seconds, is the most massive of this group, being over 3,500 times as massive as the electron. The muon is also basically a massive electron with a spin of ½ but is less massive than a tau particle as its mass is only 206.7 times that of an ordinary electron. However, it, too, is unstable with a very short half-life (2.2 micro-seconds), and it decays into an electron and several forms of neutrino.

Considering neutrinos
However, it was not until 1956 that the neutrino itself was recognized to exist as a particle with no electric charge and little, if any, mass. Neutrinos in their various forms are particles without any electric charge. It is for that reason that they pass through matter largely unhindered. It has subsequently been discovered that neutrinos exist in 3 forms, namely the electron neutrino, the muon neutrino and the tau neutrino. Analysis of the type of neutrinos expected to be emitted from the sun and the solar neutrinos actually received on earth gave puzzling results. Then experimental evidence from nuclear reactors in 1996 confirmed that one form of neutrino can change into another. About that time, with the persistent failure of gravitational astronomy to find any convincing candidate for “dark matter,” it was suggested that, if neutrinos had even a miniscule mass, this might solve the dark matter dilemma, because of their great numbers throughout the universe.

Which branch of physics do we use?
Up until this point, most developments in particle physics were readily understandable. However, Quantum Electro-Dynamics (QED physics) became prominent from this point on. Remember that QED physics was based entirely on theoretical concepts from Planck’s first paper of 1901, and mathematical models which resulted from that. In contrast, the development of the alternate way of viewing quantum phenomena, Stochastic Electro-Dynamics (SED physics), used the concept of a real physical Zero Point Energy (ZPE) as its explanation for quantum phenomena. Even though it was based on Planck’s experimentally correct second paper of 1911, SED physics was sidelined in the mid 1920’s by theoretical physicists and their mathematical models.

Nevertheless, SED physics eventually took hold in 1962 thanks to the prompting of Louis de Broglie. SED physics has different and intuitive explanations for quantum phenomena based on the action of a real ZPE. The ZPE is made up of electromagnetic waves whose numbers increase significantly as the wavelength reduces. These random (or stochastic) battering waves act on subatomic particles to produce uncertainty in position and momentum and other quantum characteristics. In contrast, QED physics relies on the application of quantum laws and principles plus the strange properties they claim is inherent within all subatomic matter that govern its behavior.

Quarks and a new system
On the basis of QED physics and the mathematical modeling that results from it, Murray Gell-Mann in 1964 proposed a particle classification system based on quarks. A similar system was proposed by George Zweig that same year. In this system, while electrons were basic particles, protons and neutrons were composites, both being composed of “quarks.” These quarks were something basic, like the electron is, and sometimes quarks and electrons are simply called “partons,” a term coined by Richard Feynman. In order to successfully account for all the results from both theory and particle accelerators, it was found that 6 quarks were required. These went in pairs, namely the Up and Down quarks, the Charm and Strange quarks and the Top and Bottom quarks. The word “flavor” is the term which is now used to define these 6 types of quark.

All quarks have a spin of ½ , but the charge the quark carries depends on its type. Thus, the Up, Charm and Top quarks each carry a positive charge whose size is 2/3rd that of the electron. On this model, the Down, Strange and Bottom quarks hold a negative charge equivalent to 1/3rd that of an electron. A proton was then considered to be made up of two Up quarks and a Down quark. This left the resultant positive charge that the proton is known for. In a similar way, a neutron is considered to be made of an Up and two Down quarks which leave it electrically neutral. Furthermore, because all particles have an antiparticle, there are equivalent anti-quarks, often designated with a bar above the letter that gives the flavor. The situation might be illustrated in the following way:


In 1968, some four years after the quark theory was first proposed, the experimental results from particle collisions in the Stanford Linear Accelerator Center (SLAC) were the first that could be claimed as support for the theory. These results indicated that the proton could be broken up into smaller, point-like sources of energy from which a shower of particles emanated.  Although this could mean the proton had a basic energy structure to it, these results were taken to indicate that the proton was not a fundamental particle at all, but rather was composed of something even more basic. As experiments with different subatomic particles were done, the number of different types of energy source for these showers grew. These energy sources were then identified with the theorized quarks.

Particle showers or “jets”
However, something must be understood here. Because the quarks themselves never appear, the standard model claims that isolated quarks do not exist on their own as individuals. If a quark or antiquark has been knocked out of its “parent” particle (for example, a proton), or formed out of the energy provided by a particle accelerator like SLAC, it cannot exist in isolation. Instead a jet or shower of particles is formed from the quark’s energy on the basis of the equation E = mc2. So the energy is converted instantly into matter. Thus the quark itself is never seen, only the “jet” of particles which have formed from what is assumed to be the quark’s energy.

In particle physics, the term “jet” is sometimes used to describe the shower of particles which is moving in the same general direction as the original particle or quark. Actually it is a cone-shaped beam rather like a witch’s broom. This jet is the closest we can come to observing an individual quark. The properties of the jet, which include total energy, direction of motion and the particles involved, allow us to assess the properties of the suspected quarks that formed them. The characteristic signature of a quark – antiquark pair for example is a pair of jets moving in opposite directions. Two-jet events are common, with 3-jet and 4-jet events occurring with progressively lower frequency.

Interim summary and the Higgs Boson
In summary, then, when a proton is smashed in a linear accelerator, it breaks up into energy which then gives a shower of particles. These clumps of energy come in specific sizes which have allowed them to be identified as the separate flavors of quarks. The resulting model can be summarized by the following diagram.

standard model particles

In this diagram, the quarks are shown in purple. From this diagram, it can also be seen that electrons, muons, taus and neutrinos are all called Leptons. The Bosons in red-brown we will come to shortly. However, it should be mentioned that, except for the photon, all the Bosons are only presumed to exist as a result of particle showers or jets emanating from an invisible point source of energy. Statistical analyses of the particles making up the jet, along with their energies and direction, are then made. The statistical analysis then assigns an energy, mass and charge to the invisible point source of the particle shower. In this way, after the production and statistical analysis of many such showers, the Higgs Boson was recently claimed to have been detected on the basis of statistics of the particle shower; the Boson itself was never seen.

String Theory
There is a group of physicists, the String theorists, who have taken this one stage further. They say that each particle is made up of a piece of vibrating “string”; the length of the string determines the rate of vibration, (like a guitar string), and the rate of vibration determines the characteristics of the particle. Each piece of string was meant to have formed as part of the conditions at the inception of the cosmos. However, String Theory is complicated and the math esoteric. So, at this stage, the concept is only supported by a select group. 

Re-assessing the Standard Model
It is at this point that some additional facts are needed to assess the accuracy of the Standard Model with its quarks, leptons and bosons.  Let us do this by initially considering the neutron. It will be recalled that a neutron has no net charge, but decays into a proton and electron in a period of almost 15 minutes. Therefore the old explanation was that a neutron was a combination of an electron and a proton. However, on the quark model, a neutron is made up of an Up and two Down quarks. Since the Down quarks have a charge of -1/3rd and the Up quark has a charge of +2/3rd , the resulting combination is a neutral particle. The theoretical transformation of this combination into an electron and proton is claimed to happen when the flavor of a quark is changed. But the process involves the necessity for the action of a W Boson and does not seem as straightforward as the actual physical process seems to indicate that it is.

However, that may only be a minor difficulty. A major difficulty arises when the neutron mass is considered. In the equation E = mc2, the mass, m, is often expressed as energy, E, in electron Volts (eV) or millions of electron volts (MeV), divided by c2. When done this way, the mass of the neutron actually measures as 940 MeV/c2. Unfortunately, on the standard model with the 3 quarks, the mass from all these quarks is only 12 MeV/c2. This is a shortfall by a factor of about 80 and represents a major discrepancy in the theory; it does not agree with the data. It has been stated by physicists at the CERN facility, that the Standard Model is described by “an elegant series of equations” and so must be correct. [see "What is the Weak Force?"]  However math devoid of physical reality is just mathematics and nothing more, no matter how “elegant.”

Gluons, Bosons an forces
But we can go further. It is usual to point out that the quarks making up the neutron are held together by the “strong force” which is mediated by a particle called a “gluon.” The situation is the same for all collections of quarks whether they be neutrons, protons or anything else; gluons are supposed to hold all the quarks together. The gluons have no mass and no charge but have a spin of +1. For this reason, they do not add to the mass of the neutron. According to QED theory enshrined in the standard model, all forces need some particle to “mediate” them or transfer the force from one object to another. In a similar way, the illustration is used of photons of light mediating the forces of electromagnetism from one place to another.

On this basis, it is claimed, that gluons and photons are both mediating forces; the “strong force” and the “electromagnetic force” respectively.  Since such mediating particles are meant to obey the Bose-Einstein statistics of QED physics, they came to be called “Bosons”. The diagram above shows the force-mediating Bosons on the right. The W and Z Bosons mediate the so-called “weak force” in atomic physics. The Higgs Boson is meant to impart mass to particles and the “graviton” (hypothesized) is meant to mediate the force of gravity.

An approach using SED physics
Let us pause right there for a moment. We have seen above that, apart from photons, the Bosons themselves never appear – only the particle showers or jets which emanate from the point where these Bosons were presumed to be. The question is, are we correctly assessing what we are seeing? Or, alternately, is the Standard Model the only explanation? This may be legitimately questioned because we have arrived at this situation from the trail that QED theory requires us to walk. An alternative approach does exist which describes quantum phenomena and particle behavior in terms of SED physics. Perhaps some insight may be gained from a consideration of these phenomena on the SED approach.

SED physics does not necessarily deny the existence of particles like Bosons or quarks. However, SED physics does not require their existence either to achieve the stability of matter or the impartation of mass or the mediation of forces. The action of the Zero Point Energy (ZPE) and electromagnetism does it all. For example, the jitter imposed on all subatomic particles by the impacting waves of the ZPE give the particle, whatever it happens to be, a kinetic energy. This energy then appears as mass on the basis of E = mc2. The variation in masses comes from the size of the particle, since only those waves of the ZPE which are about the same size as the particle causes it to resonate or jitter. This is a simple, clean approach which avoids all the complications with the Higgs Boson. Even if a Higgs-like particle does indeed exist, as is recently claimed, it is not needed in the SED approach to impart mass to any subatomic particle; the Higgs is an isolated entity. So the particle existence is not denied, just the functions and necessities for its existence that QED physics imposes upon it.

The SED equivalent of the Strong Force
Then there are the gluons which mediate the “strong force” and hold particles and nuclei together. The necessity for this arose because of the situation inside atomic nuclei with multiple protons and their positive charges all repelling each other. A “strong force” was needed to hold them together. In a similar way a strong force is presumed to be needed to hold quarks together in a proton or neutron. Let us examine the atomic nucleus for a moment.  The potential energy within a nucleus can be pictured as being like a well. Within this well are energy levels or orbitals occupied by protons and neutrons. Each orbital has been determined as having a pair of protons of opposite spin and a pair of neutrons of opposite spin. The situation may be summarized by this diagram:


In this diagram, n stands for neutron and p stands for proton. The diagram on the right takes account of the effect of electrostatic charges on the position of the orbitals. Notice that each pair has opposite spin indicated by the arrow up and the arrow down. This opposite spin is important. This can be understood by thinking of a proton as a spinning sphere with the axis of spin different from the axis of symmetry for its positive charge. The axis spin then means that the axis of charge symmetry is effectively tracing out a circle so that it is the same as a charge in motion – which is effectively an electric current. Such currents inevitably create a magnetic field. If the spin of the protons are opposite to each other the two magnetic fields act in such a way that there is magnetic attraction between them. In this way, two protons of opposite spin will be attracted to each other rather than forcing each other apart. Similarly, the same effect exists for neutrons (which may legitimately be considered to be composed of a proton and electron bound together giving a charge distribution).

The conclusion is that there is no separate “strong force” holding the nucleus together. Rather it is the already understood forces of electromagnetism. So gluons are neither needed to hold atomic nuclei together nor to mediate the strong force. This approach by SED physics destroys another part of the argument in favor of the standard model based on QED physics.

Beta decay and the Weak Force
Recall that neutrons decay into protons and electrons plus energy. This happens in a period of about 15 minutes when the neutron is isolated and alone. However, when a neutron is in the nucleus it may similarly decay if the conditions are right. This is called beta decay. The concept of the “weak force” was first devised by Italian physicist Enrico Fermi in 1933 to explain beta decay. On the Standard Model, this happens when the flavor of a quark is changed under the mediation of a W Boson. The W and Z Bosons mediate the “weak force” which QED physics requires to be active in the beta decay process.

However, SED physics has an alternate suggestion. In the case of beta decay, an electron (or positron) escapes from a neutron (or proton) with the result that a proton (or neutron) is left and energy emitted. For the sake of this explanation, let us consider the process to be the escape of an electron from the nuclear potential well of a neutron. If the potential well has a radius of r, and the electron is moving within that potential well with a velocity, v, there is a finite chance it will escape after a given number of hits against the wall of that potential well. If the probability of escape is P and the velocity of the electron is v, then the beta decay constant, K, is given by K = Pv/r. Since the nuclear potential well is electromagnetic in nature, the forces involved in the escape are also electromagnetic, and so no new forces need be devised to account for the phenomenon of beta decay. So W and Z bosons are not needed to “mediate” the “weak force” at all, even if they exist in actual practice.

Gravitational force
Finally, there is the gravitational force and the proposed “graviton” as the mediator. As Chapter 7 in the Monograph, Cosmology and the Zero Point Energy points out, gravity is the result of the action of the ZPE and the virtual particle pairs of the vacuum. This is not an isolated interpretation. Other SED physicists have come to similar conclusions, including Puthoff, as well as Haisch and Rueda. An abbreviated version with references to their papers can be found in my published paper “Zero Point Energy and Relativity.

As a result, gravity does not need “gravitons” to mediate the force, which is due to the action of the ZPE on matter. So we have shown that gluons, W, Z and Higgs bosons and gravitons are all redundant on the SED approach. Whether or not these particles actually exist is an entirely separate matter. Their existence is entirely dependent on statistical analyses of particle jets and shows. If they really do exist, there is no necessity on the SED approach for them to fulfill the functions assigned to them from QED physics.

The conclusion is that SED physics give perfectly logical and simple explanations for subatomic particle behavior on the basis of the action of the ZPE. It does not need the action of quarks and/or Bosons, even if they exist. It seems that the Standard Model for particle physics has become enmeshed in a set of elegant mathematical equations and statistics based on QED concepts, while SED physics provides simple and straightforward mechanisms. The question then is, if the Bosons are not needed and only appear as statistical fluctuations in the particle debris of smashed protons etc, are the quarks really needed either? A further question might be asked. Do the particle jets and showers emanating from energetic points actually represent the presence of quarks and bosons, or is something else happening that we have yet to appreciate? SED physics may yet provide further insights on this zoo of particles.

The Standard Model classification of sub-atomic particles

subatomic classification