There is only one physical favor the Universe did on life, in terms of its physical constituents and their energy role. Life is possible because neutron and proton are married much the same way two school teachers are. The marriage would break if the school teacher would be married to say Bill Gates, because one would feel immensely indebted for everything the other immensely irritant from the resulting judgement. But neutron and proton are lucky energetically, as they come from the constituents u, and d.
The most enticing aspect of particle physics.
What’s the most enticing aspect of Particle Physics?
Consider this. Till date we have discovered and actually found 100s of elementary or composite or subatomic or non atomic quantum mechanical particles.
But all of them are not stable. We have made great strides in understanding them collectively called as standard model of particle physics which involves electroweak and strong interactions. Its a weird mess of beautiful list of particles and their behavior toward each other. Sometimes there is symmetry breaking sometimes there is symmetry and sometimes there is confinement.
What such an astounding theory backed by the most swashbuckling experimental measurements have meant is there are only countable number of stable particles.
Let’s begin counting out of 100s electron, proton, photon and neutrinos … That’s it. End counting.
It explains almost everything we see around us. The matter. If we are to see dark matter we would be explaining that as well. But hold your breath we haven’t seen that so far.
Since almost everything we have seen are so unstable we wouldn’t be created.
But the very few stable particles made atoms possible and the atoms made life possible.
Here is how the atom is possible.
The neutron guy is not very happy as its not stable. It met proton on a blind date and they got stuck together. Numerous times neutron has tried to leave the bondage. But the moment it tries to roll off alas its out of its excess energy.
If only it had some more money in its account. The neutron can only produce other stable particles via a nuclear beta decay. It just doesn’t have enough luxury in involving itself in other branches of esoterism. So even if its unstable it has a very tiny energy difference from proton. It can’t bully proton too much and they are capable of staying together for billions of years. All other unstable particles are filthy rich. Though proton does interact with them they can’t bear each others sight for too long. A suggestion for what makes marriages stable. The credit line should not differ filthy much. One wants to roll away but can’t much.
The great strides we have made in particle physics a field of knowledge that began barely 75 Years ago backed by the power of modern physics or more precisely quantum mechanics which again is only 115 years old has seen us understanding the deeper aspects of how life was formed.
The stability of atom spans billions of billions of years precisely because of how particle physics explains this. The u and d quarks are accidentally within each others mass bank. That means the neutrons and protons are accidentally within each others mass reach.
All other 100s of particle are quite massive and/or unstable due to energy execess and not within each others reach the way stable neutron and proton are.
If a neutron slightly more energetic wants to roll off from a relationship with proton it can’t. The neutron will merely produce a bunch of the countable stable particles mentioned above like electron, proton, and neutrino. Its called a nuclear beta decay. The nucleus is for this matter very very stable.
A very high energy difference would make things unstable but the very tiny excess of neutron over proton coming from the tiny excess of u and d quarks mean there is a really small chance that neutron might escape from the nucleus and the atom would collapse. But it needs literally billions of billions of years for that to materialize.
The understanding of this atomic fact by applying a knowledge that came via the hard work of machines and men (and women nonetheless, happy belated birthday Maria Mayer) is in my opinion the most enticing aspect of Particle Physics.
Application of Particle Physics in understanding the formation of the physical building blocks of life.