Guide to the Cosmos
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Dr. Robert Piccioni


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Journey to the Center of the Atom

Plunge into the micro-world of atoms and particles and discover the smallest pieces of nature. What are atoms and what are they made of?  What is antimatter?

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Sketch of an Atom

Atomic Nuclei: Protons and Neutrons

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Sketch of an Atom

Atoms have two parts - an inside called the nucleus that has a positive electric charge, and the outside that is a cloud of electrons with a negative charge.

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Atomic Nuclei

Nuclei are made of protons that have a positive charge and neutrons that have no charge. Every nucleus must have at least 1 proton to attract electrons.

Periodic Table of Elements Nuclear Particles: Quarks

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Periodic Table of Elements

The Periodic Table is an organized list of all elements. The number of protons in an atom's nucleus is its element number.

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Nuclear Particles

Protons and neutrons are made of quarks: two Up quarks and one Down quark  make a proton; two Downs and one Up make a neutron.

Fermions: Matter Particles Bosons: Force Particles

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Fermions are the particles from which all matter is made. There are 12 elementary fermions, 6 quarks and 6 leptons, arranged in three "generations", each with 2 quarks and 2 leptons.

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Forces arise when two particles of matter exchange another type of particle - a boson - as shown on the right, where a particle shown in yellow emits a boson shown in black which is absorbed by another particle shown in green. This exchange causes a force between the yellow and green particles. Each force has its own bosons.



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