What Are We Made Of? A Study Of The Very Basic Ingredients Of Matter And Energy

Dr. Kevin Giovanetti, Professor of Physics

Monday 1:00-3:00

Sept. 12, 19, 26, Oct. 3, 10



Particle physics today is built upon some well established and interesting principles.Our first goal will be to review the framework that defines what happens at small scales and at high energies (energies sufficient to create matter). Our goal will be to explore the principles at work when the theory of quantum mechanics governs processes. Then we will tackle the question of the role of space and time.Although startling when first considered, the theory of special relativity presents a rather straightforward but different relationship between spatial and temporal notions. These ideas are critical to an understanding of the subatomic. The extension of these ideas to gravity, general relativity theory, provides a rich and very complex view of forces and interactions.Yet there are some central ideas that when considered in simple systems are readily comprehensible.We will attempt to extract and discuss these elements.Having set the stage we will introduce the players.Over one hundred years of experimentation and discovery have opened to us a subatomic world filled with a particles and interactions. Our goal will be to summarize what is known and how physicists understand this world. A theory known as the Standard Model incorporates and explains most of what has been observed.In addition to the modelís ability to explain and predict it also hints at new ways to view what the basic fundamental groundwork of a theory should be. Gravity and general relativity were the birth of these ideas and yet gravity has not yet successfully been integrated into the Standard Model.We may have a chance to speculate as to how particle physics might evolve in the next fifty years.


There are a host of topics that could be discussed which are relevant to particle physics.I cannot cover them all. I am not planning, for example, to cover many topics in experimental particle physics. However I will gladly consider your input as the course proceeds.My goals will also be tempered by my ability to clearly present these topics.It would seem important to build a base upon which further understanding could grow rather than cover an incomprehensible breadth of material.


My understanding of particle physics and many of the methods for explaining particle physics are garnered from a wide spectrum of material. There are a number of websites that have been developed to introduce the non specialist to the world of particle physics. One good example is



There are also many scientists that have written about these topics. One of my favorite physicists is Richard Feynman. His introductory physics lectures contain some very nice sections on quantum theory.Some of his other works, for example, QED and Six Not So Easy Pieces are worth reading.There is also a set of essays assembled by Paul Davies under the title The New Physics.I have found these essays to be remarkably clear and still very complete.There will be no singel source of material for the course. I will try to provide you with material to accompany each lecture. There are no reading assignments prior to our first meeting but the student is encouraged to search the web and visit your local libraries.



Preliminary Plan of Attack





Introduction, quantum mechanics


Relativity, general relativity


Standard model, elementary particles, reactions


What is symmetry, overall guiding principles