The Standard Model

This video is about the current theory of fundamental particles and their interactions.

For a short outline of the contents of this video, see the summary.

For a complete written record of the words in this video, see the transcript.

Learn More

The Charm of Strange Quarks outlines the particles and their interactions, including the historical and experimental foundations of the field:

This approachable website provides a tour of the particle realm:

If you’re curious to learn more about the Higgs Boson, check out this video from Fermilab:

Explore the Standard Model in a new way at this interactive website:

Learn more about some of the major particle accelerators used to study the fundamental particles at this website:


Research Challenges

The periodic table of the elements demonstrates repeating patterns in the atoms’ properties. The patterns were discovered to exist as a result of the possible arrangements of electrons, protons, and neutrons that make up those atoms. The Standard Model of particle physics also demonstrates patterns — does that indicate that there are even smaller particles that make up quarks and leptons? How can we perform a test to find out? Will we ever know if we’ve finally found the smallest particle?

Neutrinos are ghostly shadows that are nearly impossible to detect. Because of this, the history of their discovery is particularly interesting. Why, how, and by whom was the neutrino predicted? How was the existence of neutrinos verified experimentally?

In the Standard Model of particle physics, the fundamental forces can be described in two different ways: force fields on the one hand, and exchange particles (bosons) on the other. How do these two ways of thinking about forces work together? Which is more accurate or are they both correct?

Essentially all of the normal matter in our daily lives is made of electrons, up quarks, and down quarks. But the Standard Model of particle physics includes a menagerie of more exotic particles. Why don’t we observe the other particles in our daily lives? How are these particles created in particle accelerators? Why are more massive particles harder to create? (Hint: what does E = mc^2 tell us about mass and energy?)

In 2011, an experiment mistakenly reported observing neutrinos traveling faster than the speed of light. We know now that neutrinos travel extremely quickly, but not quite at light speed. How does a neutrino’s speed relate to its mass? What does Special Relativity tell us about faster-than-light travel?

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