Particle physics

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Particle physics is a branch of physics that studies the elementary subatomic constituents of matter and radiation, and their interactions. The field is also called high energy physics, because many elementary particles do not occur under ambient conditions on Earth. They can only be created artificially during high energy collisions with other particles in particle accelerators.

Particle physics has evolved out of its parent field of nuclear physics and is typically still taught in close association with it. Scientific research in this area has produced a long list of particles.


Subatomic particles

Modern particle physics research is focused on subatomic particles, including atomic constituents such as electrons, protons, and neutrons (protons and neutrons are actually composite particles, made up of quarks), particles produced by radioactive and scattering processes, such as photons, neutrinos, and muons, as well as a wide range of exotic particles.

Strictly speaking, the term particle is a misnomer from classical physics because the dynamics of particle physics are governed by quantum mechanics. As such, they exhibit wave-particle duality, displaying particle-like behavior under certain experimental conditions and wave-like behavior in others. In more technical terms, they are described by state vectors in a Hilbert space, which is also treated in quantum field theory. Following the convention of particle physicists, elementary particles refer to objects such as electrons and photons, it is well known that these types of particles display wave-like properties as well.

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