Particle physics is the branch of physics that looks at the elementary constituents of matter. At the level of atoms and sub-atomic particles, objects behave very differently compared with large objects we see around us every day. Quantum theory is an attempt to describe the behaviour of matter and energy at this sub atomic scale. Particle Physics also deals with very fast particles, moving at speeds close to the speed of light.

More information about the Large Hadron Collider:

  • The LHC website
  • The LHC game - find out about how the LHC works by adjusting the different parts of the equipment.
  • The LHC rap! - a youtube clip explaining particle collisions and the different experiments taking place at the LHC.

More information about ISIS:

The online quiz is compiled by scientists from the universities of Birmingham and Cambridge, and answers are provided as students work through the quiz.

Answers to the particle physics puzzle sheet can be downloaded here.

Curriculum links

Physics 3.7 Quantum and nuclear physics
b) Particles: evidence supporting the quantum model for particles, a study of particle diffraction would provide suitable depth of treatment

Scottish Curriculum

Physics Higher Potentially relevant to module: Particles and Waves (sub-atomic physics and waves. study of particle physics and waves, with wave-particle duality as a linking theme.)

Particle experiments

atom_300Particle physics is the branch of physics that looks at the smallest objects known (and unknown) to man. These are the things that, for example, make up atoms and are sub-atomic particles. Everything in the universe is made out of particles of matter. An atom is made up of a nucleus surrounded by a cloud of electrons. If we look at the nucleus we see it is made up of neutrons and protons. Inside these are quarks which are so small they cannot be measured.

Image from the Discovering Particles website.

The particle accelerator is the basic tool of particle physics. Particles are accelerated very close to the speed of light and then smashed together. The collisions produce new particles, which are not part of atoms, and these are detected and information about them recorded.



Activity: Can you find out about these two places where experiments with particles are carried out?

What do their names mean, where are they and what happens at them?

  • LHC
  • ISIS

Download and fill in this table.

The following weblinks will help you:

Test your knowledge of the LHC with this online quiz, or have a go at this puzzle sheet from the "Discovering particles" scientists.