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.

Decide what equipment (eg film-making equipment) is available to the students and brief them on what outputs you would like eg poster, film, factsheet etc

Students could decide themselves on the specific topic, or you could hand out the topics to different groups of students. Examples of topics for them to explain:

  • the double slit experiment,
  • Schrödinger's cat theory,
  • Heisenberg's uncertainty principle
  • or anything else from the course.

Students will need some background information about quantum physics so it is recommended this activity is carried out as a revision activity.

Each student needs to submit or present their explanation. You could invite another teacher (non-physics background) or other students to judge how clear their explanations are and to ask questions.

For inspiration, students could look at you tube videos eg this animation shows Dr Quantum explaining the double slit experiment.

Please ensure you check the accuracy of the content of any online videos about quantum physics as some may be misleading.

Curriculum links

3.7 Quantum and nuclear physics
a) Photons: photon model to explain observable phenomena, evidence supporting the photon model
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.)

What is quantum physics all about?


Feynman_250A quote that is sometimes attributed to Richard Feynman is "If you think you understand quantum mechanics, you don't understand quantum mechanics".

This might be slightly disheartening if you need to learn about quantum physics for your up-coming exams! It is important to remember that although quantum physics is weird it has been tested with reproducible results many times.






Activity: Explaining quantum physics

Your task is to explain one aspect of quantum physics to someone who has not come across it before (perhaps one of your teachers from outside the physics/science department). You  can assume they are an educated adult who does know about the different particles involved eg photons, electrons etc,  but has not heard of quantum theory before. They would expect a particle to act like any large object.

You can only write 300 words maximum but you can use anything else to help explain, for example a diagram or video.

For more information look at the section 'Want to find out more?'. There is a lot of information on the internet described in many different ways. Some websites may be clearer to understand than others so think about the style of writing you will use.



Activity: Create a Feynman Zoo

Richard Feynman also invented Feynman diagrams as a way of pictorially representing interactions between different types of particle. Elementary particles move very fast, close to the speed of light. A branch of quantum mechanics, called "Relativistic Quantum Mechanics", describes their behaviour. Find out more about Feynman diagrams here, and how you could use them to create a Feynman zoo!

For more information about particle physics, have a look at the website produced by scientists from the universities of Birmingham and Cambridge as part of the Summer Science Exhibition 2011.