In more technical terms, they are described by quantum state vectors in a Hilbert space , which is also treated in quantum field theory. Following the convention of particle physicists, the term elementary particles is applied to those particles that are, according to current understanding, presumed to be indivisible and not composed of other particles.
All particles and their interactions observed to date can be described almost entirely by a quantum field theory called the Standard Model. The Standard Model has been found to agree with almost all the experimental tests conducted to date. However, most particle physicists believe that it is an incomplete description of nature and that a more fundamental theory awaits discovery See Theory of Everything. In recent years, measurements of neutrino mass have provided the first experimental deviations from the Standard Model.
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The idea that all matter is fundamentally composed of elementary particles dates from at least the 6th century BC. The early 20th century explorations of nuclear physics and quantum physics led to proofs of nuclear fission in by Lise Meitner based on experiments by Otto Hahn , and nuclear fusion by Hans Bethe in that same year; both discoveries also led to the development of nuclear weapons. Throughout the s and s, a bewildering variety of particles were found in collisions of particles from increasingly high-energy beams.
It was referred to informally as the " particle zoo ". That term was deprecated [ citation needed ] after the formulation of the Standard Model during the s, in which the large number of particles was explained as combinations of a relatively small number of more fundamental particles. The current state of the classification of all elementary particles is explained by the Standard Model , gaining widespread acceptance in the mids after experimental confirmation of the existence of quarks.
It describes the strong , weak , and electromagnetic fundamental interactions , using mediating gauge bosons. Early in the morning on 4 July , physicists with the Large Hadron Collider at CERN announced they had found a new particle that behaves similarly to what is expected from the Higgs boson. Many other particle accelerators also exist. The techniques required for modern experimental particle physics are quite varied and complex, constituting a sub-specialty nearly completely distinct [ citation needed ] from the theoretical side of the field.
Theoretical particle physics attempts to develop the models, theoretical framework, and mathematical tools to understand current experiments and make predictions for future experiments.
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See also theoretical physics. There are several major interrelated efforts being made in theoretical particle physics today. One important branch attempts to better understand the Standard Model and its tests. By extracting the parameters of the Standard Model, from experiments with less uncertainty, this work probes the limits of the Standard Model and therefore expands our understanding of nature's building blocks. Those efforts are made challenging by the difficulty of calculating quantities in quantum chromodynamics.
Some theorists working in this area refer to themselves as phenomenologists and they may use the tools of quantum field theory and effective field theory.
Others make use of lattice field theory and call themselves lattice theorists. Another major effort is in model building where model builders develop ideas for what physics may lie beyond the Standard Model at higher energies or smaller distances. This work is often motivated by the hierarchy problem and is constrained by existing experimental data. It may involve work on supersymmetry , alternatives to the Higgs mechanism , extra spatial dimensions such as the Randall-Sundrum models , Preon theory, combinations of these, or other ideas.
A third major effort in theoretical particle physics is string theory. String theorists attempt to construct a unified description of quantum mechanics and general relativity by building a theory based on small strings, and branes rather than particles. There are also other areas of work in theoretical particle physics ranging from particle cosmology to loop quantum gravity.
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This division of efforts in particle physics is reflected in the names of categories on the arXiv , a preprint archive:  hep-th theory , hep-ph phenomenology , hep-ex experiments , hep-lat lattice gauge theory. In principle, all physics and practical applications developed therefrom can be derived from the study of fundamental particles. In practice, even if "particle physics" is taken to mean only "high-energy atom smashers", many technologies have been developed during these pioneering investigations that later find wide uses in society.
Particle accelerators are used to produce medical isotopes for research and treatment for example, isotopes used in PET imaging , or used directly in external beam radiotherapy. The development of superconductors has been pushed forward by their use in particle physics. Additional applications are found in medicine, national security, industry, computing, science, and workforce development, illustrating a long and growing list of beneficial practical applications with contributions from particle physics.
The primary goal, which is pursued in several distinct ways, is to find and understand what physics may lie beyond the standard model.
There are several powerful experimental reasons to expect new physics, including dark matter and neutrino mass. There are also theoretical hints that this new physics should be found at accessible energy scales. Much of the effort to find this new physics are focused on new collider experiments.
The Large Hadron Collider LHC was completed in to help continue the search for the Higgs boson , supersymmetric particles , and other new physics. An intermediate goal is the construction of the International Linear Collider ILC , which will complement the LHC by allowing more precise measurements of the properties of newly found particles. In August , a decision for the technology of the ILC was taken but the site has still to be agreed upon. In addition, there are important non-collider experiments that also attempt to find and understand physics beyond the Standard Model.
One important non-collider effort is the determination of the neutrino masses, since these masses may arise from neutrinos mixing with very heavy particles. George Christakos. The Statistical Analysis of Experimental Data.
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