The Standard Model Part 4: Putting It All Together

The Standard Model. Source: Quanta Magazine

The Standard Model is hardly standard. It is the most complex yet concise theory of particle physics, amazingly accurate in its predictions. It mathematically puts together the 17 building blocks of the universe: six quarks, six leptons, four force-carrier particles, and the Higgs boson.

Initially developed in the early 1970s and named by Abraham Pais, a Dutch-American physicist and science historian, and Sam Treiman, an American theoretical physicist, the Standard Model explains how particles interact with one another and three of the four fundamental forces. The full Standard Model took a long time to complete. One hundred fifteen years passed between the 1897 discovery of the electron and the 2012 discovery of the Higgs boson.

Although the Standard Model is the best thing we currently have to describe the subatomic world, it excludes gravity and thus isn’t the full picture. It also raises more questions such as, “What caused the asymmetry between matter and antimatter?” and “Why do neutrinos have mass?” and “Why are there such drastic differences in mass within the three generations of quarks and leptons?”

Additionally, it is known that about 95% of the universe is not made of ordinary matter that we interact with in our daily lives. Instead, most of the universe consists of dark matter and dark energy, neither of which are included in the Standard Model.

These mysteries have led physicists to put forth theories such as the Grand Unified Theory, Supersymmetry, Technicolor, and String Theory. However, these are still just theories while the Standard Model is fact.

Check out an interesting 3D rendering of the Standard Model based on particle physicist Chris Quigg’s double simplex representation here.

“As for the question ‘What are we?’ the Standard Model has the answer. It tells us that every object in the universe is not independent, and that every particle is there for a reason.” -Saúl Ramos

Today, the Standard Model is far from perfect, but it’s the closest we’ve ever come. Yes, it has mathematical inconsistencies, it’s complicated, and it leaves out one of the four fundamental forces. But the fact that our species knows this much about the essence of matter should amaze everyone.

We’ll save string theory for another time ;)

If you haven’t read the first three, here they are:

The Standard Model Part 1: What are Particles?

The Standard Model Part 2: Enter the Atom

The Standard Model Part 3: Enter the Forces

A New York City high school sophmore passionate about redefining space exploration.