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A Trinity Of Particles

People sometimes wonder why I'm interested in quantum physics. The question is easy to answer, but to grasp the full understanding of why is a bit more difficult. For me, quantum physics is a way to understand the universe, answering the ultimate question of How It All Works, but even more so, because in unraveling these mysteries we jump from one outrageous conclusion to the next: The universe it not always what we expected it to be.

Greek philosophers long ago thought this way: If I take a grain of sand, and split that it two, I end up with something smaller. Take this smaller piece, and split that in two again, and keep doing that, then I must ultimately arrive at some form of particle that can no longer be split. It is undividable, atomic. They called this atomos, "that which cannot be cut into smaller particles".

The atoms we know today as hydrogen, oxygen, sulphur and so forth, turned out to be dividable after all: naming them "atoms" proved to be premature in our understanding. The atoms themselves could be divided into their shell of electrons, as well as their nucleus core, consisting of protons and neutrons. And even protons and neutrons turned out to be dividable; they consist of "up" and "down" quarks.

In the end, it turns out that there exists only four particles responsible for matter (fermions), with three different generations of each: up/down quarks, electrons, and neutrinos. The grand theory of the day, called the Standard Model, predicts all of these particles, with their high-energy 2nd and 3rd generation cousins, and researchers have experimentally found all of them by now. (Among the bosons, elementary particles responsible for forces, only the Higgs particle remains elusive.)

But the Standard Model cannot answer all our questions. The magazine Scientific American notes one particular question:
"The Standard Model has three 'generations' of particles. The everyday world is made up entirely of first-generation particles, and that generation appears to form a consistent theory on its own. The Standard Model describes all three generations, but it cannot explain why more than one exists." (Scientific American, vol 15, no 3, pp 10)
While reading this article, I started thinking about the number three. Why are there three generations of fermions? Each identical, but with different properties of mass and energy.

I have long held the belief that science and religion, at some point, would merge. Science is the searching for Truth, whereas God is Truth. Given that these two axioms are indeed correct, and that the bible is in fact divinely inspired, science should, at some point, line up with biblical truth.
"For by [Jesus] all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible [...]; all things were created by him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together." (Col 1:16-17, New International Version)
The goal of physics research as it stands now is to produce a grand, unified Theory Of Everything, describing the one single force that holds everything in the Universe together.

...and for a brief moment, I thought I saw a connection: The foundation of matter and our universe - three families of fermions, all identical... The triune Godhead, three in one... Just exactly what is it that I'm looking at here?

Well, who knows? According to faith, God created the entire universe. Of course, I could be dead wrong about any inherent connection in these matters. But I can't shake the feeling that somehow, things are beginning to line up.

In the end, I wonder if some day our search for understanding the foundations of the Universe may well drive us right into the arms of God himself. And you wonder why I find this exciting. :-)


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