An Article Written Originally for Midlevel Teachers


Dr. Leon M. Lederman, recipient of the 1988 Nobel Prize in physics and former director of Fermilab, has defined physics and particle physics in the following terms:

"Physics is essentially a cultural activity . . . there is a need to know--there is a heritage handed down--a vision that the human brain can "solve" or put into rational order the physical problems of our own existence, starting with the creation of the universe in a big bang and predicting its evolution to the infinite future.

Physics is thought to be very difficult by most physicists, but this is the creation of new physics. Understanding of what has been done requires no more patience and intelligence than finding out what has been done in art, music, and literature. Physics is vital to a large number of other disciplines for which it furnishes either the basic laws or the instruments or both.

Particle physics is a search for the most primitive, primordial, unchanging and indestructible forms of matter and the rules by which they combine to compose all the things of the physical world. It deals with matter, energy, space, and time.

The objectives of particle physics are to identify the most simple objects out of which all matter is composed and to understand the forces which cause them to interact and combine to make more complex things."

Particle physicists use basic terms and concepts when describing their research. Some of those terms and concepts are summarized in other topics in the section and in the Glossary, not necessarily to be taught to students, but to provide a background for the teacher for questions that may arise. Other information is presented in the Teacher Notes associated with individual activities.