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The Smallest Bits Of Things: A Brief History Of Matter

28 Mar 2012, 14:38 UTC
The Smallest Bits Of Things: A Brief History Of Matter
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Have we found the smallest bits of matter? Are there smaller particles we haven't identified? What are the most fundamental particles? A final, ultimate answer may not be attainable.

by Marcelo Gleiser

The Greek atomists were the first to ponder the fundamental constitution of matter. They considered, in an amazingly prescient insight, that if you could cut matter into smaller and smaller pieces you'd end up with its smallest bits, which they called atoms. The word itself means that which cannot be cut. They further considered that atoms were eternal and indestructible, thus constituting the essence of Being. However, as they combined with each other in myriad ways, they made up all the stuff that we see in the world, from rocks to water drops to frogs and people. This way, Being turns into Becoming, capturing the essence of nature, of things that are and things that change. They went further, and in an attempt to create a unified theory of nature, proposed that thoughts and feelings were also made of atoms. Unified theories are as old as philosophy. Although the modern concept of atoms is quite different from ...

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