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Ask Ethan: What Is An Electron?

13 Apr 2019, 14:01 UTC
Ask Ethan: What Is An Electron?
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This artist’s illustration shows an electron orbiting an atomic nucleus, where the electron is a fundamental particle but the nucleus can be broken up into still smaller, more fundamental constituents. (NICOLLE RAGER FULLER, NSF)Sometimes, the simplest questions of all are the most difficult to meaningfully answer.If you were to take any tiny piece of matter in our known Universe and break it up into smaller and smaller constituents, you’d eventually reach a stage where what you were left with was indivisible. Everything on Earth is composed of atoms, which can further be divided into protons, neutrons, and electrons. While protons and neutrons can still be divided farther, electrons cannot. They were the first fundamental particles discovered, and over 100 years later, we still know of no way to split electrons apart. But what, exactly, are they? That’s what Patreon supporter John Duffield wants to know, asking:Please will you describe the electron… explaining what it is, and why it moves the way it does when it interacts with a positron. If you’d also like to explain why it moves the way that it does in an electric field, a magnetic field, and a gravitational field, that would be nice. An explanation ...

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