Atom - A Single Oxygen Atoms Journey from the Big Bang to by Lawrence M. Krauss

By Lawrence M. Krauss

Now in paperback: the ebook within which the writer of the nationwide bestseller The Physics of megastar Trek lines the historical past of the cosmos by means of telling the tale of a unmarried oxygen atom-from the start of time to the current second and deep into the long run. Writing with grace and wit, Lawrence Krauss explicates state of the art technological know-how as he is taking us on an exhilarating, millennia-spanning trip that tells the reality of matter-what it really is, the place it got here from, and the place it truly is going.

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Example text

Thus, in this sense, an antimatter world is essentially the same as a matter world, so strictly speaking I was not lying. I am not sure how this would hold up in a grand jury proceeding. That would depend on what the meaning of is is. In any case, it was learned, almost a decade after the observations of the decays of neutrons and pions that demonstrated that the weak force distinguished left from right and particles from antiparticles, that it did something which was even stranger. I have already described that many elementary particles, such as protons and neutrons at the heart of ordinary matter, are themselves made of elementary objects called quarks.

If it were a real baseball, we might choose to examine it under a microscope, where we could see the small strands of thread used in the stitching holding the leather outer pieces together. If this baseball were an impressionist’s representation for our observable universe as it was near the beginning of time, and if we counted particles at that time, then all of what now makes up everything we see — people, planets, stars, galaxies — could have been fully contained in a single speck on a single thread.

The answer lies in what appears to be another miraculous accident — one that will completely govern the later life of our atom. As I noted earlier, the mass difference between a proton and a neutron is very, very small, about 1/1000 the mass of the particles themselves. Thus a free neutron is only just a bit heavier than the sum of the masses of a proton, an electron, and an antineutrino, and it is thus just only barely able to decay into these particles. Most elementary particles that are unstable have lifetimes of millionths or billionths of a second at best.

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