One for Science: Elementary Particles, Mass and Forces of Nature

In pursuit of science, fitness, and happiness, this article is a continuation of the video shared here on fat loss. The chemical equation of human fat C55H104O6 decomposes into Carbon and Oxygen.  Ruben Meerman’s video on the mathematics of weight loss led to the genesis of this article. Dipped with a small dose of quantum mechanics, this article shares a very brief overview of the micro world of elementary particles and laws of nature governing our bodies and this Universe.

Carbon, Hydrogen and Oxygen atoms play a fundamental role in burning fat. About 96% of human body is made up of carbon, oxygen, hydrogen, and nitrogen. Hydrogen and Helium are also the elements which build the atomic mass of our universe. Hydrogen and Helium atoms make up 99.8 % of all atoms and 98% of all atomic mass in the Universe. An atom has protons and neutrons in its nucleus with electrons orbiting the nucleus.  Protons and neutrons have the same weight which is much more than the weight of electrons. Mass of electrons is negligible compared to the weight of protons and neutrons. The number of protons decides the elementary characteristics of the elements on the periodic table. The mass differs from the weight. Mass measured by mass of atoms in the body which is equal to the mass of protons and neutrons combined. Mass is constant while weight changes according to the gravitation pull of the planet. The movies Interstellar and The Martian are good examples of how weights can vary in different planets.

Atoms are not elementary particles since elementary particles are subatomic particles which have no particle inside and cannot be broken down further. Electrons are elementary particles and cannot be broken down further while proton and neutrons are made of quarks (elementary particles). String theory proposes that the smallest elementary particle governing this Universe are strings. Strings have not been practically observed consider the infinitesimal small size of these strings, however, science is working on of their existence for some time through bombarding particles at very high speeds in large hadron colliders. Remember discovery of Higgs Boson, an elementary particle in the Standard Model of particle physics which caused a sensation worldwide. Will look into Bosons later in this article.  Space-time theory assumes four dimensions which account for time as one of them while string theory assumes eleven dimensions including time. String theory is also known as Theory of Everything since it encapsulates laws of physics at both macro and quantum level. It’s a major theory in theoretical physics and for details refer to Brian Greene (TED talks) and articles and books on this blog.

Elementary Particles are the building blocks are considered the smallest particles which cannot be broken down. Atoms are usually neutrally charged, although atoms with different protons and electrons are known as ions. Lighter atoms i.e. atoms with lighter nuclei protons are equal to neutrons while for larger nuclei number of protons differ from those of neutrons. For example, Uranium has 146 neutrons and 92 protons which makes it very unstable, an elementary quality used for nuclear fission. Fission occurs for very heavy nuclei with mass numbers greater than 250 and produces particles of uneven mass.

Nuclear Fission is very different from Nuclear Fusion which is fusing hydrogen atoms to form helium. The Sun burns up half a billion tons of hydrogen per second to fuse into helium. Helium gets its origin from the world Helios, a Greek word for the Sun.  Fusion combines two atoms of hydrogen to form an atom of helium. In the process, energy is released with wholesome byproducts like carbon, oxygen etc which are present in stars, planets. Fusion works at very high temperature, Sun has 5726 degrees C. Apart from the high temperature for synthesizing fusion, the strong force is required for the process of fusion. Maybe one day we will effectively harness fusion for energy. Strong Force, is the strongest force in this Universe and will look at it later in this article. Sunlight forms the basis of subsistence on this planet since plants use chlorophyll to synthesis sunlight ( photons as well look at it later), carbon dioxide and oxygen to produce sugar.

Elementary Particles

Coming back to Fermions and Boson, both are elementary particles. Fermions are the building blocks of matter (Quarks, Leptons) while Bosons are forces mediating interaction among forces (Fermions). Bosons are also known as force particles and maybe the force is with you…Anti-Matter, another elementary particle aka antiparticle are opposites in characteristics to their partner particle but have the same mass.

Do not be Fooled By Randomness

Bosons are named after the great Indian scientist Satyanarendra Bose who proposed this quantum theory. Einstein assisted in the publication of Bose paper in scientific journals and added his own thoughts and the principles are known as Bose-Einstein statistics. The problem with Einsteins theories is that they are not applicable at the quantum level. At the subatomic level, there is utter chaos which baffled Einstein himself till his end. Einstein published a groundbreaking paper on Brownian motion titled Investigations on The Theory of the Brownian Movement. The paper delves into movement of pollen grains and molecular kinetic theory of heat and is available on the internet. Brownian motion forms the basis of stochastic processes which is also the underlying assumption behind the option pricing using the Black Scholes Merton model. A variable (not to be confused with the particle in quantum mechanics), whose value changes over time in an uncertain way both continuous or discretely follows a stochastic process. Markov theory underlines this concept in predicting future pricing trends or outcomes i.e. the probabilistic outcome of the price at a future date does not depend on any particular path taken in the past for pricing. The transition from one state to another would form a Markov chain which would look like a matrix of outcomes with a probabilistic outcome for each state of transition. Time series statistical data of stocks are taken to understand this principle. This helps in normalizing data for analyses. Data having more than 40 observations and less than 10 percent of population along with the choice of random variables which are ( i.i.d) independent and identically distributed. ( Independent with the same probability distribution). This principle allies to data which can be tabulated for variables exhibiting normal and log-normal behavior and the theory is irrelevant for alternative investments which do not show normalized behavior. Fooled by Randomness is a very good read by Nassim Nicholas Taleb is known for his books on risks governing finance and everyday life. Read the book again after a decade, and found it refreshing. Fooled by Randomness highlights the significance of tail risk, judiciously defined as Black Swan (also book by the same author) events like credit crisis. The little brief on the stochastic process is an analogy on randomness governing at both our lives and processes at a subatomic level which delves into the concept of impermanence. At quantum level everything is impermanent.

Back to elementary forces  

Fermions consist of a set of twelve particles which includes six quarks and six leptons. Quarks take part in strong force while leptons do not. The six quarks are up, down, charm, strange, top and bottom. I swear these are not exercises and I have no intention to charm my readers but their names sound a bit strange. Six types of leptons are electrons, muon, tau all having a negative charge: -1 while neutrinos have no electric charge.  The force between any pair of particle arises because they exchange another type of particle called a Boson. Bosons are gauge bosons, gluons, photons, W+, W-, Z^0, and HIGGS Boson.  Gluons are the forces mediating strong forces and all electromagnetic waves are photons: bundles of energy while W+, W-, Z^0 mediate weak forces.

The strong force is the strongest force which holds the quarks and nucleus together. Electromagnetic force holds atoms, molecules, and bodies together while weak force pertains to radioactive decay. The weakest force is gravitation. I can jump and lift my leg with the gravitation force of Planet Earth pulling me down highlights weakened strength of gravitation force. Yet gravitation is very important considering it can interact with any type of force over infinite distances. Gravity plays a pivotal role in the Einstein theory of relativity and for understanding the concept of time dilation. Refer to the video shared here on my Twitter…Gravity holds the planets, defines the elliptical path of orbits etc. and holds everyone to Earth while it spins on its axis and around Sun. Gravity is the effect of curvature in our Universe, wise words of a leading scholar and scientist. (Not sure who it is? )

Comparative Chart of Force and Strength 

This chart compares the four forces. Weak force is equated to 1, the rest are comparative weights relative to weak force.  Source: Einstein For Everyone By Robert Piccioni 


Strong                                  10,000

Electromagnetic             100

Weak                                      1

Gravity                                   7*10^-34

I used many references for this article esp. the book Einstein for Everyone which is a great read. Hull is one of the best textbooks for reading topics on option, futures etc. and formed a reference material for my course on Investment Analysis and Portfolio Management.