I’ve been quite busy with some physics research this week, but I have nevertheless managed to finish a new article on electrons, part of my Structure of Matter series, which aims (among other things) to introduce a non-expert to particle physics, step-by-step. The completion of this article feels like a significant step for this website. After all, the electron was the first subatomic particle and the first of the apparently-elementary particles to be discovered, about 115 years ago, and its discovery really gave birth to the field of particle physics we know today. Moreover, it was the failure to describe the behavior of electrons within and outside of atoms that forced physicists to go beyond Newtonian views of physics processes, and introduce the theory of quantum mechanics. Electrons, tiny as they are, are enormous in human life; they play a key role in all chemical reactions, including those that sustain our bodies. Beyond that, they lie at the heart of much modern technology — electronics! And there’s more. So no particle physics website can be complete without an electron webpage.
Looking ahead, a question I sometimes get asked is whether I’m sure electrons (or any other elementary particles that physicists talk about) really exist. After all, it is true I’ve never seen a picture of one taken with any sort of microscope! Well, in answer to this question, I want to write an article on why we particle physicists are so confident that electrons (and atomic nuclei) exist… explaining the types of experiments and the types of logical reasoning that lead to this conclusion. I suspect a lot of readers will find such an article interesting; after all, why should one take expert knowledge for granted just because it appears in a textbook or on a website? Readers should demand to know where the knowledge came from — and a writer should be prepared to answer.