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ZetaTalk: Subatomic Particles
Note: written by Jul 15, 1995.

At one point in the not too distant past humans thought of matter as a substance, like wood, water, air, or sand. Common folk, of course, deal with matter in this way still. In addition to matter, there was energy, like light or radio waves. Theoretical physicists concluded, based on the observable and measurable chemical, electromagnetic, and fractal qualities of matter, that an atomic structure existed. In those days the concept was simple, involving an atomic nucleus with orbiting electrons, but the concept has rapidly evolved to include dozens of theoretical subatomic particles, and since Einstein's theories have become acceptable, the concept of energy as being, in fact, just rapidly moving small bits of matter.

How close are the many theories of man to the Zeta understanding? In concept, humans are on the right track, but in detail they are not yet half right. For instance, humans are searching for a quark, a particle that would make their formulas work, where no such particle exists. The fault is in the formulas, not in the elusive quark. The formulas to be made whole by the elusive quark have invented the quark, which takes shape only to fill the void, to balance the equation. There is nothing wrong with this logic, this approach, when one bears in mind that the invented particle is only a theory, but where scientists go amuck is in claiming a subatomic particle real because it has leapt into their imagination. A bit of reality testing is required. The electron first appeared on the drawing boards of scientists, but reality testing followed theory in the development of electrical energy, so widely used in human society as to need no explanation. All this groping about to explain the workings of the little universe that exists inside each atom is made difficult by the nature of the study. The subject can't be seen, or measured, so the theories can't be proved. This does not stop theorists from arguing with one another, however, as the goal is heady. If one understands how the atom works, one could plot and achieve marvelous feats.

Humans are continuously frustrated by the limitations of their knowledge. Where the common man looks with awe at academia and scientists working in labs because they seem to understand how it all works, in fact it is no secret that they are all quite confused. The various departments in the average university could not sit down and discuss the smallest scientific statement without breaking into argument. The disciplines of science openly contradict each other! The confused student is left scratching his head, but is still expected to pay his fees promptly. Likewise, research labs proudly announce their successes, but bury their failures. No right minded financial backer or scientist would proceed to build something based on theory. Why? Because the theories seldom hold when experiments are run. Most scientific discoveries are made by accident, and that's a fact. The milk spills into the vinegar by accident, and now the vinegar is no longer sour. By accident.

So, how small is small? To put it into perspective, the electron, which humans now think of as one unit but are casting a suspicious eye toward and thinking may perhaps prove to be many types of particles, in a clump or acting independently, is composed of some 387 discrete types of particles. This number of subatomic particles is the count we, the Zeta, are aware of, but we suspect even we are ignorant of the true count and may be in error on some of our assumptions. After all, we're only Zetan.

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