Searching for the ultimate particle

Course Dates: 13/07/24 - 20/07/24
Time: 10:30 - 13:00
Location: Keeley Street
This course explores how the concept of the ultimate particle has shaped physics since 400 BCE: the idea of what we now call atoms is nearly 2,400 years old!
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Full fee £59.00 Senior fee £47.00 Concession £38.00

Searching for the ultimate particle
  • Course Code: HS302
  • Dates: 13/07/24 - 20/07/24
  • Time: 10:30 - 13:00
  • Taught: Sat, Daytime
  • Duration: 2 sessions (over 2 weeks)
  • Location: Keeley Street
  • Tutor: Gary Retallick

Course Code: HS302

Sat, day, 13 Jul - 20 Jul '24

Duration: 2 sessions (over 2 weeks)

Please note: We offer a wide variety of financial support to make courses affordable. Just visit our online Help Center for more information on a range of topics including fees, online learning and FAQs.

What is the course about?

The word atom derives from the Greek "a tomos", which literally means "not cuttable". The ancient Greek philosopher Democritus theorised around 400 BCE that all matter was composed of tiny indivisible particles, the atoms. Largely neglected as a theory for many centuries, atomism enjoyed a revival in the 17th century in the work of the chemist John Dalton. Building on the refinements of the theory introduced by Dalton, physicists such as Thomson and Rutherford subsequently came to realise that the "atoms" themselves had internal structure, leading to the discovery of electrons, protons and neutrons, and ultimately to quarks. Physicists now think that electrons and quarks are the true "atoms" in the sense of having no internal structure, but developments in field and string theory may suggest that even this is not the end of the search for the ultimate particle. In this course we will examine how the concept of the ultimate particle has shaped physics over the past 2400 years.

What will we cover?

- The earliest theories of the atom
- Emerging evidence for the atom in the nineteenth century
- Late nineteenth and early twentieth century investigation of the internal structure of the atom
- From simplicity back to complexity in our understanding of the smallest particles
- The ultimate particle?
- Unanswered questions.

What will I achieve?
By the end of this course you should be able to...

- Describe how the concept of the atom came into being two and a half thousand years ago
- Explain how developments in chemistry in the nineteenth century led to a revival of the concept of the atom
- Identify the key empirical research which led to the discovery of the internal structure of the atom in the late 19th and early 20th century
- Describe how particle accelerator experiments displayed a plethora of new particles, but resulted in the realisation that all of these could be explained in terms of just six fundamental particles, the quarks
- Identify the questions which remain in the search for the ultimate particle and how these might be answered by new physics such as string theory or quantum loop gravity.

What level is the course and do I need any particular skills?

The course is suitable for beginners, though some knowledge of physics may be useful. No prior knowledge of physics or mathematics is required, but the course is designed to be of interest to those who have studied these areas as well. A good grasp of English is needed to be able to fully participate in class.

How will I be taught, and will there be any work outside the class?

You will be taught in a number of different ways including presentations with visual examples, discussions and group work. Work outside class will be optional.

Are there any other costs? Is there anything I need to bring?

There are no additional costs. If you wish to take notes you will find it useful to have a pen and paper, but the Powerpoints will be made available online.

When I've finished, what course can I do next?

For other Science courses, please check the City Lit website: Science & Nature.

Gary Retallick

Dr. Gary Retallick Mathematics and Science Gary obtained his Phd in Philosophy of Physics from Kings College London in 2006. His thesis explored the physics of time, touching upon relativity, field equations, quantum mechanics, thermodynamics and metaphysics. Gary began his teaching career in computing, going on to teach philosophy for the WEA and Mary Ward Centre, and physics and mathematics at both Birkbeck College London and the Open University. He currently teaches various science related courses, spanning topics in physics, chemistry and mathematics, at City Lit. Languages - Cornish Aside from his career in Science, Gary has an ongoing interest in languages, in particular Cornish, the language of his ancestors. He began studying Cornish at City Lit in 1998, and after passing the grade three Cornish exam with distinction he started to assist his tutor, Jo P'rhys. After a number of years as language assistant to the class, Gary was formally appointed as teacher of the Cornish beginners class, allowing Jo to concentrate on the higher level classes. Gary now teaches both the beginners and lower intermediate classes.

Please note: We reserve the right to change our tutors from those advertised. This happens rarely, but if it does, we are unable to refund fees due to this. Our tutors may have different teaching styles; however we guarantee a consistent quality of teaching in all our courses.