What Makes up Everything?

October 14, 2015 / Humans, The world around us / 0 Comments /
Header image of a black board with chalk calculations

Start with a human

Lets start with a very complex organism – say, a human. Humans are made up of a number of organ, like the brain, heart and liver. Organs are usually self-contained, and have a specific function in the body, for example, the liver is there to filter out toxins and neutralizes toxins. These organs are quite big in the scheme of things, and if you hold out your two fists together that is the size of your heart. These organs are made up of tissues, which are an organisation of similar specialised cells that perform a specific task, and a typical example of a tissue is muscle. Cells in muscles are specifically designed to produce force which help us to move.

 

Microscopic

Tissues are the smallest thing we can see with our eyes, and these tissues are made up of individual cells, which can only been seen under a microscope. A skin cell is approximately 30 micrometers (30µm) in size, and this means that you can fit just over 30 skin cells in 1mm. These cells are then made up of tiny structures called organelles, which fulfil a similar role to the cell as organs do to our body. Organelles have specialised functions which include creating proteins, protecting DNA and creating energy. All cells are very similar in this composition, even plant cells to some extent (but there are some key differences too). All of these organelles are made up of molecules, and the size of these molecules can vary quite dramatically. The most commonly known molecule is DNA, which if stretched out, would form a very thin thread of about 2 meters. In contrast, a glucose molecule is about 1.5µm (20 times smaller than a skin cell). You will struggle to see some of these smaller molecules with a microscope.

 

Atomic

All molecules are made up of atoms in various compositions. . Glucose for example, contains six carbon atoms, twelve hydrogen atoms and 6 oxygen atoms, and water contains hydrogen and oxygen. Hydrogen is the smallest of all atoms, and is only 53pm wide, which is 0.0000000053cm. Hydrogen atoms are so small you can only just see them under an electron microscope

 

Subatomic

These particles have never been seen, but we know they are there through experimentation.

All atoms, no matter the size, are made up of 3 particles. Neutrons, protons and electrons. Neutrons ( which have no charge) and protons (which have a positive charge), make up the nucleus of atoms, which gives it an overall positive charge. Electrons have a negative charge and ‘whiz’ around the nucleus in a hazy cloud. An oxygen atom will have 8 protons, 8 neutrons and 8 electrons. For a long time people believed that these particles were the smallest unit which makes up the universe, but then quarks were discovered.

Quarks

Quarks make up the protons and neutrons, and there are 8 types of quarks:

  • Top Quark
  • Up Quark
  • Down Quark
  • Bottom Quark
  • Strange Quark
  • Charmed Quark

Yes – these names are real.

Quarks have partial charges, for example, an up quark has a charge of +2/3, and a down quark has a charge of -1/3. A proton is made of 2 up quarks and 1 down quark, which is what gives it a total charge of +1 (2/3+2/3-1/3 = 1).

Quarks are widely accepted to be the ‘fundamental particles’, and that there is no smaller particle which makes them. In fact quarks cannot exist on their own, and can only exist when they form neutrons and electrons, so deciding if they truly exist is up for debate.

 

What makes up Quarks?

It is a bit of a brain twister. Our minds are wired to think there is always a smaller unit because this is how the world around us works, but this logic doesn’t play well in particle physics. There may well be something smaller than a quark which makes up quarks – but it isn’t thought to be likely. Quarks possibly only exist because they have energy, and so you could argue that energy makes up everything.

 

Summary

Everything, including you, me the screen you are reading this on and the grass outside is made up of a combination of tiny fundamental particles called quarks. Alternatively, you could argue that these quarks may only exist because they have energy, and so everything is made up of energy.

Or, you could argue that everything is made up of space, because there is a large gap between the atoms nucleus and the surrounding electrons, which by volumes, takes up much more space than the actual particles in the atom, so we are mostly just space.

This Youtube video will give an overview of the information found on the article tab. If you want to know more about the topic, or want to see where the information came from, have a read of the article after you watch the video.

The most fundamental particle is called a quark. Nothing makes up a quark (that we know off), but it is thought that energy may make up quarks, in which case, energy makes up everything.