# What if the electron is not an elementary particle ?

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Cybernetic Quantum Alchemist

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Posted 16 January 2009 - 04:46 PM

I remember hearing since I first took High School Physics. It is just some assumption that has been around since they were first discovered.

Now mind you as a qualification, this is ONLY a Conjecture on my part and Not Any part of Any theory (at least not yet).

I am just wondering if maybe electrons have possibly some internal structure.

Since there are 3 varieties of leptons with electron-like behavior (without considering antiparticles for the moment), you might think this of this change of flavor be 3 different configurations of these components of an electron to make all three.

The electron, muon, taon vary only in mass/energy. They all have the

same charge,
same spin (1/2),
same chirality (right-handed), <Right-Hand-Rule> --> E-Field produced.

They all adhere to Pauli's Exclusion Principle.

When you consider their anti-particle cousins (you only need consider their Handedness -- which is equivalent to there time-sense).

Of course once you go this far of the slippery slope you end up going the whole hog by considering all leptons in this way. This is only Symmetry which drives this.

Yet for general leptons charge is not the same. Nuetrinos have no charge.

Still I wonder.

What if ?

### #2 Moontanman

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Posted 16 January 2009 - 05:00 PM

I've had the same thought as well. I've done lots of looking and reading but I have yet to come across a hypothesis that made any sense at all that toyed with the idea of electrons not being an elementary particle. Possibly someone of our learned members can give their take on WHAT IF! If is a very big word isn't it?

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Posted 19 January 2009 - 04:18 PM

I've had the same thought as well. I've done lots of looking and reading but I have yet to come across a hypothesis that made any sense at all that toyed with the idea of electrons not being an elementary particle. Possibly someone of our learned members can give their take on WHAT IF! If is a very big word isn't it?

Yeah... Though you have to ask the big questions (and be willing to look to silly if you are going get anywhere...

ps: What in particular intrigues me is the phase angle to complete one revolution for circular polarization is 720 Degrees not 360.

### #4 Moontanman

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Posted 19 January 2009 - 04:30 PM

I agree, the whole 720 degree thing is very interesting, some particles have less than 360 or more than. maybe it's twisting through another dimension?

### #5 Jay-qu

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Posted 19 January 2009 - 06:58 PM

So far I dont think there is any experimental evidence to say that the electron has any internal structure. The electron has been probed with very high energy and it appears just as a point charge. One could say the same thing about quarks - what if they are not elementary particles?

Its just like 150 years ago when we thought atoms where the smallest pieces of matter - that was until experiments where done to show the contrary, then our theories had to change. The new theories normally end up explaining something that appeared random from the previous theory. Such as the masses of the stable atoms - the discovery of the nucleus explains this.

So for your what if.. if electrons have internal structure it would have to be the most simple stable form of matter - since electrons never decay (well not in the last 14 billion years anyway). We would also hope that this internal structure explains the distribution of masses and charges of the leptons.

### #6 Karnuvap

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Posted 20 January 2009 - 09:23 AM

I am just wondering if maybe electrons have possibly some internal structure.

Well, you could try to delve into String theory that says all particles are made of the same stuff but they are different vibration modes of that stuff.

Even more intriguing is the realisation that a positron can be considered as an electron but going backwards through time. This raises the possibility that there is ONLY ONE ELECTRON in the whole universe and what we see at any given instant as lots of electrons is really this one electron reaching "NOW" via many oscillations from the beginning of time to the end of time thus explaining at a stroke why all electrons are identical (no electron has been found to weight a little tiny bit more than the accepted weight for example, I'm aware of the Pauli exclusion principle).

I don't know about you but I am already boggled at this.

KarnuVap.

### #7 Pyrotex

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Posted 20 January 2009 - 01:05 PM

I am aware of experiments done as far back as the early 1970's which attempted to determine the size of the electron. They were only able to show that its size had to be below a very small value---and was the smallest "distance" ever measured at that time.

The same book (on Particle Physics, published around 1972) gave the smallest time interval ever measured at that time as the half-life of the mu meson.

Now here is the fun part. In the margin of the book, I divided the "smallest distance" by the "smallest interval" and obtained...

the speed of light in a vacuum, to within a fraction of 1%.

As far as I know, the electron is still the "smallest" and the mu meson is still the "briefest".
Hmmmmm.... curiouser and curiouser....

### #8 Karnuvap

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Posted 20 January 2009 - 02:26 PM

Now here is the fun part. In the margin of the book, I divided the "smallest distance" by the "smallest interval" and obtained the speed of light in a vacuum, to within a fraction of 1%.

Nah! - these days the smallest distance and the smallest time are the planck length and the planck time which are derived from the three fundamental constants c, h-bar and big G combined in a way that makes dimensions of length and time respectively.

Planck length is 1.616x10 ^ -33 (sorry I haven't got the hang of the maths codes)
Planck time is defined as how long it takes light to travel one planck length. (so there is bound to be a "c" relation there).

The thing you have to remember about electrons is that they are infinite in extent (unless you measure one and then you might pin its position down but not its momentum) Until you measure it, the electron is everywhere (at once) - it just doesn't make sense to say let's measure one to see how big it is.

I was about to say - 'hope this helps' but then I realised that it doesn't

The Vap.

### #9 CraigD

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Posted 20 January 2009 - 06:20 PM

There was a lot of serious interest in finding subparticles of leptons like the electron in the years before the Standard Model reach widespread acceptance ca. 1974. These hypothetical particles are usually called preons – the linked wikipedia article has a rather reference-poor summary of them.

Preons – the term will do, I think, as a catch all for “sub particles of the elementary Standard Model particles” – haven’t attracted much interest theoretical interest as the problems they were intended to solve have been solved using the SM, but if the Standard Model fails – eg: if no Higgs particle is found as the SM predicts - will likely be seriously revisited. While not as mathematically sexy as other “what are the SM particles?” theories, especially string theory, preon theory may be less troubled, and in a sense more “traditional” than other theories. If the SM keeps on making right-on predictions for every experiment that can be done with each new generation of experimental hardware, I expect preons will remain largely forgotten relics of theoretical physics.

Even more intriguing is the realisation that a positron can be considered as an electron but going backwards through time. This raises the possibility that there is ONLY ONE ELECTRON in the whole universe and what we see at any given instant as lots of electrons is really this one electron reaching "NOW" via many oscillations from the beginning of time to the end of time thus explaining at a stroke why all electrons are identical …

I don't know about you but I am already boggled at this.

This looks to me to be headed off-topic, and needing to be moved to its own thread, but I’ve been boggled by this idea – the “one-electron universe” - since I first heard it in the late 1970s. It’s been around for a pretty long time - though I’ve heard Dirac speculated in the 1930s about the positron and electron being time-reversed version of each other, John Wheeler is usually credited with coming up with the full-blown idea in 1940, telling it to his then-PHD student Richard Feynman.

I’m intrigued at the claim in http://en.wikipedia....ctron_universe'>the wikipedia article that

Apparently, the hypothesis as a whole has been disproved by modern mathematical physics (citation needed)

, and would love it if someone could dig up that citation, and fix the wikipedia article while they’re at it.

(no electron has been found to weight a little tiny bit more than the accepted weight for example, I'm aware of the Pauli exclusion principle).

But isn’t this true of the invariant mass of all the fundamental particles? And their charges and other quantum numbers, too?

If it wasn’t, as Karnuvap hints, a major rationale for the http://en.wikipedia....sion_principle'>exclusion principle - that fermions can be in the same place, because then they’d be indistinguishable – would be gone (vs. bosons, such as the photon, that can have an infinite range of possible quantum numbers such as frequency, so any number of which can exist in the same place)

Nah! - these days the smallest distance and the smallest time are the planck length and the planck time which are derived from the three fundamental constants c, h-bar and big G combined in a way that makes dimensions of length and time respectively.

Planck length is 1.616x10 ^ -33 (sorry I haven't got the hang of the maths codes)
Planck time is defined as how long it takes light to travel one planck length. (so there is bound to be a "c" relation there).

Another take on Planck length is that it’s derived from Compton wavelength of any photon and the physics of black holes, and all the other Planck units defined in terms of it and c.

Planck length, time, etc. aren’t in any meaningful sense the size of anything, but rather limits on precision of measurement via any means with the know constituents of reality

The thing you have to remember about electrons is that they are infinite in extent (unless you measure one and then you might pin its position down but not its momentum) Until you measure it, the electron is everywhere (at once) - it just doesn't make sense to say let's measure one to see how big it is.

This “everywhere at once” quality only applies for electrons following closed paths in space, such as those bound to atomic nuclei. A free electron, though still subject to the uncertainty principle, can have it’s location pinned down with nearly arbitrary precision.

Vap’s right that it doesn’t make sense to speak of the size of an electron the same way we speak of the size of proton and neutron, which we can measure in a fuzzy but nonetheless reasonable definite way by such means as scattering electrons off them. We say the electron has a “classical radius” of about $2.8179 \times 10^{-15} \,\mbox{m}$, but this just the size it would be if Maxwell’s equation held on all scales, and there was no such thing as quantum effects.

As best I can tell with my limited physics and limited library access (I’m thinking of coughing up the s for AAAS membership to be able to read online articles like “Experiments on the Structure of an Individual Elementary Particle”) it’s in principle possible to use some techniques to find an upper limit on the size of an electron, and that the best current has this limit down to about $10^{-20} \,\mbox{m}$. If such experiments can somehow place a lower limit on this size, I suspect it’d be pretty compelling evidence that electrons are made of some subparticles.

(hey, wow, this post finally did get back on topic! )

### #10 belovelife

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Posted 20 January 2009 - 07:27 PM

Moderation note: deleted the few post preceding this one as off-topic and not-productive

The electron, muon, taon vary only in mass/energy. They all have the

same charge,
same spin (1/2),
same chirality (right-handed), <Right-Hand-Rule> --> E-Field produced.

I thought it related to the thread from this post.

### #11 Pyrotex

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Posted 21 January 2009 - 09:07 AM

Nah! - these days the smallest distance and the smallest time are the planck length and the planck time....

Yah! - you both got and missed my point simultaneously!
You had a Schroedinger Enlightenment Experience (SEX).

For my previous post to be true, the reported "size" of the electron had to be a certain multiple of the planck length; and the half-life of the mu-meson had to be the SAME MULTIPLE of the planck time.

How's that for a mind bender?

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Posted 27 January 2009 - 04:27 PM

I am aware of experiments done as far back as the early 1970's which attempted to determine the size of the electron. They were only able to show that its size had to be below a very small value---and was the smallest "distance" ever measured at that time.

Yeah I believe that to be about (10E-15 M).

The same book (on Particle Physics, published around 1972) gave the smallest time interval ever measured at that time as the half-life of the mu meson.

The most recent minimal time estimate I heard was derived from a laser pulse (about 2003) to on the order of (10E-18 sec or Ahto-Second).

Now here is the fun part. In the margin of the book, I divided the "smallest distance" by the "smallest interval" and obtained...
the speed of light in a vacuum, to within a fraction of 1%.

I remember doing something like that in my freshman Intro Physics class also. Yes, this is very curious... Hmmm....

As far as I know, the electron is still the "smallest".
Hmmmmm.... curiouser and curiouser....

Well as for size I am guessing something on the order of (10E-22 M). This is definitely larger that Planck Scale and yet many orders of magnitude smaller than we see at the moment (10E-15 M).

I understand Jay-Qu's comment about how stable an Electron (or any Lepton). However maybe Muon's and Taon's are decay products. Or maybe like quarks, the Electron components are in a bound state. So Muon's & Taon's are excited versions or configurations.

Whatever would be the case, the energy would have to be large as SLAC never found any evidence for electron subcomponents as Jay-Qu mentioned. This would then be the floor on the energy needed -- say more than 14 TeV.